Qualitative Factors in Valuation

What is Qualitative Factors?

Qualitative Factors in Valuation are the different factors in the valuation of the business or the investment which are not possible to quantify directly but are equally important as the quantitative factors and includes the factors such as quality of management, competitive advantage, corporate governance, etc.

Valuations are done using quantitative data (like Income Statement, Balance sheet, Cash Flows, etc.) from the Annual Reports. Think about preparing a Financial Model of a company and applying valuation tools like DCFDCFDiscounted cash flow analysis is a method of analyzing the present value of a company, investment, or cash flow by adjusting future cash flows to the time value of money. This analysis assesses the present fair value of assets, projects, or companies by taking into account many factors such as inflation, risk, and cost of capital, as well as analyzing the company's future performance.read more, Relative Valuation tools like PE ratioPE RatioThe price to earnings (PE) ratio measures the relative value of the corporate stocks, i.e., whether it is undervalued or overvalued. It is calculated as the proportion of the current price per share to the earnings per share. read more, EV/EBITDAEV/EBITDAEV to EBITDA is the ratio between enterprise value and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization that helps the investor in the valuation of the company at a very subtle level by allowing the investor to compare a specific company to the peer company in the industry as a whole, or other comparative industries.read more, etc., to value the company. However, there are other “not-so-tangible” factors that also impact the valuation of the business.

Qualitative Factors in Valution

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In this article, we will look at the qualitative factors in valuation in detail.

What do we mean by qualitative factors in valuation?

Qualitative factors are the factors in business valuation that are almost impossible to quantify for business. Or we can say that these are the factors in business valuation that can’t be directly quantified. But they are equally, if not more important than quantitative factors in valuation. And at the same time, no company can ignore these less tangible factors because they really matter in valuing a company.

Numbers are not the only thing that matters when you think about evaluating a business. There are other factors as well that may skip your mind as an investor.

In the next section, we will go into the meat of the article, which will help you make smarter business decisions, and you will be able to think through a completely different perspective before ever spending a buck on a stock.

List of Top 10 Qualitative Factors

Here is the list of top 10 qualitative factors –

#1 – Company’s Core Business

As an investor, your first concern should be – “How a business makes money?” Yes, according to a recent definition of business, money-making may not be the sole ingredient of a good business. But as an investor, you should invest in a stock which will make you money. That’s why it is essential to peep through their revenue model and find out whether it will really work in the long run.

For example, if you look at the business model of KFC, we will see that they sell delicious chicken burgers, chicken roasts, many varieties of mouth-licking chicken and veg recipes, and their business model is straightforward to follow. As an investor, you know that this is how KFC makes money.

Similarly, before ever spending a penny on any stock, know the business model of a company. Do your own due diligence. Find out its history, revenue generation model, how it got started, how long they are in the market, what is the revenue and profit marginProfit MarginProfit Margin is a metric that the management, financial analysts, & investors use to measure the profitability of a business relative to its sales. It is determined as the ratio of Generated Profit Amount to the Generated Revenue Amount. read more they have been maintaining as of now. And then go for business valuation.

As seen in the below Facebook business overview, it provides us information on how the revenue is generated. Facebook generates all of its revenue from selling advertisement placements to marketers.

Qualitative Valuation - Business

source: Facebook SEC Filings

#2 – Quality of Management

The second factor is the quality of management in the company. If the management is motivated enough to steer the company toward its summit, the company would be a gigantic force, and it would always find a way even amid the most significant economic turndowns.

So before you invest in a company, having a check on the management quality is of utmost importance. Having the most significant business model will not serve unless the management quality of the company is at par.

So what would you do?

Every company, nowadays, has a website where they mention their “teams.” Go through the page, find out who are the promoters of the company, filter out their background on different levels, and find out what experiences they have in a similar industry.

This will give you a brief overview of the company. But that is not all. You need to dig deep and see for yourself what the management is really up to.

Qualitative Valuation - MD&A

source: Facebook SEC Filings

  • Look for insider’s information: If you are researching a company, you need to make a “one plus one equals two.” A company that is doing outstanding because of someone’s effort. For his/her effort, the company is compensating him/her in a reasonable way. Look for stocks. How many stocks are given to a top executive, and why? Why s/he has been given the stocks? What performances s/he has had in the past?

#3 – Customers and Geographic exposure

There are two basic things you need to check out if you want to penetrate the actual picture of the company.

First, you need to find out about the customers of the company. Does the company have a few big customers or many small customers? Does the company serve only businesses or end customers as well? Do their focus revolve around a niche market, or do they cover all segments of customers? To understand a company, getting answers to the above questions is essential. Because then you will understand where the company stands as per the customers’ mind-map.

Second, you need to find out the geographical exposure of the company. Does the company only operate in certain territories? If yes, why? Do the company cover only urban or rural areas? What is their sales-break-down as per each territory? Where they sell more, and why? Asking yourself these questions and searching for answers will help you know the company well and make wiser choices at the end of the day.

In its Form 10K, Facebook has provided us with Geographical information. We note that the United States is the major contributor to Facebook’s revenue. The rest of the world share is seeing a rapid rise and thereby diversifying geographical risk.

