Mary Bitti has a good article in The National Post. Read online.
Armada Data Corp. is a bright spot in the auto industry. With car sales down 15% to 20% in the past three months and GM and Chrysler continuing their downward slide, Mississauga, Ont.-based Armada Data is enjoying a 40% to 50% jump in sales and a doubling of market share, and it has plans to expand through acquisition.
In its 10th year, the company listed on the TSX Venture Exchange in Vancouver, gathers new car pricing data and sells the information directly to new car buyers via Car Cost Canada.
"We help consumers save money by giving them the information they need to negotiate a better price," says Paul Timoteo, president of Armada Data. "In these times, people are shopping around more. The more research they do, the more they see the value in our service. We've seen a huge spike in sales in the past six months."
Strong sales plus a debt-free balance sheet have placed Armada Data in shopping mode, and it is now looking at potential acquisitions. "When it comes to assessing value, I know what to look for," Mr. Timoteo says.
Namely: the company's ability to grow; its market share; its rate of growth; its history of profitability, current profitability and potential for future profitability; and its debt load. That's the financial side. Then there are the less tangible questions such as: How uniquely is it positioned in the marketplace? Who are its competitors? How does it compare to those competitors? What kind of marketing initiatives is it involved in? How do consumers and investors look at the company?
"If your company is profitable, typically the market says your company is worth anywhere from five to 10 times its annual profit," Mr. Timoteo says.
"That said, if we feel that merging a company with ours will disproportionately increase the value of our company, I may be prepared to pay more than it's theoretically worth because I know together we'll grow faster than either of us would have on our own."
That is why Jacoline Loewen of corporate finance firm Loewen & Partners and author of Money Magnet: How to Attract Investors to your Business, describes valuation as an art not a science. "It's expectations. How you sell yourself is huge," she says.
"It's about a lot more than money. Sales revenues give you enormous credibility but many companies get investment without any revenues. Angels will want to help because they like you and your business. At the end of the day you have to be able to stand by your valuation, build a case for the amount of time you've put in, the goodwill of your brand, your intellectual property," Ms. Loewen says.
How you choose to build that case may take different approaches says Steve Gedeon, professor of entrepreneurship at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management.
"There are essentially three reasons an entrepreneur would put a value on their business: To attract investment or if you are selling shares or selling the entire company; in the event of divorce or for estate-planning purposes; or if you want to offer employees stock options," he says.
"There are many different ways to go about placing a value on the business. The valuation method you choose is the starting point for negotiation. Ultimately, a company is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it."
Mr. Gedeon outlines three approaches to business valuation:
-Discounted cash flow, which is the net present value of all future profits of the company. "The trouble, of course, is nobody knows what the future will hold," Mr. Gedeon says.
-Similar company transaction, where basically, you adopt the known price someone was willing to pay for a company like yours.
-Replacement method, which pegs value at the cost to recreate the company.
When it comes to startups a rule of thumb applies: "Early stage businesses that don't have revenue will never be worth more than $2-million," Ms. Loewen says.
To build value, Mr. Gedeon, shares this rule of thumb: "The larger your profits and the more stable they are, the higher the valuation. How do you build stability? Diversify your client base and increase your differentiation in the market."
For Mr. Timoteo, the key to being profitable is simple: "Either increase revenue or lower your expenses. If you can do both you're in good shape."
The National Angel Capital Organizations' Best Practices Guide for Angel Groups and Investors ( angelinvestor.ca/Best_Practices.asp)has a detailed review of valuation methods.