Why Subscribers Make Your Business More Valuable
Why are Amazon, Apple and many of the most promising Silicon Valley start-ups leveraging a subscription business model?
Subscribers not only provide steady revenue; they make your business more valuable in the eyes of an acquirer. In a traditional business, customers buy your product or service once and may or may not choose to buy again; but in a subscription business, you have “automatic” customers who have agreed to purchase from you on an ongoing basis. Ie. Recurring Revenue. Let’s look closer.
Recurring revenue—the hallmark of a subscription business—is attractive to acquirers and makes your business more valuable when it’s time to sell. How much more valuable? To answer that, one has to first look at how your business will be valued without a subscription offering.
The most common methodology used to value a small to midsize business is discounted cash flow. This methodology forecasts your future stream of profits and then discounts it back to what your future profit is worth to an investor in today’s dollars, given the time value of money. This investment theory may sound like MBA talk, but discounted cash flow valuation is something you have likely applied in your personal life without knowing it. For example, what would you pay today for an investment that you hope will be worth $100 one year from now? You would likely “discount” the $100 by your expectation for a return on investment. If you expect to earn a 7 percent return on your money each year, you’d pay $93.46 ($100 divided by 1.07) today for an investment you expect to be worth $100 in 12 months.
Using the discounted cash flow valuation methodology, the more profit the acquirer expects your company to make in the future—and the more reliable your estimates—the more your company is worth. Therefore, to improve the value of a traditional business, the two most important levers you have are: 1) how much profit you expect to make in the future; and 2) the reliability of those estimates.
At SellabilityScore.com, one can see the effect of this valuation methodology. Since 2012, this methodology has been used to track the offers received by business owners who have completed the Sellability questionnaire. During that time, the average business with at least $3 million in revenue has been offered 4.6 times its pretax profit. Therefore, a traditional business churning out 10 percent of pretax profit on $5 million in revenue can reasonably expect to be worth around $2,300,000 ($5,000,000 x 10 percent x 4.6).
Then compare the value of a traditional company with the value of a subscription business. When an acquirer looks at a healthy subscription company, she sees an annuity stream of revenue throwing off years of profit into the future. This predictable stream of future profit means she is willing to pay a significant premium over what she would pay for a traditional company. How much of a premium depends on the industry, and some of the biggest premiums today go to companies in the software industry. You may be a customer to some of them like dropbox, evernote, or teamwork. Now let’s look at a few business examples utilizing the recurring revenue model outside the software industry.
From Alarm Systems to Prescriptions to Mosquitoes
Security businesses that monitor alarm systems and charge a recurring monthly monitoring fee to do so are worth about twice as much as security businesses that just do system installations. Retail pharmacies with a large pool of prescriptions for drugs that people take every day, like Lipitor and Lozol, command a premium over a traditional retailer because customers re-up their pills on a regular basis, creating a recurring revenue stream for the pharmacist.
Even tiny companies are worth more if they have subscription revenue. When my colleagues over at the Sellability Score analyzed very small businesses with less than $500,000 in sales, they found that the average offer these small businesses attract is 2.6 times pretax profit.
Compare that to the average Mosquito Squad franchise. Mosquito Squad is a Richmond, Virginia-based company that offers to keep bugs off your patio by spraying your backyard regularly with a proprietary chemical recipe approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Mosquito Squad franchisees target affluent homeowners with an average home value north of $500,000 who entertain in their backyard and don’t want to be bothered by mosquitoes. Mosquito Squad operates on a subscription basis. You subscribe to a season of spraying, which includes 8 to 12 sprays, depending on how buggy it is where you live.
Mosquito Squad is a franchise business, and the impact of its recurring revenue model on its valuation is remarkable. According to Scott Zide, the president of Mosquito Squad’s parent company, Outdoor Living Brands, Mosquito Squad franchises that changed hands over the most recent five-year period had revenue of $463,223 and sold for 3.7 times their pretax profit. That’s a 42 percent premium over the traditional value of a company with less than $500,000 in sales, and it’s because Mosquito Squad operates on a recurring subscription model and 73 percent of its annual spraying contracts renew each year.
Whether you plan to build a subscription-based software application or the simplest personal services business, having recurring revenue will boost the value of your most important asset.
Want to learn about selling your business and what your own personal Sellability Score is? Click here.
If you’re interested in learning about your selling options, getting a professional business valuation, or getting help creating an exit strategy, please feel free to CALL Evolution Advisors at 916.993.5433 or visit our website: www.EvoBizSales.com