Adjusted EBITDA

Bradford Toney
Updated At


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Adjusted EBITDA is a refined measure of a company's operational efficiency and profitability. Excluding one-time, irregular, and non-operational items from EBITDA offers a clearer perspective on the core profitability of a business. For owners navigating the complexities of financial performance analysis, understanding Adjusted EBITDA can be crucial. It helps make informed decisions about growth, investments, and operational adjustments, presenting a more accurate financial health picture essential for strategic planning and investor communications.

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What is Adjusted EBITDA?

Adjusted EBITDA is a financial metric that enhances the traditional EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) by removing non-recurring, irregular, and non-operational items. This adjustment process aims to present a more accurate depiction of a company's sustainable operating performance. For small business owners, it's a crucial tool for evaluating their true profitability, excluding the noise of one-off expenses or revenues, accounting adjustments, and other non-cash items that may skew the financial results. Adjusted EBITDA provides a cleaner, more consistent metric for assessing operational efficiency and comparing performance over time or against competitors.

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Adjusted EBITDA vs. EBITDA

While EBITDA offers a snapshot of a company's operational profitability before financial and accounting impacts, Adjusted EBITDA takes this further by eliminating anomalies and non-operational influences that do not reflect the ongoing business performance. The key difference lies in the adjustments made in Adjusted EBITDA, which strip out items like one-time legal expenses, restructuring costs, or any unusual income that could distort the understanding of a business's operational earnings. This distinction is crucial for small businesses as it can reveal the underlying profitability and cash flow potential more accurately, enabling better-informed decisions about the business's health and direction.

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How to Calculate Adjusted EBITDA

To calculate Adjusted EBITDA, start with EBITDA and then make specific adjustments to exclude non-recurring, irregular, and non-operational items. The formula is:

Adjusted EBITDA = EBITDA ± Adjustments

Step-by-step guide:

  1. Calculate EBITDA: Net Income + Interest + Taxes + Depreciation + Amortization.
  2. Identify adjustments: Add or subtract non-operational expenses or revenues, such as one-time legal fees, restructuring costs, or any extraordinary income.
  3. Sum these adjustments to EBITDA to arrive at Adjusted EBITDA.

For example, if a small business has an EBITDA of $100,000 and identified $5,000 in one-time legal expenses and $3,000 in restructuring costs, its Adjusted EBITDA would be:

Adjusted EBITDA = $100,000 + $5,000 + $3,000 = $108,000

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Why is Adjusted EBITDA Important?

  • Accurate Reflection of Operational Profitability: Adjusted EBITDA is significant for small business owners because it accurately depicts the profitability of their business operations. It achieves this high accuracy by not considering factors that don't recur or aren't operation-related. Essentially, it sifts out any outliers or unusual numbers that could obscure the true picture of how profitable the business's core functions are.
  • Assessing Operational Efficiency and Profitability Impact: The clarity Adjusted EBITDA provides allows business owners to appraise the efficiency of their main operations more accurately. Moreover, it enables them to assess how different operational decisions might influence profitability. In simpler terms, it gives them tools to dig deeper into how their everyday business activities are performing and what they might expect if they decide to make certain changes.
  • Benchmarking and Investment Evaluation: Adjusted EBITDA also comes in handy when comparing the company's performance against industry standards or when there's a need to evaluate investments. In these scenarios, clearly and accurately viewing the earning potential becomes exceptionally crucial.
  • Loan Applications and M&A Activities: Adjusted EBITDA becomes especially beneficial in situations like applying for a loan or during merger and acquisition activities. When seeking financial support or negotiating business deals, demonstrating a sustainable earnings potential can make the difference between success and failure. Rather than looking at the bottom line, lenders or potential investors see a more accurate portrayal of the business's financial vitality.
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How to Improve Adjusted EBITDA

Improving Adjusted EBITDA involves enhancing operational efficiency and profitability.

  • Operational Streamlining to Cut Costs: One effective business strategy is streamlining operations to reduce costs. The idea is to make operations more efficient, so fewer resources are used to achieve the same results, effectively reducing costs. The challenge here is to do so without compromising product or service quality.
  • Focusing on High-Profit Margin Products or Services: Businesses could also focus predominantly on products or services that give them high-profit margins. Prioritizing these high-return offerings could mean devoting more resources, leading to higher overall profitability.
  • Pricing Strategies Based on Market Dynamics: Optimizing pricing strategies with an active response to market demand and competition can contribute to better financial outcomes. This could mean adjusting prices up or down according to what the market is willing to pay while considering what competitors are doing.
  • Reducing Non-Operational Expenditures and Unnecessary One-off Costs: Another strategy to consider is to minimize non-operational expenses and avoid unnecessary one-time costs. Businesses can improve their financial health by keeping an eye on such costs and keeping them to a minimum.
  • Revenue Increase Through Marketing and Sales Efforts: Lastly, businesses can explore ways to increase revenues through concerted marketing and sales efforts. By reaching more potential customers and convincing existing customers to buy more, businesses can significantly improve their revenue base, leading to better financial outcomes.
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What Does It Mean When Adjusted EBITDA is Going Up?

An increasing Adjusted EBITDA indicates improving operational profitability and efficiency, suggesting that the business generates more earnings from its core activities. It can reflect successful cost management, revenue growth, or both, highlighting a strong foundation for sustainable growth and investment attractiveness.

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What Does It Mean When Adjusted EBITDA is Flat?

A stable Adjusted EBITDA suggests that the business's operational performance is consistent but may also indicate a plateau in growth or efficiency gains. Owners should assess whether this stability aligns with strategic goals or if adjustments are needed to spark growth or improve profitability.

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What Does It Mean When Adjusted EBITDA is Going Down?

A decline in Adjusted EBITDA signals decreasing operational profitability, potentially due to rising costs, falling revenues, or both. It's a critical alert for small business owners to reevaluate their operations, cost structures, and market strategies to address underlying issues and restore growth and profitability.

Adjusted EBITDA is a critical metric for small business owners, offering a clear lens through which to view core operational profitability by filtering out the noise of non-recurring and non-operational items. It enables more accurate performance assessment, strategic planning, and communication of financial health to stakeholders. By understanding and actively managing Adjusted EBITDA, business owners can better navigate their companies towards sustainable growth and operational efficiency, making informed decisions that enhance long-term profitability.

Kenton, W. (2022a, June 20). Adjusted EBITDA: Definition, formula and how to calculate. Investopedia.

Moore Kingston Smith. (2024, February 5). EBITDA vs Adjusted EBITDA – Moore Kingston Smith.

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