BizBen.com
500 New & Refreshed Posts, Postings Daily
Over 8,000 Postings & 2,500 Resources
Assisting Buyers & Sellers Over 25 Years!

Categories

Interpreting Reported Earnings From Sellers

If it's true, as commonly believed, that small business owners tend to be creative individuals, one of the expressions of this talent can be found in the way they calculate the adjusted net income or earnings they receive from their businesses.

Seasoned California business brokers often have difficulty coming up with an accurate earnings figure when analyzing the records of a company going on the market. Their challenge is to determine how much a new owner is likely to earn, based on the current level of gross revenues and the expenses actually needed to generate that income.

If accurately calculating the "bottom line" is hard for someone skilled in this field, imagine the difficulties faced by a real estate licensee with a background in home sales, who is called on to list a small California business opportunity for sale. It's easy to understand how real estate professionals lacking experience in analyzing businesses records, can be misled by a seller into advertising an exaggerated earnings figure for a business offering.

But the agent or broker will soon get an education--the hard way--about the importance of determining and stating the correct figures. That education will begin when the broker goes back to the seller for more information, after a buyer--relying on initial profit statements--discovers in due diligence that there is no way to substantiate the profits claimed.

EBTIDA

The first thing for a new business broker to understand about an earnings statement is the calculation of Earnings Before Taxes, Interest, Depreciation and Amortization. The seller's books will probably show each of these T-I-D-A items as expenses, deducted from the gross profit figure along with other fixed costs, before conducting the final calculation of earnings.

An accepted accounting protocol is to assume that these TIDA expenses will vary, depending on the way each buyer wants to manage the financial side of his or her business. And because these "variable" expenses do not represent costs absolutely necessary to conduct business, the common practice is to add the TIDA expenses to the "bottom line" figure to arrive at the seller's earnings. And this figure should be properly explained as EBTIDA.

ONE-TIME EXPENSES

The cost of a legal settlement with a disgruntled former employee or with an unhappy customer who has some kind of claim, is an example of a non-recurring, or one-time expense. So is the cost of an expensive capital equipment item that was purchased from the business's ready cash in a single year. As these expenses are not going to be incurred by the new owner, it is fair, when analyzing the seller's Profit and Loss Statement, to add the amount of these non-recurring costs to the bottom line.

The buyer may have other one-time costs once the business has changed hands, and will treat them however he or she sees fit for bookkeeping purposes. But any non-recurring costs listed by the seller can legitimately be considered as if the dollar values associated with them are part of the seller's earnings.

PERSONAL EXPENSES

It is common for the owner to have his company pay personal vehicle costs because he uses the car while conducting business, and for an owner to consider it the responsibility of the business to provide her with health insurance, and for an owner to carry a family member on the payroll, even though that person only does occasional, part-time work for the company. These represent business expenses which incidentally, also provide benefit to the owner. And as these are items charged to the business at the discretion of the owner, it is an accepted practice to assume a new owner will not incur the same expenses, and to add these costs to the seller's earnings figure.

Memberships in social/business organizations, such as country clubs and fraternal societies, subscriptions to periodicals and internet services, and other discretionary "business" costs might also be considered "add backs" when determining seller's earnings.

An inexperienced broker listing a business and wanting to enter an owner earnings figure that is correct, and can be logically explained, will benefit by carefully questioning the seller on each item "added back."

But there is no substitute for having worked with these expense entries in the past and knowing from experience, how to calculate seller's actual earnings.

#photo#About The Contributor: Peter Siegel, MBA is the Founder & Senior Advisor (ProBuy & ProSell Programs) at BizBen.com (established 1994, 8000+ CA businesses for sale, 500 new & refreshed postings/posts daily) working with buyers, business owners/sellers, business brokers, agents, investors, and advisors). Reach him direct at 925-785-3118 to discuss strategies regarding buying, selling, (or financing a puchase of) California businesses.

Categories: BizBen Blog Contributor, Business Valuation Issues, How To Buy A Business, How To Sell A Business

Contributor:

Peter Siegel, MBA
Areas Served: Nationwide - All Areas
Phone:  925-785-3118 Cell, 925-785-3118 Text
Peter Siegel, MBA - Founder Of BizBen.com (over 25 years), I am the Lead Advisor for the ProSell, ProBuy, & ProIntermediary Programs. I advise/coach buyers, sellers, and brokers daily about buying & selling small to mid-sized businesses throughout the Nation. I can be reached direct at 925-785-3118.

Comments & Feedback From Pro Intermediaries & Pro Advisors On BizBen:

Posted By: Broker Specialist - MFG's, Southern CA

Whilst Depreciation and Amortization are normal addbacks to calculate either SDE or EBITDA, there are some occasions where CapEx can be an ongoing expense of the business. I had a case several years ago with a Concrete Sidewalk Installation company. They used Bobcat machines to break up the old sidewalks, before installing the new. These machines are typically depreciated over a seven year period, but in reality, required replacement every three years. In this case, the machines had to expenses over three years to reach an accurate net income level.


