Frequently Asked Questions

BIZCOMPS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Q: What is the legend for BIZCOMPS data?


ReportsExcel FormatDefinition
N/ATransactionIDInternal transaction ID number
SICSICCodeStandard Industrial Classification code
N/ASICCodeGeneral Standard Industrial Classification code - General category
NAICSNAICSCodeNorth American Industry Classification System
Business DescriptionBusinessDescriptionProducts and services of business
Annual Gross SalesAnnualGrossAnnual Gross Sales ($000's), normally net of sales tax
Sale DateSaleDate Actual date of sale
SDESDESeller's discretionary earnings ($000's) is calculated by adding to the most recent full year’s Net Income Before Taxes (NIBT): Amortization, Depreciation, Interest, Owner’s compensation, Owner’s benefits, Non-business related expenses, and onetime-only expenses. Normally to one working owner
Sale PriceSalePriceActual sale price ($000's), inventory has been deducted if it was included in sale price
Ask PriceAskPrice Asking sale price of business ($000's), does not include inventory
SDE/Annual Gross SalesSDEToAnnualGross Seller’s discretionary earnings divided by Annual Gross Sales
Sale Price/Annual Gross SalesSalePriceToAnnualGrossSale price divided by Annual Gross Sales
Sale Price/SDESalePriceToSDESale price divided by seller's discretionary earnings
Percent DownPercentDownDown payment as a percent of sale price
TermsTerms Terms of primary new or assumed loan
Inventory ValueInventoryAmount Inventory at the time of sale($000's)
Furniture, Fixtures & EquipmentFFEEstimate of value of furniture, fixtures & equipment ($000's)
Rent/Annual Gross SalesRentToAnnualGross Yearly rent divided by Annual Gross Sales
AreaLocationRegion or geographical location of business
Days On MarketDaysOnMarketActual number of days business was on market
Franchise RoyaltyFranchiseRoyaltyActual royalty less advertising percentage
Number Of Employees NumberOfEmployees Number of employees

N/A = Not Available

Q: I see that you show the harmonic mean in the transaction summary table results for the valuation multiples. What is the harmonic mean?

A: In the transaction summary of the subscriber search results we present medians, averages, coefficients of variation and harmonic means, depending on the data. Many practitioners and academics believe the harmonic mean is a better measure of central tendency for valuation multiples than the mean (the arithmetic average) or median (the middle value in a series). Quoting Wikipedia:

The harmonic mean is the preferable method for averaging multiples, such as the price/earnings ratio, in which price is in the numerator. If these ratios are averaged using an arithmetic mean (a common error), high data points are given greater weights than low data points. The harmonic mean, on the other hand, gives equal weight to each data point.

Shannon P. Pratt writes on page 140 of his second edition of The Market Approach to Valuing Businesses:

Although the harmonic mean is not used frequently, probably because it is unfamiliar to most readers of valuation reports, it is conceptually a very attractive alternative measure to central tendency.

In addition, Gilbert Matthews of Sutter Securities Inc. wrote an article in the June 2006 Business Valuation Update issue that explains what the harmonic mean is and provides a detailed example. Mark G. Filler of Filler & Associates P.A. replied to Mr. Matthews in the August 2006 Business Valuation Update. In addition, Mr. Matthews was quoted in the July 2001 Business Valuation Update as follows:

The harmonic mean is preferable in any ratio in which price is the numerator. For yields, when the price is in the denominator, an arithmetic mean is correct. An example is the “earnings yield” (EPS/P) rather than PE used by the British. If price is the numerator, the result is an inverted ratio for which the harmonic mean is statistically a more appropriate measure of central value. The harmonic mean gives an equal weight to an equal investment in each company, while the arithmetic mean gives three times the weight to a multiple of 30x compared to a multiple of 10x. For most other uses in valuation, the arithmetic mean is appropriate. For a fuller discussion, see “Fairness Opinions”1 by Mark M. Lee and Gilbert E. Matthews and page 139 and 140 of the Second Edition of The Market Approach to Valuing Businesses by Shannon Pratt.

1“Fairness Opinions” (Gilbert E. Matthews and M. Mark Lee), in The Handbook of Advanced Business Valuation, R. Reilly and R. Schweihs, eds. (McGraw Hill, 2000).

Lastly, here is an example that is provided by Toby Tatum and is representative for the business valuation profession.

When calculating the average selling price (SP) to earnings ratios for businesses within a defined industry let’s assume the known selling price to seller’s discretionary earnings (SDE) for one comparable company is 3.0 times earnings and for another it is 2.0 times earnings. The object of the exercise is to determine, on average in a defined industry, what a business is worth based on a given level of earnings. The arithmetic average of these two is 2.50 times earnings. This suggests that if a business has an SDE of $100,000 it is worth $250,000.

