Exploring the Effects of Customer Concentration When Selling Your Business

Team Acquira
-  May 2, 2024

A profitable small business relies on having a strong customer base, especially in the home services sector where personal relationships play a significant role. 

You may have spent years getting to know the top customers who keep coming back to you for excellent and reliable service.

Having a smaller amount of dependable clients is more likely to ensure a steady income, but it comes with significant risks.

High customer concentration can make a business vulnerable if key clients are lost, affecting its financial health and potentially its valuation in the eyes of potential buyers. 

Recognizing and managing customer concentration is essential for those considering selling their business, as it influences both the attractiveness of the business to buyers and the strategies needed to mitigate associated risks.

Here’s a look at how customer concentration affects your business.

What is Customer Concentration?

Customer concentration refers to the scenario where a significant portion of a company’s revenue comes from a limited number of clients.

In the home services industry, like HVAC,  this could occur if a business relies heavily on a few major contracts, such as exclusive service agreements with large property management companies or maintenance contracts with commercial building complexes. 

While this can signify strong, dependable customer relationships and steady revenue streams, it also introduces a level of risk. 

If one of these key clients decides to switch service providers, it could significantly impact the business’s financial health.

If you’re thinking about selling your business, high customer concentration can be a double-edged sword in the eyes of potential buyers. 

On one hand, it demonstrates your business’s ability to secure and maintain lucrative contracts, showcasing its market presence and service quality. 

On the other hand, potential buyers might view it as a vulnerability, worrying about the sustainability of profits if the business were to lose just one or two major clients. 

This concern can affect the valuation of the business, as buyers may factor in the cost of diversifying the customer base or the risk of revenue loss into their offers.

While having a few large, loyal customers can be advantageous for HVAC companies, it’s crucial for business owners to understand and manage the implications of customer concentration, especially when considering selling their business. 

Balancing strong relationships with key clients while actively seeking to broaden the customer base can help mitigate these risks and make the business more attractive to potential buyers.

How to Measure Customer Concentration

Measuring customer concentration involves calculating the percentage of total revenue earned from your largest clients. 

For example, if an HVAC business generates $500,000 annually and its top three clients contribute $100,000, $75,000, and $50,000 respectively, these clients together account for 45% of the business’s total revenue ($225,000 of $500,000). 

This high percentage indicates a significant customer concentration, suggesting the business relies heavily on these few clients for nearly half its income. 

Understanding this metric is crucial for an HVAC company owner considering selling their business, as it directly impacts valuation and risk assessment from a potential buyer’s perspective.

The Impact of Customer Concentration on Valuation

customer concentration risk

Let’s dig a little deeper into how customer concentration can affect business valuation. 

High customer concentration significantly impacts business acquisitions, bringing to the forefront various risks that acquirers meticulously evaluate during the due diligence process. 

This assessment is crucial as it sheds light on the potential challenges and financial volatilities that might not be immediately apparent.

Dependency Risk

A pronounced risk associated with high customer concentration is the increased dependency on a small number of customers. 

This reliance becomes a critical vulnerability, especially if the acquisition does not include guarantees that key customers will continue with the company post-sale. 

For businesses in sectors like HVAC, where contracts with large commercial clients or housing complexes can constitute a major portion of the revenue, the loss of even a single client can lead to significant financial distress. 

This scenario can be particularly precarious for the acquirer, who might face the challenge of filling this revenue gap, potentially requiring significant time and resources to secure new contracts or expand into new markets.

Revenue Stability

A diversified customer base inherently provides a cushion against revenue fluctuations, ensuring a more predictable and stable financial outlook. 

This stability is attractive to potential acquirers, as it lowers the risk associated with future cash flows and earnings. 

Businesses with a concentrated customer base, on the other hand, are at the mercy of their few clients, where changes in client needs, budget cuts, or shifts in strategic direction can dramatically affect the business’s revenue. 

For example, a major client’s decision to internalize maintenance services or switch to a competitor for cost reasons can drastically reduce the acquired company’s expected income, thereby impacting its ability to meet financial projections and achieve growth targets.

Business Valuation

The perceived increased risk associated with high customer concentration directly impacts the target company’s valuation. 

Potential acquirers, aware of the volatility and dependency risks, may deem the business riskier and thus less valuable. 

This perception is often quantified in the form of discounted cash flow analyses, where future revenues are discounted at a higher rate to account for the potential loss of major clients. 

Additionally, the valuation process may include scenario analyses that consider the financial impact of losing one or more key customers, further adjusting the price the acquirer is willing to pay.

The effort to mitigate the risks associated with customer concentration can also affect valuation. 

Potential acquirers might calculate the cost of diversification strategies, such as marketing initiatives, sales team expansion, or service offering broadening, which would be necessary to attract a wider client base. 

These anticipated costs are often factored into the acquisition price, reducing the amount the buyer is prepared to offer.

Factors Contributing to Customer Concentration

There are several factors that go towards customer concentration, reflecting the unique challenges and opportunities within different industries and businesses. 