Qualitative Valuation - Geographic Distribution

source: Facebook SEC Filings

#4 – Competitive Advantage

Before you ever evaluate a company in quantitative terms and judge the company based on figures, you need to find out what’s the competitive advantage of the company. Competitive advantage is a term coined by Michael Porter. He says there are few factors that are important for a company to have, to be called a competitive advantage –

  • The competitive advantage of a company is a unique ability that can’t be emulated by other companies easily.
  • Competitive advantage helps the company to produce more profits, more revenue, efficient systems, and processes.
  • Competitive advantage helps all the activities of the company get aligned with the organizational strategy.
  • Competitive advantage helps a company receive benefits usually for five-to-ten years.

For example, if a company sells online, its logistics can be its competitive advantage, which can help them reach their customers super fast and deliver goods and products faster than their competitors.

As an investor, you need to think through the competitive advantage or lack of it before investing in it because competitive advantage or lack of it is their sole ingredient of producing astounding or mediocre results!

#5 – Corporate Governance

In simple terms, corporate governance is the holy grail of a sustainable business. If the corporate governance of a business is not in order, the whole business will crumble sooner or later. So, checking out the corporate governance of a company is of utmost importance as an investor.

You need to see three things –

  • Are the rules of the company aligned with the company’s mission and vision?
  • Are the company serving each and every stakeholder well?
  • Are they legally compliant with the government’s policies?

If the answer to the above three questions is “yes,” usually, the company is pretty good at corporate governance.

Below is the Corporate Governance guidelines of Facebook.

Qualitative Valuation - Corporate Governance

source: Facebook Corporate Governance

#6 – Industry Growth Trends

Doing your own due diligence doesn’t end at the company level. You need to find out which sector the company is in and then see the industry under the researcher’s light. You should gather the data for the last ten years and then use different tools to see whether you seem to find any pattern or trend or not.

In this case, quantitative factors may help you get an idea about the qualitative factors. Look at different trends, analyses, experts’ forecasts, and suggestions. But make sure that you decide on the basis of your own thinking and your knowledge of the data. Don’t put the industry on a higher rung because an expert says so.

Once you know the trends, you will have definite ideas about predicting future trends of the company.

#7 – Competitive analysis

Many investors skip this.

But if you want to know the right value of a company, look at their competitors and do an analysis.

Look at their strengths and compare them with the company you want to invest in. Look at their weaknesses and see how the company you have targeted is doing in those areas.

Doing competitive analysis will not only help you the position of a company, but it will also help you discover similar companies to invest in in the near future.

The industrial analyses can’t be done by taking competition into account. The only comparison with similar companies can give you an overview of how a company is doing in the same industry.

Facebook is in competition with lots of players, including Google, Snapchat, etc.

Valuation - Competition

source: Facebook SEC Filings

#8 – Disruptive technologies

Technologies can shape or break a company.

Look for disruptive technologies that have shaped the industry altogether. And then see whether the company you are evaluating using those technologies or not.

In this age of continuous advancement of technologies, only disruptive ones make ruckus of the industry. And before you ever invest in any company, look for the technological state of the industry first.

One disruptive technology for Facebook is Oculus. Oculus virtual reality technology and content platform power products allow people to enter a completely immersive and interactive environment to play games, consume content, and connect with others.

#9 – Market share

The company doesn’t need to have a significant share in the market, especially when it has been in the market just for some time. But what we need to look at as investors are whether it has the potential to grow or not.

You can use BCG Matrix or any other strategic tool to find out where this company belongs to and then evaluate it on the basis of that.

As an investor, it is essential to know that the company can grow in the near future. If a company has reached its saturation point and there is limited or no growth (rather a downward slope along the way), investing in it wouldn’t be a great idea.

#10 – Regulations

No company can be free of regulations. And when you attempt to evaluate a business, you need to see the regulatory factors as well.

For example, in the pharmaceutical industries, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has direct regulations. According to FDA, before any drug comes into the market, it has to go through a series of clinical trials before they reach the end customers.

However, not all industries have the same regulatory constraints. So, as an evaluator, you need to see whether the company is following all the regulatory practices or not.

Valuation - Regulations

source: Facebook SEC Filings

The idea is to find out the regulatory factors that can have a direct impact on the bottom lineBottom LineThe bottom line refers to the net earnings or profit a company generates from its business operations in a particular accounting period that appears at the end of the income statement. A company adopts strategies to reduce costs or raise income to improve its bottom line. read more (think net profit) of the company. To discover this, you really need to dig deep, read all the financial statements of the company, and also go through the annual report.

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In the final analysis

It is always easier said than done. Even the most revered investor Warren Buffett doesn’t invest in technology stocks. If you ask him why he would say that he doesn’t feel that he has expertise in that area.

Now that’s something the investors should think about.

It is not enough only to consider qualitative and quantitative factors into account. It’s also essential to build an area of expertise where you are more thorough and where you have better instincts.

And you would know that with experience.

Try out the above factors while evaluating a business and then see for yourself how they impact your overall calculation of business value.

The above may seem easy on paper, but to implement these, you need to go through countless research papers, countless data, insurmountable amounts of graphs, trends, analysis, and an amazing number of books. It is not easy, but worth the effort.

When you take these “not-so-tangible” factors into account, you will become a better investor and will be able to calculate the right price of a company.

Reader Interactions


  1. Moya says

    This was really great information. Thanks alot

  2. Bashshar says

    Insightful. Keep up the good work

  3. Tarik says

    Appreciate your effort to enrich our knowledge on finance. Keep it up.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      thanks Tarik!