Now, do the math for each business purchase separately. Assume the first buyer paid $300,000 for a business with an SDE of $100,000 (i.e., 3.0 times SDE). Assume another buyer paid $300,000 for a business with annual SDE of $150,000 (i.e., 2.0 times SDE). The total price paid for both businesses is $600,000 and the total SDE purchased is $250,000. This yields an average SP/SDE ratio of $600,000 divided by $250,000 or 2.40 x SDE. 2.40 is the harmonic mean value of the Selling Price to Seller’s Discretionary Earnings in this industry. Thus we can conclude that, on average in this industry, if a business has an SDE of $100,000, it is worth $240,000, or for every $1.00 in SDE, the seller gets $2.40 (and not $2.50 as computed via the arithmetic mean above). Therefore, if one is to assume that the fair market value of a subject company is equal to the “average” selling price to earnings ratio for the comparable transactions selected to represent that industry, then the multiple to apply against the known earnings of the subject company must be the harmonic mean value of the comparables, and not the arithmetic mean.

Q: Are BIZCOMPS balance sheet data at net book values or market values? The definition sheet defines FF&E as "estimated value."

A: The FF&E value should be adjusted to fair market value in place. However, since these assets are never sold separately, there is no assurance that this adjustment has been made. The FF&E value used could be book value, the owner's estimate, the broker's estimate or, in some cases, even new cost. For this reason, while the FF&E value is useful in most cases, we suggest caution when using it. On the other hand, you can have a great deal of confidence in the inventory value. A physical inventory is almost always taken at close.

Q: It looks like there are a number of restaurant deals that have a selling price less than the FFE and in some cases the sale price represents an 80% discount from the value of the FFE. It also looks like there are also several where the sale price is equal to the FFE. Can you please explain why the company isn’t selling for more than the assets?

A: Operating in the food service industry can be a risky business. Many of these businesses never really launch or develop to the point where the owners get a return on their FF&E investment, let alone make a profit. So the result is the new buyer gets a bargain on the FF&E (an asset sale). Also, as BIZCOMPS has pointed out in the prior FAQ and in the User's Guide, the FF&E estimate is the least accurate of the reported information. The FF&E amount indicated is still useful, though, as it gives some indication of the newness of the FF&E. A higher number should reflect newer equipment.

The cost of opening a new restaurant is huge and the value reported may be the new cost, the owner's or broker's estimate of value, or depreciated book value. It is worth more installed and the value we reflect should be "fair market value in place" (a machinery and equipment (M&E) appraiser term), helping to earn whatever sales and profits the business generates. If the FF&E is ever taken to the curb and sold, the owner will be lucky to receive pennies on the dollar.

Q: What currency is being used with regards to the Canadian transactions in BIZCOMPS?

A: All of the Canadian transactions in BIZCOMPS are being reported in Canadian dollars. The BIZCOMPS advanced search page allows the user to search by the country field. To search for Canadian transactions only, simply select “Canada” in the country field. To search for U.S. transactions only, select "United States" in the country field. To search for both United States and Canadian transactions, select “all.”

Q: In the BIZCOMPS database, are the SDE and sales figures used the most recent 12 month period or are they projected/forecasted figures?

A: The sales and SDE numbers used in the BIZCOMPS database are generally the most recent 12 month period. There may be a few cases where the numbers are annualized. i.e. There may be 8, 9, 10 or 11 month "profit and loss statements" that are annualized to make a 12 month period. In any event, the numbers have been through a book check or due diligence by the buyer and his or her accountant. Buyers generally are not comfortable making a purchase decision based on "forward figures" even though the most important criteria is what the business will do in the next few years.

Q: Would you please explain the "coefficient of variation" and how we should utilize and interpret each calculation?

A: The coefficient of variation = standard deviation/mean (the mean is also known as the average)

The coefficient of variation is a measure of dispersion around the mean (average).

The theory is that the valuation multiples with the lowest coefficient of variation are those with the least dispersion around their respective means and may be the better indicators of value. The value derived using these valuation multiples may be weighted more heavily than those with larger coefficient of variations.

Q: How is seller’s discretionary earnings (SDE) adjusted for a situation where there is more than one working owner?

A: Generally, the highest paid partner's compensation is added back and the lesser paid partner’s compensation is normalized. Typically, brokers who sell businesses try to indicate the highest earnings available to one working owner.

Q: I have a question regarding the terms information shown in the BIZCOMPS data. For example, if the terms were 20% down, 8%, 5 years, is there any way to ascertain whether the loan is interest only or fully amortized? I am trying to convert these selling prices to their cash equivalency.

A: In almost all cases you can expect the loan to be fully amortized. That is the standard way these businesses are purchased.

Q: I am reviewing transactions that have terms specified along the sale price, e.g. a sale price of $265,000 with a 32% down and terms of "5 years @10%". Would that indicate (1) the buyer put $84,800 down ($265,000 x 32%) and will pay the rest over 5 years, with interest and principal payments that total $180,200 ($265,000 x 68%) OR (2) the buyer put $84,800 down ($265,000 x 32%) and will pay $180,200 ($265,000 x 68%) over 5 years with interest accruing on the $180,200 at 10% which would effectively mean that the seller received more than the sale price of $265,000.

