Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book review: The little book that beats the market by Joel Greenblatt

The little book that beats the market – Joel Greenblatt

This book explains an extremely simple strategy that the author suggests will beat the market return. The author starts by telling a story of a boy who sells packs of gum. The story explains in very simple terms, how to correctly value a business. From the first chapter onwards, the author uses very simple story-telling to explain finance concepts and principles. Each chapter adds to the previous ones and becomes more complex and detailed. All this storytelling is used to give the reader an understanding of why the author’s ‘Magic Formula’ works in beating the market.
The ‘Magic Formula’ is a very simple concept in finance but the author holds that it has beaten the market returns from the past 17 years and there is little reason why it will not continue to do so. Towards the end of the book the formula is explained in detail with enough information for the average investor to apply it. The appendix is full of detailed information on the formula.

What I gained from reading this book:
I picked up this book with great scepticism. My finance lecturers told me that people cannot consistently beat the market (the Efficient Market Hypothesis). I decided to give it a read. The way the book is written is very unusual for an investment book. The best way to describe it would be that it was written for a young teenager. No jargon or excessive words. The author doesn’t take himself too seriously by adding little jokes throughout the book. All in all it was an interesting read.
With the actual ‘Magic Formula’, the author does a fantastic job in convincing the reader that the strategy is solid and will continue to give fantastic results in the future. As this book was written in late 2005, we have the ability to see how it has performed since then. After some research I have found quite a few blogs and website where people report their results using the ‘magic formula’. Some people have had poor results as it underperformed while others have held that it has been outperforming the market. At the moment I am doing my own testing but I think it is still too soon to say whether it will continue to show impressive results or not. My instincts tell me this is another ‘too good to be true’, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does consistently outperform the market because of the logic behind the strategy.
I will continue to study this method and will report back if I come to any conclusion.

Well written and easy to understand whether you have a background in finance or not. Important explanations on value, price and earnings. Very convincing explanations and results.

May not continue to outperform the market in the future. Seems a bit too good to be true.
Recommended for: Investors
Anybody who is interested in investing in the share market should have a read of this book. Even if you don’t choose to invest by using the method in the book, the explanations on finance concepts are easy enough for a child to grasp.

Genre: Investments

Overall rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:
The Little Book That Beats the Market (Little Books, Big Profits)

Where to from here:
More detailed books on investing that I recommend are:
The four pillars of investing – William Bernstein
Five key lessons from money managers – Scott Kays

If you have read this book, feel free to give it your own rating by posting a comment below. If you have invested following this method, please let me know how it has gone for you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What books do you read?

Hi all,

I hope you have found my reviews useful. If you have any recommendations for educational books or have read one worth mentioning, please leave a comment here on the book and your rating. It would be great to see what books you read and find useful.

More reviews to come,


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book review: Good to Great by Jim Collins

Good to Great: Why some companies make the jump… and others don’t – Jim Collins

Jim Collins and his research team set out to answer the questions, “can a good company become a great company?” and “if they can, how?”. By studying countless articles, interview transcripts and data, the research team came up with a definition of a ‘great’ company. The team would study two companies that started off in similar situations with similar future prospects but in one point in time (what they call the transition point) one company skyrocketed while the other withered. The great company (the one that skyrocketed) is compared to the comparison company (the one that underperformed). The results are the basis of this book. The chapters explain concepts and principles that were consistent among all the great companies but lacking in the comparison companies.
Companies such as Wells Fargo, Gillette and Circuit City (among many others) are analysed throughout the chapters. The book concludes with a very insightful FAQ section and wealth of information in the appendices.

What I gained from reading this book:
I read this book expecting it to be very similar to The E-Myth. It turned out to be very different. I am still undecided if I like this book or not. While I could clearly see that much effort has gone into the research, I’m not too convinced on the value of the results. Some concepts seemed so obvious that it seemed a waste of time to read about them.
The main problem I had with this book is the way the concepts were explained. Phrases such as ‘Getting the right people on the bus’, ‘the hedgehog concept’, ‘the three circles’, ‘grasp the flywheel, not the doom loop’, ‘level 5 managers’ pretty much sum up the type of lingo used throughout the entire book. I was expecting straight forward explanations and was disappointed to find that most explanations followed the lines of ‘make sure you get the right people on the bus in the right seats and the wrong people off the bus’. While using metaphors continuously may work for some people, it sure didn’t work for me.
Most people could probably guess the principles and values the great companies have before even picking up the book. So I was not impressed when I came across the part where the author explains why the company that gave the executives lavish perks in expensive buildings underperformed the disciplined company that cut executive’s pay 75% when times became tough and ran the business in a dental sized suite.
Although I do feel that most of the findings could have been explained better on a single A4 sheet of paper, I did enjoy reading this book (only some parts). For example: hearing about Walgreens and how they crammed so many stores in a small area and why was very interesting.

Provides insight into many great companies and their culture. Very thorough explanations on the principles and concepts. Plenty of information in the appendices.

Most concepts and principles are obvious before even reading the book. A lot of buzz words and metaphors are used that may distract rather than assist. The viability of the study and the results is questionable.

Recommended for: Small business owners
I recommend this book for small business owners to get a better understanding of the types of principles and values they should apply to their business. Although many of the principles are obvious and common sense, it always helps to read up about them to help you apply them.

Genre: Business

Overall rating: 6 out of 10 stars
Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:
Good to Great

Where to from here:
I recommend reading The E-Myth: Revisited instead of this book. Read my review to understand why.

If you have read this book, feel free to give it your own rating by posting a comment below.