Risk and Reward/Predicting Cash-Flow: Investors think as much about risk as they do reward. Most people tie their investments to resources, expecting them to grow, and with it, their own rewards. Where rewards are expressed in percentage growth, risks are harder to characterize. Guessing a company’s future cash-flow involves looking at past revenue, you then make reasonable assumptions based on how the new product will fair or how their rivals will be purchased. A dollar today is worth more than a dollar in a year’s time so if I buy a one-year bill that promises 5% interest, you will have $1.05 next year. Whereas a dollar next year is just a dollar. If I want a dollar next year, I could buy 95.2% worth and have the 4.8% to spend. This works with the federal government but a company or angel investor can expect to demand a higher return to compensate for the risk of their capital. The next step is to determine what the return on investment would be for these investors. Opportunity costs; it’s better to invest in an apartment than a stock. Apartments are illiquid, and it is much easier to trade in and out of other investments. Savings have low returns because they are highly liquid. If you tied up your money for a long period, it would bring about higher returns. Imagine a house party where you are going to meet the person of your life. If you didn’t go to that house party, then you would have missed out and the risk is enormous. Risk is actually not just the possibility of a bad thing happening, but of something good not happening.
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.