money jungle

Atul Gawande’s Suggestions for Becoming a Positive Deviant

Posted in value investing by moneyjungle on March 22, 2009

Surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande‘s book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance is a fantastic book. Beyond being a well-written, revealing look into the medical profession, I think it has a lot to offer investors, as its topic concerns improving performance in a complicated and uncertain field.

Throughout the book, Gawande discusses the concept of “positive deviants” — doctors whose outcomes are much better than the averages would predict. He describes how several physicians have advanced their craft by adopting techniques that go beyond the typical standards of care, like how Warren Warwick became the most successful cystic fibrors doctor, and how the Apgar Score transformed obstetrics.

Here is a paraphrased summary of Gawande’s suggestions for how to become a positive deviant:

1. Ask an unscripted question: you start to remember the people you see, instead of letting them all blur teogether. and sometimes you discover the unexpected… if you ask a question, the machine begins to feel less like a machine
2. Don’t complain: its boring, it doesn’t solve anything, and it will get you down
3. Count something: regarless of what ultimately does in medicine — or outside medicine, for that matter — one should be a scientist in this world. In the simplest terms, this means one should count something….the only requirement is that what you count should be interesting to you… if you count something you find interesting, you will learn something interesting.
4. Write something: i do not mean this to be an intimidating suggestion…what you write need not achieve perfection. it need only add some small observation about the world.
5. Change: make yourself an early adopter. look for the opportunity to change… be willing to recognize the inadecuacies in what you do and seek out solutions

Tagged with:

Scott Black’s Screen

Posted in scott-black, value investing by moneyjungle on February 21, 2009

Boston-based Investor Scott Black, founder and President of Delphi Management, is well-known for his excellent performance, membership in the Barron’s roundtable, and savvy art collecting.

In this interview, Black says his process is to identify good businesses trading at cheap prices. He uses six criteria to screen for good businesses, including:

  • The company should earn a minimum 15% after-tax return on equity. For a cyclical business, the corporation must achieve this 15% target on its recovery earnings.
  • I look for companies that grow both revenues and earnings faster than inflation over a 3 to 5 year time horizon
  • For non-financial companies, I perform a free cash flow analysis to determine if a firm can finance its growth from internally-generated operating cash flow.
  • I analyze the areas of capital intensity such as inventory turns, days of receivables, and sales to fixed assets.
  • Companies with low debt/equity ratios

Black offered six picks for the 2009 Barron’s roundtable, including: Oracle, General Dynamics, XTO Energy, Endo Pharm Holdings, Ameron International, and StealthGas

Mark Sellers Speech: So You Want To Be The Next Warren Buffett?

Posted in mark-sellers, value investing by moneyjungle on January 9, 2009

Most important, I believe you need to be a good writer. Look at Buffett; he’’s one of the best writers ever in the business world. It’s not a coincidence that he’’s also one of the best investors of all time. If you can’’t write clearly, it is my opinion that you don’’t think very clearly. And if you don’’t think clearly, you’’re in trouble. There are a lot of people who have genius IQs who can’’t think clearly, though they can figure out bond or option pricing in their heads.

Mark Sellers gave the following speech at Harvard Business School, in which he highlights seven behavioral traits that distinguish great investors. This is the best description I’ve seen of the psychological factors underlying value investing.

  • The ability to buy stocks while others are panicking and sell stocks while others are euphoric.
  • Being obsessive about playing the game and wanting to win
  • A willingness to learn from past mistakes
  • An inherent sense of risk based on common sense
  • Confidence in their own convictions and stick with them, even when facing criticism
  • Important to have both sides of your brain working, not just the left side
  • The ability to live through volatility without changing your investment thought process

View this document on Scribd

Mark Sellers Interview: “Figure Out What the Problem Is”

Posted in mark-sellers, value investing by moneyjungle on January 9, 2009

The first thing we do is figure out what the problem is. Ninety percent of making money in stocks is not losing money, which has to do with knowing what the problem is and how it can be solved. Every company we buy has a problem with it, otherwise it wouldn’t be cheap.

We read sell-side reports, SEC filings, and talk to management. Within one or two days, we decide if we’re comfortable that the company can solve the problem. Then we do another week or so of further research.

Until recently, Mark Sellers, a former morningstar analyst, ran a small value porfolio that returned 35%. This motley fool interview covers several aspects of his investing process, including evaluating management, thinking in terms of decision trees, when to sell, and portfolio concentration.

Seth Klarman Interview Video

Posted in seth-klarman, value investing by moneyjungle on January 4, 2009

Here’s a hour-long interview with legendary value investor Seth Klarman.

Since its founding in 1982, Klarman’s firm, the Boston-based Baupost Group, has grown from managing twenty-seven million dollars for three wealthy families to over six billion dollars for institutional clients. Today, the firm employs sixty people, including twenty investment analysts. Its focus on risk-averse value-oriented investment strategies have allowed the firm to earn an average 20% returns while holding a large amount of its portfolio in cash.

This interview, taped at a Harvard psychology lecture, focuses on Klarman’s leadership style, and the lessons he has learned in running an investment firm.

Amazing Warren Buffett Interview Video

Posted in value investing, warren-buffett by moneyjungle on December 23, 2008

Here’s an amazing hour and a half Q&A with Warren Buffett, recorded at the University of Florida.