Quantity AND Quality

When I offer my daughter the option of ice cream or cake, she frequently replies she’d like ice cream AND cake. To her, I offer a false alternative when the “OR” can very clearly be an “AND.” In this case, her reasoning is sound.  There is no need to give in to the tyranny of “or,” instead we should–as Jim Collins recommended in Built to Last–embrace “and.”

I see this every day while investing. Should you invest in Growth OR Value?  Properly understood, this is a false alternative, because growth is one of the most important inputs to value.  

The value of a company is based on it’s future cash flows. If those cash flows are growing, the company is clearly worth more than if they are not (you get more cash flows over time, all things equal). Value is based on Growth, so Value AND Growth must be understood.

For example, if you want a 12.5% return over the long run, you should pay eight times earnings for a 0% growth company, and 15 times earnings for a 6% growth company (almost twice as much!).  Growth has a HUGE impact on Value.

Another mistake investors make is to focus on either Quantity OR Quantity. Once again, Quality is a key input to Quantity. For instance, a company with high barriers to entry and superior management is more likely to achieve quantitative measures of performance like sales per share, profit margins and growth rates than a company without these qualities.  

The degree of certainty that a quantitative result will occur is a qualitative factor, so the quantitative result is driven by the qualitative situation. Once again, Quality OR Quantity is a false alternative–you must pay attention to Quality to correctly grasp Quantity.

Just think about Coke. An inexpensive, frequently purchased product with addictive qualities (caffeine, taste, habit) is much easier to quantitatively predict than an expensive, infrequently purchased product with no addictive qualities (like washing machines). Quality heavily impacts Quantity.

Successful investing is about understanding the nature of each investment. To successfully do this, you must focus on Growth AND Value, Quality AND Quantity. Don’t suffer from the tyranny of “or,” do as my daughter does and embrace “and.”

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Quantity AND Quality