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Knowing the value of your business

Kelly Kowalski, Cliff Noreen, and Bronwyn Shinnick

Posted on December 06, 2023

Our executives and experts team up to write educational articles, covering a variety of financial topics such as life planning, college savings, and retirement.
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Note pitfalls that business owners often fall into when considering the value of their enterprise.

Point out that valuation should be carried out by a qualified professional.

List the circumstances where the proper valuation of a business becomes critical.

Knowing what their business is worth is of growing importance to business owners MassMutual surveyed – with just over half saying they’ve had their business valued in the last three years.1 However, it is considered a relatively high priority, with over half saying they frequently or often think about their business value.

The reasons given for wanting to know the value tend to focus more on measures of financial health rather than as a means of protecting the business or funding retirement. Many business owners also stated they would only complete a valuation when they are getting ready to sell.

Business owners are confident they know who the right resources are to solve this issue. Most say they would turn to their CPAs as the go-to person followed by a financial professional. But here’s the problem: one-third of those who claim to have done a business valuation in the last three years say they did it on their own.

A proper business valuation is not a “rule of thumb” or a figure agreed to with a handshake; it’s thoughtfully crafted by a credentialed appraiser after thorough research, is documented in writing and is reviewed and updated on a periodic basis. Be sure that any firm or individual you hire to value your business has the proper credentials, such as Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA), Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA), or Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV).

There are critical times in the life cycle of a business when it is important to have an accurate valuation. In addition to measuring business health and preparing it for sale, here are other times when you may want to consider knowing what your business is worth.

  • Funding a buy-sell agreement — If you are obligated to buy out your partner (or a spouse) upon their disability, retirement, or premature death through a buy-sell agreement, you need to agree on a value that everyone (both the buyers and the sellers) is comfortable with ahead of time and have it in writing in the agreement. (Related: Funding a buy-sell agreement)
  • Retirement income planning — Your business is most likely your largest asset and a key component of your retirement plan. A valuation can help you reconcile your future retirement income needs with the current value of your business to help identify any shortfall. (Retirement planning calculator)
  • Estate tax planning — The current federal estate tax exemption has helped make federal estate taxes less of an issue. As of 2023, it stands at $12.9 million. But that level will expire by 2026. And there has been some political debate about lowering the exemption as the government revisits the tax code. So, for some, planning for a potential tax burden and the impact it could have on the next generation will always be critical for the long-term success of the business. (Related: Keeping a farm in the family)

Since 1851, MassMutual has been focused on helping people secure their financial future and protect the ones they love. That mission is why we have over 7,500 financial professionals to assist you on your journey through insurance, investing, retirement planning, estate management, and more. You can find a MassMutual professional with this tool or you can let us know you’d like to talk to one and we’ll have one of our financial professionals contact you.

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This article was originally published in July 2016. It has been updated.


1 2018 MassMutual Business Owner Perspectives Study conducted by HawkPartners for MassMutual.

The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.


MassMutual does not provide business valuations.