One of the primary goals of any business owner is to create value. But what exactly is business value, and how is it measured? While there are many different methods of valuing a business, one principle that is widely accepted is that business value is principally a function of future discretionary cash flow. This principle is based on the idea that a business’s true worth is determined by its ability to generate cash flow, and that this cash flow will continue into the future.
Discretionary cash flow is the amount of money generated by a business after deducting all of its cash expenses, including taxes and interest, It is the cash that is available for the owners of the business to reinvest in the business, pay dividends or pay down debt. Discretionary cash flow is different from accounting profit, as it takes into account non-cash expenses like depreciation and amortization.
But while the principle of future discretionary cash flow is a useful guide for valuing a business, it’s important to recognize that the future is uncertain. There are a variety of factors that can impact a business’s ability to generate cash flow, including changes in the market, shifts in consumer preferences, and new competitors entering the market. In order to accurately value a business, it’s essential to incorporate the idea of uncertainty when developing projections for future cash flow.
One way to do this is to use a range of scenarios when projecting future cash flow. Rather than relying on a single, fixed projection, business owners and investors can develop a range of possible outcomes based on different assumptions and market conditions. By doing so, they can gain a better understanding of the potential risks and rewards associated with the business, and develop a more nuanced valuation that takes into account the inherent uncertainty of the future.
Another approach to incorporating uncertainty into business valuation is to use probabilistic forecasting. This method involves assigning probabilities to different scenarios based on the likelihood of certain events occurring. For example, if a business operates in an industry that is particularly sensitive to economic downturns, a probabilistic forecast might assign a higher probability to a scenario in which the economy enters a recession, and a lower probability to a scenario in which the economy continues to grow.
Regardless of the method used, it’s important to recognize that uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of business valuation. By incorporating this uncertainty into projections for future cash flow, business owners and investors can develop a more accurate and nuanced understanding of a business’s true value. And by doing so, they can make more informed decisions about buying, selling, or investing in a business.