How to Value a Daycare Business?

How to Value a Daycare Business?

jeremiah grant
By - Jeremiah Grant
Last Updated - July 9th, 2024 6:49 AM
Jul 09

Understanding the value of your daycare business is crucial, whether you’re looking to sell, buy, or simply plan for the future. As someone who has spent over a decade valuing businesses across various industries, I can tell you that an accurate valuation helps you make informed decisions. This guide will walk you through the essential aspects of valuing a daycare, discussing the different methods and factors that impact a daycare’s valuation. Let’s get started.

Understanding Business Valuation

Business valuation is the process of determining a business’s economic value, which is crucial for making informed financial decisions. For daycare centers, this involves assessing various factors, such as financial performance, market conditions, and future growth potential. The goal is to establish fair market value, which is the price at which a business would change hands between a willing buyer and seller, having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts and neither being under compulsion to act​​.

Valuing a daycare is not just about crunching numbers; it requires understanding the unique dynamics of the childcare industry. This includes considering factors like enrollment rates, staff qualifications, and local demand for daycare services. Accurate valuation helps you strategically plan for the future, whether you aim to sell, expand, or simply improve operations​​.

Now, let’s understand the different approaches that can be used to value your daycare business.

Know How Much Your Practice is Really Worth!


Our expert appraisal services provide a detailed, custom analysis to help you understand the true market value of your practice. Why settle for a ballpark figure when you can get precise data tailored to your unique situation? Contact us today to schedule your comprehensive valuation consultation.

Market-Based Approach

The fundamental idea behind the market-based approach is to determine the value of a childcare business by examining the sale prices of similar businesses. This comparison provides insights into what buyers are currently paying in the market, offering a practical benchmark for valuation. The key is to find businesses that closely match the target business in terms of size, location, services offered, and financial performance.

Valuation Multiples

In the market-based approach, several types of valuation multiples are commonly used:

  1. Seller’s Discretionary Earnings (SDE) Multiples
  2. EBITDA Multiples
  3. Revenue Multiples

Each of these multiples provides a different perspective on the business’s value, reflecting various aspects of its financial performance.

Seller’s Discretionary Earnings (SDE) Multiples

SDE represents the total financial benefit that an owner derives from the business, including salary, perks, and other discretionary expenses. This multiple is particularly useful for small businesses, where the owner’s personal involvement can significantly impact earnings.

Example: Suppose a childcare center has an SDE of $200,000. If similar businesses in the market are selling for an SDE multiple of 2.5 to 3.5, the estimated value of the business would be:

Value = SDE×Multiple

= 200,000×2.5 to 3.5

= 500,000 to 700,000

EBITDA Multiples

EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) is another common multiple used in business valuations. It measures the business’s operational efficiency and profitability, excluding the effects of financing and accounting decisions.

Example: A daycare center with an EBITDA of $150,000 and an applicable multiple of 3.5 would be valued as follows:




Revenue Multiples

Revenue multiples are less commonly used but can be relevant for businesses with strong and consistent sales figures. This multiple is especially useful when other financial details like EBITDA or SDE are not readily available or if the company has unique revenue streams.

Example: If a childcare center generates $500,000 in annual revenue and the market indicates a revenue multiple of 0.6 to 0.8, the valuation would be:

Value = Revenue×Multiple

= 500,000×0.6 to 0.8

= 300,000 to 400,000

Read further: How to Value a Consulting Business?

Application: How to Apply Multiples to Determine Value

To apply these multiples effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Collect Financial Data: Gather accurate and up-to-date financial statements, including income statements and balance sheets.
  2. Determine Relevant Multiples: Research and identify the appropriate multiples for SDE, EBITDA, and Revenue based on comparable sales in the childcare industry.
  3. Calculate Business Value: Apply the chosen multiples to the corresponding financial metrics to estimate the business’s value.
  4. Adjust for Specific Factors: Consider any unique factors of the business that might affect its value, such as location, growth potential, or operational efficiencies.