Understanding these factors is essential for business owners and potential acquirers alike, as they directly influence the company’s revenue stability and growth prospects.

Relationships with Key Clients

Strong, long-standing relationships with key clients can be both good and bad depending on how you look at it.

While they can ensure steady revenue and validate the company’s value proposition, they can also lead to high customer concentration. 

In industries like HVAC, where service contracts and maintenance agreements are common, businesses often rely on a few significant clients for a substantial portion of their revenue. 

These relationships, built over years through consistent service and trust, can make it challenging to diversify the customer base without risking current revenue streams.

Niche Market Positioning

Companies operating in niche markets often face customer concentration issues due to the limited pool of potential clients. 

Specialized services or products tailored to specific needs can lead to a business capturing a significant share of a small market. 

While this positioning can be advantageous for establishing expertise and commanding higher prices, it also restricts the company’s ability to expand its customer base without broadening its market focus or diversifying its offerings.

Industry Dynamics

The inherent dynamics of certain industries can contribute to customer concentration. 

Industries characterized by large contract values or long-term agreements, such as construction or specialized manufacturing, tend to have higher customer concentration levels. 

In these sectors, securing a few large projects or clients can sustain a business for years, making it less imperative or attractive to seek additional clients, thus inadvertently increasing dependency on these few sources of income.

Market Conditions

Changes in market conditions, including shifts in customer behavior or preferences, can significantly impact customer concentration levels. 

Economic downturns, technological advancements, or evolving industry standards can alter customer priorities, potentially reducing their reliance on a single service provider. 

Failing to meet these changing demands can result in losing key clients to more agile competitors, exacerbating the risks associated with customer concentration.

Strategies For Mitigating Customer Concentration

customer concentration analysis

To mitigate the risks associated with high customer concentration, businesses can employ several strategies aimed at diversifying revenue sources and stabilizing income streams. 

These strategies not only enhance the company’s appeal to potential acquirers but also bolster its resilience against market fluctuations and customer behavior changes.

Customer Diversification

Actively seeking new customers to broaden the client base is one of the best approaches to reducing customer concentration.

This involves targeting different market segments or industries that can benefit from the company’s offerings. 

For an HVAC company, this might mean expanding into new sectors such as industrial or retail spaces, beyond their traditional residential or commercial clientele. 

Marketing efforts and sales initiatives should be adjusted to attract these new segments, reducing dependency on a few large clients.

Long-term Contracts

Securing long-term contracts with a broader range of customers can provide predictable revenue while mitigating the impact of losing any single client. 

These agreements ensure a steady income over time, allowing businesses to plan and invest in growth with greater confidence. 

For service-based industries like HVAC or plumbing, offering maintenance contracts or annual service plans to more customers can spread revenue sources more evenly.

Customer Retention Strategies

Implementing robust customer retention strategies ensures that existing clients remain satisfied and loyal. 

This can include loyalty programs, regular feedback mechanisms, and personalized service offerings. 

Retaining a wide base of smaller clients can be as critical as acquiring new ones, especially in industries where word-of-mouth and reputation are key.

New Products or Services

Introducing new products or services that meet the evolving needs of both current and potential customers can open up new revenue streams. 

For HVAC businesses, this might involve incorporating smart home technology services or energy efficiency consulting. 

Innovating offerings keeps the business competitive and less reliant on traditional revenue sources.

Geographic Expansion

Expanding operations into new geographical areas can also help dilute customer concentration risks. 

By entering new markets, a business can access a larger pool of potential customers, reducing the impact of regional economic downturns or industry-specific declines in demand. 

Geographic expansion requires careful planning and market research to ensure the offerings are tailored to the needs of the new customer base.


What are the Benefits of High Customer Concentration?

High customer concentration can lead to strong, deep relationships with key clients, ensuring predictable revenue and potentially higher profitability due to streamlined operations tailored to these major customers.

What is Bad Customer Concentration?

Bad customer concentration occurs when a business’s revenue heavily relies on a few clients, posing risks of significant income loss if any key client discontinues their business, thereby jeopardizing financial stability.

How much Customer Concentration is Too Much?

Customer concentration is often considered too high if the loss of one client could drastically affect the company’s revenue. A common threshold is when the top customer accounts for more than 15-20% of total revenue.


Customer concentration has profound implications for small businesses planning to sell. 

While it can reflect positively on the company’s market position and client relationships, it also poses risks that must be carefully managed. 

Strategies such as diversifying the customer base, securing long-term contracts, and expanding into new markets or services are vital for mitigating these risks. 

Business owners must understand the balance between maintaining strong relationships with key clients and reducing dependence on them. 

If you’re thinking about selling your small business and are wondering how customer concentration affects you, reach out to Acquira today to chat with one of our industry experts. 

We can start you off with a FREE business valuation

If we like your business, we’ll buy it outright with no extra fees. 

If it’s not quite right for us, we can help you deal with customer concentration and grow it to a place where we will buy it. 

We can also connect you with our qualified business buyers who might be interested right now. 

Get in touch and there are absolutely no strings attached. All we ask is your time. 

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