Lessons from a Masters In Business Administration: Beta Measures

Beta Measures: describes the risk of a stock. A beta of 1 implies that the stock, on average, tracks the market perfectly. If the market goes up 5% so does the stock. Beta 1.5 would mean the stock goes up 7.5% or if the market goes down, the stock goes down by -7.5%. Therefore, a low beta stock is less volatile than the market. So starting your own company is high-beta, and working in a consultancy is low-beta.

Note however that there are skeptics like Warren Buffett because a perfectly good company with strong revenues, low costs, and a sustainable competitive advantage might one day have the CEO kill herself. Suddenly it is a high beta stock. So beta is not a good way of measuring a business’ value. Alpha is a better measure. Warren Buffett is good at what he does, he found his alpha. It is basically the value add that one person gets over another person that does the exact same thing. Picking the right investments, and bundling them together is all about finding companies that have that alpha.

To gauge if a company is worth investing in, you should ask: do they work hard? Are they honest? Likable? Creative? Entrepreneurial? Do they spend more than they earn? Are they mortgaged to the hilt? What if they lost their job tomorrow? Would they find another one quickly? Look at how they prioritize their spending, and you will see how they prioritize their life.

How To Think In Consultancies: you need to reach big conclusions from a handful of numbers. You have tylenol sales from one store, and the number of people who use the store, then the number of (as a percentage) people who live in the area, then apply it nationally. And you gross the sales at that original store to get a national estimate of Tylenol sales. That’s how you have to think in a consultancy.

[This is a synopsis of several books on the MBA experience including What They Teach You At Harvard Business School by P.D. Broughton]

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