Detailed Example:

Let’s consider a childcare center with the following financial metrics:

  • SDE: $200,000
  • EBITDA: $150,000
  • Revenue: $500,000

Using market data, assume the multiples are as follows:

  • SDE Multiple: 3
  • EBITDA Multiple: 4
  • Revenue Multiple: 0.7

Calculating the value:

  • SDE Value:


  • EBITDA Value:


  • Revenue Value:


From these calculations, we see that the SDE and EBITDA methods both suggest a value of $600,000, while the Revenue method indicates a value of $350,000. This discrepancy highlights the importance of using multiple methods and understanding the context of each valuation.

You might also want to read: How to Value a Grocery Store?

Challenges: Finding Comparable Market Data

One of the significant challenges in the market-based approach is obtaining reliable and comparable market data, particularly for small businesses. The childcare industry, being highly fragmented, often lacks comprehensive public transaction data. To overcome this, consider the following strategies:

  1. Use Private Databases: Access private transaction databases that specialize in small business sales, such as BizBuySell or DealStats.
  2. Consult Industry Reports: Review industry reports and publications that provide insights into recent transactions and market trends.
  3. Engage Valuation Experts: Work with professional business appraisers who have access to proprietary data and industry expertise.
  4. Network with Industry Peers: Join industry associations and networks to gather anecdotal data and insights from peers who have recently bought or sold similar businesses.

By leveraging these resources, you can gather more accurate and relevant data to apply the market-based approach effectively.

The market-based approach is a powerful tool for valuing childcare businesses, providing a realistic estimate based on recent market transactions. By understanding and applying SDE, EBITDA, and Revenue multiples, you can arrive at a comprehensive valuation. However, the challenge lies in finding comparable data, which requires a combination of resources and expertise. If done correctly, this approach can significantly aid in making informed decisions whether you are buying or selling a childcare center.

Income-Based Approach to Valuing a Childcare Business

This approach is integral for understanding a business’s worth by projecting future profits and discounting them to present value. Here, we’ll understand the key methods within this approach: the Capitalization of Cash Flow Method and the Discounted Cash Flow Method, along with the risks considered during the valuation process.

Capitalization of Cash Flow Method

Concept: This method estimates the value of a business based on a single period’s expected cash flow, adjusted for a growth rate that is assumed to continue perpetually. It’s most suitable for companies with stable and predictable earnings.


  1. Compute Expected Cash Flow: Determine the normalized earnings for a single period, adjusting for any non-recurring items.
  2. Determine the Capitalization Rate: This rate is derived from the required rate of return and the perpetual growth rate of the cash flow.
  3. Calculate Business Value: Divide the expected cash flow by the capitalization rate.

Example: Imagine a childcare center with an annual cash flow of $150,000 and an expected perpetual growth rate of 3%. If the required rate of return is 10%, the capitalization rate would be 10%−3%=7%

The business value would be:

Value = 150,000 / 0.07 = $2,142,857

This method is straightforward and effective for mature businesses with steady earnings, making it easier to explain in legal or negotiation scenarios.

Read further: How to Value a CPA Firm?

Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Method

Concept: The DCF method values a business based on its projected future cash flows over a discrete period, discounting these flows to present value using a rate that reflects the risk of the investment. This method is more flexible and can accommodate varying growth rates and expenses.


  1. Estimate Future Cash Flows: Forecast the business’s cash flows for a specific period, typically 3-5 years.
  2. Determine the Discount Rate: This rate reflects the cost of capital and the risk associated with the future cash flows.
  3. Discount Future Cash Flows: Adjust these cash flows to their present value.
  4. Sum the Present Values: Add up the discounted cash flows to get the total value of the business.

Example: Consider a childcare center expected to generate cash flows of $100,000, $110,000, and $120,000 over the next three years, respectively. If the discount rate is 12%, the present value (PV) of these cash flows is:

PV Year 1= 100,000 / (1+0.12)^1 = $89,286

PV Year 2= 110,000 / (1+0.12)^2 = $87,301

PV Year 3= 120,000 / (1+0.12)^3 = $85,736

Total PV= $89,286 + $87,301 + $85,736 = $262,323

Also read: How To Value A Landscaping Business For Sale?

