The Mirage of Hypothetical Added Value (HAV): Unveiling Real Business Worth


As veterans in mergers and acquisitions, Viking M&A often encounters business owners devoted to including hypothetical value in their business’s worth. So, while EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) is a widely utilized metric in the financial world, many business owners prefer EBITDA-HAV.


I’m so glad you asked. It is incredibly tempting to believe that your business’s true value includes the near misses and revenue you would have seen under different circumstances. I call this Hypothetical Added Value, or HAV, and as a former business owner myself, I can personally attest to the allure of HAV.

However, while EBITDA-HAV represents the ideal earnings scenario, it’s crucial to ground your valuation expectations in reality. In this piece, we’ll demystify HAV and emphasize the importance of a realistic business valuation.

Understanding EBITDA as a Valuation Metric

First things first: Let’s review EBITDA. EBITDA is an acronym for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization and is a widely utilized metric in the financial world to assess a company’s operational performance and profitability. EBITDA offers a snapshot of a business’s earnings derived solely from its core operations, excluding the financial and accounting practices that might otherwise obscure its financial health.

Why EBITDA Matters

Financial Clarity

EBITDA strips away the effects of financing and accounting decisions, providing a clearer picture of operational profitability. It allows investors and potential buyers to focus on the business’s core earning potential.

Comparative Analysis

With its non-reliance on tax and interest expenses, EBITDA enables a more straightforward comparison between companies, irrespective of their financial structures or tax brackets.

Investor Appeal

Investors and buyers often favor EBITDA as it offers insights into a company’s financial viability without the ‘noise’ generated by depreciation, amortization, interest, and taxes.

Implementing EBITDA in Valuation

EBITDA in valuation is often expressed as a multiple, serving as a ratio comparing a company’s value to its EBITDA. This multiple varies across industries, providing a benchmark for comparing a business to its peers.

Understanding Hypothetical Added Value (HAV)

HAV encapsulates potential revenues and profits that a business could have realized if certain conditions were met, like acquiring a key client, preventing equipment failure, or hiring essential personnel. Entrepreneurs often believe they should receive compensation for this almost-realized potential during a sale. Though an alluring concept, HAV remains a hypothetical construct, often diverging from the tangible value prospective buyers are willing to acknowledge and pay for.

Why EBITDA-HAV Is Not a Valid Valuation Metric


HAV relies on speculative, subjective assessments of potential earnings, making it an unreliable valuation compass. Since it isn’t grounded in concrete financial data, it lacks the objectivity required for credible business valuation.

Lack of Standardization

Every owner’s estimation of HAV is unique, excluding it from a standardized valuation methodology. Without universal acceptance and a consistent approach, HAV is an unreliable metric for potential investors or buyers.

Unrealistic Expectations

While seeing your business in the most favorable light is natural, relying on HAV for valuation fosters unrealistic expectations. This misalignment between expected and market value can hinder successful negotiation and sale processes.

The Importance of Accurate Business Valuation

Realistic Business Insight

An accurate valuation offers invaluable insights into your business’s actual position and worth in the market, paving the way for informed decision-making and strategic planning.

Actionable Improvement Opportunities

A comprehensive valuation of your business highlights areas requiring attention and improvement, offering a roadmap for enhancing business worth legitimately and sustainably.

Fostering Credible Negotiations

A grounded, realistic valuation facilitates smoother negotiations with potential buyers or investors, as it reflects a fair and credible estimation of the business’s worth.

While Hypothetical Added Value (HAV) is a captivating concept, it’s essential to acknowledge the limitations of speculating your business’s unrealized potential is speculative. At Viking M&A, we advocate for an objective, comprehensive approach to business valuation that not only unveils your business’s true worth but also provides actionable insights for growth and value addition.

Reach out to our expert team today for a valuation that reflects your business’s true worth, potential, and market position, providing a solid foundation for future negotiations and strategic decisions.

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