A: (2) is the correct answer.

Q: Are the following items included or excluded from the sale price?

  • Non-Compete Agreements
  • Consulting Agreement
  • Land
  • Buildings

A: Non-compete and consulting agreements are included in the sale price; if there was something negotiated on top of the sale price, it would not be included. Land and buildings are both excluded from the transaction information and rarely happen.

Q: Does the BIZCOMPS sale price relate to the business' equity only or does it include assumed liabilities (and hence, relating to the total invested capital)?

A: All that is included in BIZCOMPS transactions is fixtures & equipment and goodwill. There is no assumed debt. The businesses are considered to be debt free at the time of sale even though there is often new debt created by the transaction.

For more information, see the section in the BIZCOMPS User Guide titled "Converting a BIZCOMPS Asset Sale to an Equity Value."

Q: How are liquor licenses treated in the BIZCOMPS database? Do the transactions in BIZCOMPS include, or exclude, liquor licenses?

A: Generally, all assets necessary to generate the discretionary earnings are included in the sale of a business. Liquor licenses are simply another required license, just like a business license. Occasionally, there may be special circumstances when a license is sold by itself or licenses in an area that limits licenses or special unlimited licenses that permit other activities without limitation. However, it is unlikely that a buyer would pay anymore for that license than what the business profits would dictate. There are also cases where a buyer intends to do something completely different with the license like move it to another location, etc. Part of a business appraiser's duties would be to analyze such situations and apply an appropriate premium if warranted.

The database does not report or know the value of the individual licenses. One option is to value the license separately as an intangible asset. Try to develop an independent value for the additional earning power or eventual resale of that specific license. Or, contact local brokers that are specialists in selling licenses to see if they can provide useful information.

Q: I know the general meaning for inventory and I understand that BIZCOMPS excluses this value from the sales price. In a rental business, such as a boat rental business, should the market value of the boats be added to the sale price to arrive at an actual value for the business or would the sale price shown in BIZCOMPS already the market value of these assets?

A: In a boat rental business, the boats would be considered fixtures and equipment. That value is included in the sale price. In a few cases there are businesses like the one you mentioned that also sell boats. Those businesses sometimes rent saleable inventory. But in general, the first statement is correct. The sale price includes fixtures & equipment and goodwill. That is all that is included in the sale price. The fixtures & equipment are one of the assets necessary to generate the revenue the business eventually turns into profit and are rarely sold separately in a profitable, ongoing business.

Q: Why don't I see my SIC code of interest in the search engine's list of SIC or NAICS codes?

A: The website's search engines use the underlying data to create the list of SIC and NAICS codes. If your SIC or NAICS code is not listed in the search engine, this means there are no transactions with that SIC or NAICS code in the database. You may want to search the other databases to see if they have any helpful data or expand your search criteria to include similar SIC or NAICS codes.

Q: Each time after I alter my search of the database and I ask for a printable format, the results of my very first search continues to show in the printable format window. Is there something different that I can do so that I can print the results of the most current search?

A: If you are using Internet Explorer, please do the following:

  • In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools/Internet Options menu
  • On the General tab, in the Temporary Internet Files section, click "Delete Files"
  • On the General tab, in the Temporary Internet Files section, click "Settings"
  • If it is not already clicked, click the "Every visit to the page" radio button, then click "OK"

Q: We are Apple users and are not successful in utilizing the BIZCOMPS Analyzer.

A: Unfortunately Apple does not support the VBScript and macros needed for the BIZCOMPS Analyzer to function.

Q: Can I print more than one transaction at a time?

A: To print a group of transactions (the current group size is 10); on the search results page in the list of transactions, utilize the icon that looks like a red piece of paper – it is labeled “Print Detail Report Package”. When printing more than a couple of detailed transaction reports, this will save you time.

Q: I want the transaction reports to fit onto one page, instead of two. What can I do to make this possible?

A: The best solution is to maximize your print margins. When you print transaction reports, reduce the print margins to 0.25 inches and most will fit on a single page. Also, you should remove any header/footer information that your browser includes in web page printouts.

Q: Can you please discuss the difference between the mean and the median and how I may interpret the mean and median values of the search results?

A: Click here to download a PDF with a comprehensive explanation.

Q: Can I search by more than one SIC code or more than one NAICS code?

A: By pressing and holding down the left mouse button, you can drag your mouse cursor over a series of SIC codes. 

By holding down the control button on the keyboard and clicking with the left mouse button on the codes you wish to search by, you can highlight a noncontiguous group of codes. 

By selecting a code, holding the shift button, and selecting another code, you can highlight a contiguous group of codes.