Application and Risks

Applying these methods involves a careful analysis of various factors that impact future earnings and business stability. Key risks to consider include:

  1. Staff Shortages: A critical issue in childcare, affecting operational capacity and quality of service.
  2. Competitive Landscape: The level of competition in the area can influence pricing strategies and enrollment numbers.
  3. Financial Performance: Historical financial performance and the ability to maintain or improve profitability.
  4. Health and Safety Concerns: Regulatory compliance and the ability to maintain a safe environment are paramount, impacting reputation and operational viability.

Both methods require thorough financial analysis and consideration of risks to accurately project and discount future earnings, ensuring a realistic and fair valuation. For more detailed guidance on your daycare business valuation, consulting with a qualified professional is recommended to tailor the approach to the specific needs and conditions.

You might also want to read: How to Value a Hair Salon?

Know How Much Your Practice is Really Worth!


Our expert appraisal services provide a detailed, custom analysis to help you understand the true market value of your practice. Why settle for a ballpark figure when you can get precise data tailored to your unique situation? Contact us today to schedule your comprehensive valuation consultation.

Asset-Based Approach in Business Valuation

The asset-based approach values a business by assessing the fair market value of its total assets and subtracting its total liabilities. This method assumes that the company’s worth is directly tied to its tangible and intangible assets, making it a straightforward and objective valuation technique.

Calculation: Total Assets Minus Total Liabilities

  1. Identify and List Assets: Start by listing all the company’s assets. This includes tangible assets such as property, plant, equipment (PPE), inventory, and intangible assets like patents, trademarks, and goodwill.
  2. Assign Fair Market Value: Assign a fair market value to each asset. This may involve adjusting the book values to reflect current market conditions. For example, a piece of machinery may have depreciated in accounting terms but may have a higher market value.
  3. Identify and List Liabilities: List all the company’s liabilities, including both short-term liabilities (accounts payable, short-term loans) and long-term liabilities (mortgages, bonds).
  4. Subtract Liabilities from Assets: Subtract the total liabilities from the total assets to determine the company’s net asset value.

Example Calculation

Let’s consider a simplified example of an asset-based valuation:

  • Total Assets:
    • Current assets: $100,000
    • Fixed assets: $500,000
    • Intangible assets: $50,000
    • Total: $650,000
  • Total Liabilities:
    • Current liabilities: $50,000
    • Long-term liabilities: $150,000
    • Total: $200,000
  • Net Asset Value:

650,000 (TotalAssets) − 200,000 (TotalLiabilities) = 450,000

Therefore, the net asset value of the business is $450,000.

When to Use the Asset-Based Approach?

It is ideal in several scenarios:

  1. Businesses with Substantial Tangible Assets: Companies in industries like real estate, manufacturing, or construction, where the value of physical assets is a significant component of the business value, benefit from this approach.
  2. Negative Earnings History: For businesses that have been unprofitable or have a volatile earnings history, an income-based approach may not be reliable. Instead, focusing on the tangible asset value provides a clearer picture of the company’s worth.
  3. Liquidation Scenarios: If a business is being liquidated, the asset-based approach can help determine the value of assets that can be sold off to pay creditors.

Adjustments and Considerations

While the asset-based approach is relatively straightforward, several adjustments might be necessary:

  • Market Value Adjustments: Assets should be valued at their current market value rather than their historical cost. This adjustment ensures that the valuation reflects actual economic conditions.
  • Intangible Assets: Valuing intangible assets such as brand value, customer relationships, or proprietary technology can be complex and often requires expert appraisal.
  • Off-Balance-Sheet Items: Include items not recorded on the balance sheet, such as contingent liabilities or unrecorded assets, to get a comprehensive valuation.

The asset-based approach provides a clear and tangible method for valuing businesses, particularly those rich in physical assets or with unstable earnings histories. It involves meticulously assessing all assets and liabilities to derive the net asset value, offering a reliable valuation in specific contexts like liquidation or industries heavily reliant on tangible assets.

