What Are Intangible Assets? How Do They Affect My Business Value?

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Free Business Valuation In the landscape of business valuation, particularly for privately owned enterprises, the significance of intangible assets cannot be overstated. While tangible assets like equipment, vehicles, and property are easily quantifiable and necessary for many operations, they do not solely define the worth of a business. Indeed, the true essence of a business’s value often lies in its intangible assets—the invisible yet powerful forces that bind operations and ensure customers return repeatedly.

The Right Business Valuation Requires Understanding Your Intangible Assets

Imagine you have a lemonade stand. You have a nice table, a big sign, and a pitcher—all things you can touch. These are called tangible assets because you can see and touch them. But what about the recipe for your lemonade that everyone loves? Or the friendly way you greet everyone who comes to buy a drink? These are called intangible assets. They are very special because you can’t touch them, but they make your lemonade stand really popular!

What Are Intangible Assets?

Intangible assets are things that help your business make money, even though you can’t see or touch them. They include things like:
1. The secret recipe for your lemonade.
2. The friendly way you talk to your customers.
3. The catchy name of your lemonade stand.
These things are super important because they make people want to come back to your stand instead of going somewhere else.

Why Are They So Valuable?

1. They Make Your Business Special: Just like your secret recipe makes your lemonade taste better than others, intangible assets make your business stand out. This means more people come to you instead of going to other places.

2. They Don’t Get Old: The table and sign for your lemonade stand might get old and need to be replaced, but your recipe and the way you treat customers will always stay great. In fact, the more you use them, the more valuable they become!

3. They Help You Grow: When lots of people know about your friendly service and tasty lemonade, more will come! Even if you decide to make more lemonade stands, these special things will help all of them be successful.

Examples of Intangible Assets

• A Bookstore’s Story Hour: A local bookstore might have a story hour where kids come to listen to stories. This makes families love visiting the bookstore and they come back often.

• A Pizza Place’s Fast Delivery: A pizza place might be known for delivering pizza very fast. People who are really hungry will think of this place first when they want pizza quickly.

• A Gardener’s Care Tips: A gardener might give great tips on how to keep plants healthy. People will remember this and choose that gardener when they need help with their gardens.

Remember, What You Can’t See Is Still Important to Your Business Valuation!

So, even though you can’t see or touch these special things, they are very important for your business. They make people happy, and they make your business grow bigger and better. That’s why intangible assets are just as important, or sometimes even more important, than the things you can touch!

The Overarching Value of Intangible Assets

In many cases, intangible assets are worth significantly more than tangible assets. A Certified Business Broker should be able to help you identify your true intangible value drivers. You may also wish to reach out to a CEPA or Certified Exit Planning Advisor for more insight as well (https://exit-planning-institute.org/exit-planning-faqs).

Consider technology companies like Google or service providers like consultancy firms; their value lies not in their physical assets but in their technology, intellectual property, brand recognition, and customer relationships. This is a common scenario in various sectors where the intellectual capital or brand value drives a larger portion of the business’s valuation than its physical assets.

Intangible Assets for Business Value

1. Brand Recognition: A strong brand can command premium prices and foster customer loyalty, far outweighing the value of physical assets. Brands like Apple and Nike illustrate how brand strength supports pricing power and market dominance.

2. Customer Relationships: The value of established customer relationships cannot be underestimated. These relationships often guarantee repeat business and can lead to new customer acquisitions through referrals, contributing to the long-term revenue generation.

3. Intellectual Property: Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are vital assets that protect unique products, services, and content, providing a legal monopoly and the potential for licensing revenues.
4. Company Culture: A positive and strong company culture attracts and retains top talent, encouraging productivity and innovation. It enhances the company’s reputation and is pivotal in driving operational success.

5. Proprietary Technology: Technology exclusive to a particular company can offer a substantial competitive edge, improving efficiency, and offering unique solutions that are difficult for competitors to replicate.

6. Regulatory Licenses and Permits: In industries where operations are heavily regulated, having the necessary licenses can be a significant asset, as acquiring these permits can be costly and time-consuming.

7. Market Position and Exclusivity Agreements: Being a market leader or having exclusive rights to sell a particular product or service within a region can dramatically enhance a company’s value.

8. Contractual Rights: Contracts that secure income for a period of time, like lease agreements or broadcast rights, are highly valuable intangible assets.

9. Operational Processes and Systems: Efficient processes and advanced systems improve business efficiency and consistency, contributing to better margins and customer satisfaction.

10. Goodwill: This includes the reputation and brand value built over time, which can attract new customers and retain existing ones.

The Superiority of Intangible over Tangible

The reason intangible assets often exceed the value of tangible assets in a business valuation is linked to their role in generating future cash flows and securing competitive advantages. While physical assets like machinery and buildings are subject to wear and tear, depreciation, and possible obsolescence, intangible assets can appreciate, especially as the business grows and expands its market influence.

Furthermore, numerous businesses with extensive physical assets have failed because they lacked the intangible “magic” that binds the operational aspects together and keeps customers coming back.

The failure of large retailers and manufacturers, despite their significant investments in physical assets, underscores this point. In contrast, companies with strong brands, innovative patents, or exclusive licenses often survive and thrive even during economic downturns because their intangible assets continue to draw customers and generate revenue.

Challenges in Valuing Intangible Assets

While intangible assets are crucial, they present challenges in valuation due to their non-physical nature. Determining the exact value of a brand’s strength, the worth of customer loyalty, or the impact of proprietary technology requires specialized knowledge and often subjective judgments. This is where professionals trained in the nuanced art of business valuation come into play, employing various methodologies to estimate the true value these assets bring to a business.


In the realm of business, particularly for privately owned companies, tangible assets no longer reign supreme when owners want to know “What is my business worth?”.

The intangible assets are the real drivers of business value, playing a pivotal role in sustaining growth, securing profitability, and ensuring long-term success.

For business owners and investors alike, recognizing and nurturing these intangible assets is not just a strategic move but a fundamental necessity in today’s competitive marketplace. As such, they should be at the forefront of any strategic business planning and valuation efforts.