EBITDA vs. SDE

How is business value measured?

Many business owners believe that the most effective way to build value is to: grow sales, cut costs and make acquisitions. Instead of chasing revenue, a shift to driving the multiple upward through value acceleration could lead to exponential increases in business value. (VALUE = PROFIT X MULTIPLE)

EBITDA

Is similar to SDE and is an acronym for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. Although the concept is similar to SDE, EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) calculations are typically used for larger businesses with more disciplined financial reporting. One of the big differences between the two is that, in EBITDA calculations, the manager’s salary is not added back, whereas, in SDE calculations, the manager’s salary is added back with the assumption that the buyer is going to replace the seller as the owner/operator of the business. Private Equity Groups often use EBITDA calculations as a starting point in their initial cash flow assessments. They may also use EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) as a metric. To complicate the process, we sometimes use an Adjusted EBITDA calculation as a hybrid method when the financials are fairly disciplined and the buyer is probably a financial buyer, such as a Private Equity Group, but the seller is taking a salary substantially higher than the salary of a non-owner manager.

SDE

Seller’s Discretionary Earnings (SDE) is a metric for determining the historical cash flow of a business. It is a recasting process that starts with the net profit of a business, from either the business tax return or the year-end income statement. (We prefer to use the net profit from the tax return, as the tax return has typically been vetted by an accountant and most financing for a business that uses SDE as a metric is SBA guaranteed, which relies heavily on tax return calculations.) The owner’s salary, owner’s benefits, non-cash expenses, such as depreciation and amortization, and non-recurring expenses such as a move or litigation, are added back to the net profit to calculate the SDE. The SDE is usually used in smaller businesses, because many times the owners of those types of businesses aggressively expense a lot of personal benefits, such as use of automobiles and entertainment.


Robert B. Henderson II, CPA, MST, CEPA, CM&AA

Partner, Tax, Value Acceleration & Exit Planning Services

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