Key Factors Impacting the Valuation of a Daycare Business

Size and Scale

Larger centers with a capacity exceeding 100 children are typically more valuable due to their potential for higher revenue generation. For instance, a center licensed for 120 children can accommodate more students, thus generating more tuition fees. This increased capacity also allows for better utilization of resources and economies of scale, reducing per-child costs. However, this larger scale comes with its own challenges, such as the need for more extensive facilities and a larger staff. The management efficiency of a large center is critical; poorly managed larger centers may face high operational costs and low profit margins, which can detract from their value. Therefore, while a high licensed capacity can increase value, it must be supported by efficient operations and high enrollment rates​.

Enrollment Levels

Centers that consistently maintain high enrollment rates demonstrate stability and reliability, which are attractive qualities for potential buyers. For example, a daycare with a history of 95% enrollment over five years indicates a strong demand and a good reputation in the community. This stability not only ensures a steady revenue stream but also reduces the marketing costs associated with attracting new families. Conversely, fluctuating enrollment rates can signal instability and potentially deter buyers. Consistent enrollment can be achieved through excellent customer service, competitive pricing, and a strong curriculum that meets the needs of the community. Long-term relationships with families can also be fostered by engaging them in center activities and maintaining open lines of communication​.

Location: Urban vs. Suburban

Urban centers often command higher prices due to greater demand from dual-income households and higher population densities. For instance, a daycare center located in a bustling urban area with high foot traffic and accessibility to public transportation will likely see higher enrollment numbers. These centers can charge premium rates due to the convenience they offer to working parents. On the other hand, suburban locations might offer more space and a quieter environment, which can appeal to different demographics. However, suburban centers may face lower enrollment rates due to lesser population density and might need to market more aggressively to attract families. The facility’s upkeep, safety, and proximity to residential areas, schools, and workplaces are all critical in maximizing the value derived from its location.

Staff Quality

Well-trained, experienced, and loyal staff members contribute significantly to the center’s reputation and operational efficiency. For example, a center where the majority of the staff have been employed for over five years and possess relevant certifications will likely have higher parent satisfaction and lower turnover rates. This stability reassures potential buyers that the center can continue to operate smoothly post-sale. Additionally, high staff quality reduces training costs and enhances the quality of care, leading to better child outcomes and increased parent trust. Investing in professional development and creating a supportive work environment can further enhance staff loyalty and competence, directly impacting the center’s value positively​.

Educational Programs

Programs such as bilingual education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities, arts and crafts, and special needs support differentiate a center from its competitors. These programs attract a wider range of parents looking for specific educational outcomes for their children. For instance, a center that offers a robust STEM curriculum may appeal to parents who prioritize early development in these areas, thereby commanding higher tuition fees. Additionally, specialized programs can justify premium pricing and increase enrollment rates, contributing to higher revenue and profit margins. Centers that adapt their curriculum to include contemporary educational trends and needs are likely to see increased demand and valuation​.

Operational Efficiency

Efficient operations reduce costs and improve service delivery, directly impacting the center’s bottom line. For example, implementing automated systems for billing, attendance tracking, and parent communication can streamline administrative tasks, freeing up staff to focus on child care. Efficient resource management, such as optimizing staff schedules and managing inventory effectively, can also lead to significant cost savings. A well-documented set of operating procedures ensures consistency in service delivery and simplifies the transition process for new owners, thereby enhancing the center’s value. Buyers are more likely to invest in a center with proven operational efficiencies, as it reduces the perceived risk and promises better returns​.

Financial Health

Clear financial documentation, including profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, provides potential buyers with transparency and confidence in the business’s financial health. For instance, detailed financial records over a period of five years can highlight consistent revenue growth, profitability, and prudent expense management, all of which are attractive to investors. Regular audits and meticulous bookkeeping help identify and address financial discrepancies early, ensuring the financial health of the daycare. Moreover, clean records simplify the due diligence process during a sale, facilitating smoother negotiations and potentially higher valuations​.

Facility Quality

Well-maintained premises that comply with local regulations and safety standards are more appealing to buyers. For example, a daycare with modern, safe, and hygienic facilities is likely to command a higher price. Regular maintenance and upgrades to the building, playground, and classroom equipment ensure that the center remains attractive and functional. Additionally, compliance with state and local regulations reduces the risk of operational interruptions and fines, making the center a safer investment. Investing in the facility’s aesthetic appeal, such as clean, bright interiors and well-kept outdoor areas, also enhances the overall perception of quality and care, further boosting its value​.