Posted By: Timothy Cunha JD, Business Broker: San Francisco Bay Area    

The difference between the "bottom line" and the REAL bottom line can be extraordinary. And, if the seller is not accurate in identifying every legitimate "add-back", he will leave a lot of value unrecognized. The experienced business broker is essential to that accurate analysis of the seller's finances and the proper presentation and explanation of the resulting "Seller's Discretionary Earnings" ("SDE") to prospective buyers. Furthermore, the primary benchmark for beginning the value of small businesses in the great majority of fields is the SDE; that's the basis for comparison to what buyers have paid for similar businesses.






Place A Posting To Sell Or Buy A Business, Search All Postings


Sell A Business Fast: Place A For Sale Posting Now To Sell A Small Business - 7 Programs To Select From >
Find A Business To Buy Fast: Place A Wanted To Buy Posting Today - Best Way To Find & Buy A Business >
Search Business For Sale & Wanted To Buy Postings On BizBen - 500 New & Refreshed Postings Daily! >

Other Related Blog Posts, Articles, And Discussions You May Be Interested In

Reason For Not Selling Business What Are Some Possible Reasons My Broker Didn't Sell My Small Business?

What are some reasons a business that was previously on the market with another broker didn't sell? Every broker or agent understands that not every business they list will result in a sale. There can be many reasons small businesses don't sell and many are discussed on this BizBen Discussion post.
Should Buyers Take Control Before Closing? Should A Buyer Be Allowed To Operate A Small Business Before Escrow Closes?

Business buyers, brokers, owner/sellers all ask this question at some point. So I decided to ask some of the top Intermediaries in the California marketplace what they thought of the idea. Most of the ProIntermediaries on BizBen agreed with me on taking early possession before the close of escrow.
Tips For Business Sellers Business Owners: Do Not Make It Hard To Buy Your Business - Successful Tips

Successful sellers of small businesses need a game plan to sell their California small business for maximum price and for the best terms. Peter Siegel, MBA discusses these seller strategies with BizBen Blog readers based on his experience as the lead Advisor with the ProSell Program on BizBen.com.
How Long Is A Standard Non-Compete Agreement? How Long Is A Standard Non-Compete Agreement Between Buyers And Sellers?

For those who don't know, a non-compete agreement is a contract between a buyer and seller of a business, which after the sale, prohibits the seller from engaging in direct competition with the business they previously sold. Joe Ranieri (Business Broker) adds this topic to a BizBen Discussion Post.
Due Diligence Gas Station Purchases Buying A Gas Station Business: What To Look For When Doing Due Diligence

Doing due diligence when buying any type of business is extremely important. Regardless of what type of business you are buying there are certain things you will always look at such as, financials, equipment, legal issues etc. We take a look at several angles for optimal gas station due diligence.
Questions When Buying A Liquor Store Buying A Liquor Store: 3 Questions To Consider And Ask Before You Purchase

Buying a liquor store? First, ask yourself these three critical questions to find out if owning a liquor store is right for you. Questions like hands on vs absentee ownership, inventory turnover, licensing issues. Peter Siegel, MBA (BizBen ProBuy & ProSell Program Lead Advisor) explores this topic.
Business Buyer Feedback On Postings 8 Items Buyers Of Small Businesses Find Critical When Reviewing Businesses

In this month's Business Buyer survey for BizBen.com, we asked participants in our ProBuy Program and 250 other random business buyers what they look for and avoid when looking at a business for sale postings online. Of the 20 potential posting characteristics we asked about, 8 stood out with most.
Coin Card Laundry Business Valuations What Top Key Factors Contribute To Coin & Card Laundry Business Valuations?

We are finding that many laundry buyers and investors are not being given true light to selected elements of value or there are inconsistencies in the interpretation of these elements of value. This common error needs to be addressed. In this BizBen Discussion we address many of those factors.
Keeping A Business Sale Confidential Why Is A Small Business Sale Kept Confidential? Advisors Discuss This Topic

Recently a business owner asked me on the phone, "Why do you keep the sale of a business confidential? How do you keep the sale confidential - any good tips?" Multiple Advisors weigh in on this subject. What would be your answer to this business owner? ProIntermediaries on BizBen discuss this topic.
Why Many Deals Fail Why Many Deals Fail: Unrealistic High Asking Prices Are Usually The Culprit

The unfortunate truth is that approximately 50% of all small business sales transactions fall through. While failed transactions can happen for a variety of reasons, Peter Siegel, MBA (BizBen Founder & Lead Advisor) discusses the most common reason deals fall through; unrealistic asking prices.