Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits and Other Writingsby Philip A. Fisher
You can ignore this book, but only at your PERIL!!!!, March 9, 2007
Having been associated with Wall Street for 35 years, I was lucky enough to have been in the same room with Philip Fisher on more than one occasion. He was a completely self-contained man, extremely comfortable in his own skin. He knew who he was, what he was, and what he could be. He possessed zero airs about him. These traits seem to run freely in many MASTER investors, including Warren Buffett .
Many have mentioned that Buffett considers himself to be 85% Benjamin Graham, and 15% Philip Fisher. This needs to be updated. If you spoke with Buffett today, he would tell you that those ratios are distorted, and the reason is Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s investing partner at Berkshire Hathaway.
Charlie Munger is cut from the same cloth as Philip Fisher. They are growth players, and willing to pay up for a stock. For decades Buffett could NEVER PAY UP for a stock. He wanted them dirt cheap, so cheap in fact that some big plays got away from him forever. I don’t know how many years ago, Buffett mentioned in a meeting I attended that he once owned a considerable amount of Disney. It would be a controlling amount in today’s market; it got away from him, and tens of billions of dollars in that play alone.
In the old days when Buffett was strictly Graham and Dodd, he could not buy a GROWTH stock. He still cringes at the thought. Munger however taught Buffett to pay up. An example was Flight Safety International for which Buffett paid a previously unheard price-earning ratio. There are people around Buffett who know him well who will tell you that Munger is the superior investor. What you need to know is that sometimes stocks are DIRT CHEAP because they are DIRT, to use a Munger line.
Philip Fisher like Munger is a MASTER INVESTOR worthy of spending whatever time you can spare studying. If you want to walk in the footsteps of a MASTER, you must study the MASTER, and Fisher has a tremendous amount to offer.
I have managed billions of dollars in my lifetime. I am telling you this because you need to know that the SKUTTLEBUTT method that Fisher is famous for is something that anyone can used, starting today. Most of Wall Street research or any research that I have seen over the decades is not worth the paper it is printed on. On more than one occasion I have asked if the paper is soft enough to use for toilet paper.
With the scuttlebutt method, you talk to everyone but the company you are studying. Please allow me to illustrate. If you are thinking of investing in a car company, you start visiting car dealers. You learn the lingo, you read trade periodicals, maybe even a few car magazines, but be careful. Magazines and newspapers are completely jaded in their reporting by how much advertising dollars they receive from certain companies. You didn’t know that because no one will ever dare print it.
If a newspaper wants to bury an important story on a company that gives them tremendous advertising dollars, they will run the unfavorable story, but it will be in the Saturday morning edition, which is the least read edition of the week. You need to know these things. I used Scuttlebutt back in the 80’s, to accumulate a massive position in Chrysler when it was near bankruptcy. The stock went from $6 to $200 after splits. It isn’t hard. You don’t need to be a big market player, anybody really can do it.
You do need an inquisitive mind, and I believe an innovative one as well. Fisher was a guy who thought outside the box, and that’s why he was immensely rich, as is his son Ken. Philip Fisher is a guy that made a fortune in FMC Corporation, owned it for 30 or more years. He was a ground floor player in Texas Instruments, owned it and made thousands of percent on the stock. He was every bit Buffett’s equal, and to Fisher’s credit, he gave us the greatest gift of all. He wrote a book, and was open with his readers about how to attain great wealth in the market.
He takes the “Efficient Market Hypothesis” (EMT), and blows it out of the water. His returns and Buffett’s are so many standard deviations away from the mean, that EMT can’t survive an investigation based on their results.
He gives you a 15-point criteria list to identify the types of companies that meet his screening. He also gives you five don’ts, and then five more to protect you as an investor. What Fisher is really doing is giving you a TEMPLATE to used as an investor. This is what you need. This is no different than going into the Marine Corps, and spending 12 weeks in basic training. Once you’re done, you have certain smart behaviors drilled into your psyche so deep that in combat, and investing is combat, you can fall back on these techniques to survive. They become automatic. No matter what investment turns up, you can put it through the filters that have stood the test of time.
In closing, I would like to say one more thing about the Scuttlebutt technique. Recently, I had to make a decision to invest a considerable amount of money in the auto sector. One of the people I consulted with, is a legend in his 90’s, who is the greatest mutual fund investor of the 20th century, probably worth over a billion dollars. He says to me in passing, do you know whom Toyota, the greatest car company in the world fears? The answer is the South Korean car companies. That my friends is worth a fortune, and is a 20 year stock play that Philip Fisher would have envied.