Brand and Reputation

A well-recognized brand that is synonymous with quality care and education can attract more families, leading to higher enrollment rates and the ability to charge premium tuition fees. For instance, a center that consistently receives positive reviews, word-of-mouth referrals, and high ratings on social media and review platforms will be more attractive to buyers. Engaging in community events, obtaining national accreditations, and showcasing testimonials from satisfied parents are effective strategies to build and maintain a strong reputation. A reputable brand not only enhances current business performance but also provides a solid foundation for future growth and expansion​.

Customer Base

Loyalty can be demonstrated through long-term enrolments and strong parent relationships. For example, a daycare that maintains high enrollment rates and has a waiting list shows strong demand and customer satisfaction. To ensure that this customer base remains intact post-sale, centers should focus on building relationships beyond the owner. This includes fostering strong connections between parents and staff and creating a sense of community within the center. Implementing loyalty programs, providing regular updates to parents, and engaging them in events and activities can help strengthen these bonds. A committed customer base not only ensures steady revenue but also adds to the center’s attractiveness, as buyers are assured of ongoing business stability and potential growth​.

Preparing for Valuation

The following are the documents required to get your daycare business valued.

Financial Statements and Tax Returns (Last 3-5 Years)

Having a comprehensive record of your daycare’s financial performance is critical. These documents offer a snapshot of the business’s profitability and financial health over time. Prospective buyers and appraisers will scrutinize these records to assess revenue consistency, expense patterns, and overall financial stability. Ensure your statements are accurate and up-to-date, as discrepancies can raise red flags and lower perceived value.

Business and Marketing Plans

A detailed business plan outlines your daycare’s operational blueprint, including growth strategies, target markets, and revenue projections. A solid marketing plan demonstrates your approach to attracting and retaining customers. These plans show potential buyers the roadmap for sustaining and growing the business, making your daycare more attractive and valuable.

Operating Procedures

Documenting every operational aspect, from daily routines to staff roles, provides clarity and assurance to buyers that the business can run smoothly without you. Detailed procedures help maintain consistency and quality, which are vital for customer satisfaction and business stability. This level of documentation also reduces transition risks, making the business more appealing.

Legal Paperwork

Ensure all legal documents, such as incorporation articles, bylaws, and licensing agreements, are in order. These documents verify the legal standing and compliance of your daycare, mitigating potential legal risks for buyers. Any issues with licensing or compliance can significantly affect the business’s value, so thoroughness here is crucial.

When and Why to Hire a Professional Appraiser

Hiring a professional appraiser becomes essential when you need an objective, accurate valuation of your daycare. Professional appraisers bring expertise in market trends, valuation techniques, and industry standards, ensuring a fair market value is established. They can provide a detailed report that justifies the valuation, which is invaluable during negotiations with potential buyers. Additionally, professional appraisers can identify areas of improvement, helping you enhance the business’s value before listing it for sale. Engaging an appraiser early in the process can also prevent overpricing or under-pricing, both of which can hinder a successful sale.


Valuing your daycare business accurately is essential for making informed decisions, whether you’re planning to sell, expand, or enhance operations. By understanding various valuation methods, such as the market-based, income-based, and asset-based approaches, you gain a comprehensive perspective on your business’s worth, considering its current performance and future potential. With over two decades of experience valuing diverse businesses, Arrowfish Consulting is well-equipped to guide you through this complex process.

We pride ourselves on delivering expert, reliable, and personalized business evaluation services tailored to your needs. Our team of seasoned professionals brings together extensive industry knowledge and a commitment to integrity and objectivity. If you need assistance valuing your daycare business or have questions about the valuation process, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

You can also read: How To Value A Dental Practice Like An Expert

jeremiah grant

Jeremiah Grant

Jeremiah Grant is the Managing Partner of Arrowfish Consulting. In addition to acting as a primary liaison for many of the firm’s engagements, He primarily focuses on business valuation and economic damages expert witness assignments, in addition to forensic accounting and insurance claims analysis.