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Communications Solutions: cashing in the chips

Susan White (Department of Finance, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)

Publication date: 2 May 2017



Communication Solutions (CS), a woman-owned business, experienced fast growth at its inception, and then found itself slowing after the mid-2000s recession. The firm provides consulting services, primarily to government agencies. The owners have brought the business to sales of about $10.5 million in 2012, but revenues declined following that peak year because of cutbacks in government spending and founder Jennifer Madison’s detachment from the business. Even though they recognize that it may not be an ideal time to sell, they are tired of running the business and want to sell now, as long as they can pay off their debts.

Research methodology

This case was researched through multiple interviews with Mark and Jennifer, who provided all of the financial data and background. All financial statements given in the case provide actual CS numbers. The name of the company and the names of the owners have been changed, at their request to disguise the company. At the time this case was written, the owners were in negotiation with a potential bidder, and did not want their names or their company name to be used. Market information and information about comparable companies was researched using publicly available financial data bases.

Relevant courses and levels

This case has the potential to be used in a variety of classes, depending on what the instructor wishes to emphasize. The author uses the case as a valuation case in a corporate finance class (suitable for undergraduates or MBAs), allowing students practice in discounted cash flow valuation and comparable multiples valuation. It could be used in an investments class which teaches business valuation, particularly in teaching valuation using market multiples. The case could be used in an entrepreneurial finance class. The author uses this case to illustrate the difficulties of business valuation with messy (but real) data.

Theoretical bases

This case explores small business valuation and exit strategies for founders. Students can put themselves in the position of small business owners who are ready to exit. Students should value the firm using discounted cash flow and multiples valuation, which includes making assumptions about the future growth of the firm. While there is likely to be reasonable agreement on the “as is” valuation, there may be great variation concerning the assumptions and valuations of the company as it could be. Students can discuss (and implement) adjustments made when using large company comparables to value a much smaller company.



Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision making. The author/s may have disguised names; financial, and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.


White, S. (2017), "Communications Solutions: cashing in the chips", , Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 312-341.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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