Established companies do not thrive on tangible assets alone. To say that intangible assets play a large role in determining the overall value of a company is a gross understatement. In fact, patents, copyrights, and other intangible assets can have substantial impact on the value of a business. In today’s marketplace, it is not uncommon for real estate holdings and equipment to account for a very small piece of the overall pie.

This is a byproduct of our knowledge-based economy. To thrive in today’s post-manufacturing world, where industries have been transformed and balance sheets turned upside down, smart businesses are routinely evaluating the assets listed on their balance sheet, and unlocking the true value of their businesses by assessing intangibles. Even smarter businesses are taking that concept one step farther and ensuring that they have systems in place to continually uncover hidden innovation and intellectual property as they move forward.

Unfortunately, intangible asset valuation is a tricky area that is difficult to handle in-house. Accounting systems are not designed to provide feedback on intangibles, and given that these valuations involve greater subjectivity, a professional with a consistent and respected methodology is usually necessary. However, an understanding of your company’s intangible assets—whether they be trademarks, employees, brand loyalty, proprietary technology, copyrights, customer relationships, contracts, R&D, corporate culture, trade secrets, or something else—drives your business valuation.

That number is something that all companies should know, whether they are raising money, selling the business, attracting financing, protecting intellectual property from competitors, or simply trying to grow faster. After all, how can a company become the next industry leader without an intimate knowledge of its assets? Google doesn’t have an $800 billion market capitalization because it owns a lot of servers and furniture. Google is a powerhouse because it understands how to leverage intangible assets.

Intangible assets are what gives a company its edge and boosts its earnings. Taking steps early on to capture and increase the value of patents and intangible assets allows business owners to grow their company ahead of an exit or another corporate milestone. Profitability now hinges on a company’s ability to create, transfer, assemble, integrate, protect, and exploit knowledge assets.

Your company likely has numerous entities that contribute to your success. They may be a streamlined business process, a talented senior management team, or a stellar customer retention program. Make sure you understand where your company’s value truly lies.