By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

Nearly every conversation we have these days includes some question or other about the current strength of business valuation.  So, here’s how we see it.

If anything, we detect a sense of caution on the part of BV/LS employers when it comes to hiring.  Previously, many employers were open to “hiring ahead of the curve”, applying a “build it and they will come” philosophy.  There was a confidence that increased capacity would free rainmakers to sell more work.  Everybody would be happy.

That confidence has eroded, somewhat, and employers may well be hiring only when the need is more clear or, in those cases when an employee has left, more urgent.  In our view, this may not actually reflect a fall off in business, but more the sort of caution that is affecting employers, everywhere.

It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.  Practitioners who are prepared can still find opportunity.

Bad times inevitably bring out lawsuits requiring valuation of assets, or calculation of damages.  We’re probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the litigation which will arise from the Wall Street meltdown.  Even at the small business level, however, appraisers will be needed when owners scramble to protect their assets.

If the recent drop in stock market values doesn’t also translate into the need to test for goodwill impairment in privately-held firms, it’s hard to imagine what will.  The CFO who now has to sign his company’s financial statements should be receptive to a diplomatic approach.

We’re already hearing appraisers make the pitch that the drop in asset values means that clients can now transfer much greater wealth, at much lower tax rates.

And, while it’s true that transaction-driven work may be slower, there are any number of privately-held firms who, for reasons that may well be unaffected by the economy, will need to sell.  Valuation and consultative hand-holding will still be very important to that client.

For now, then, we see caution.  Today’s crystal ball is rarely good for more than one quarter at a time, however.  Second quarter of 2009 should really begin to tell the tale.

John Borrowman