I really liked Finding the Next Starbucks by Michael Moe. I know that saying you "like" something isn't exactly descriptive or a great use of the language, but for me it's a rarity when you read a financial book to think "I really liked that." You might think it's useful, you might think it's insightful, you might think it offers some tips to help you make money or lose less, but you don't generally think of it as like/dislike in the way you might think of the latest John Grisham novel.
So, why did I like it? Maybe it has to do with expectations. I expected the book to be a lot about numbers – taking the Price-to-Earnings Ratio and dividing it by the Annual EPS Growth and multiplying by the Book Value and dividing by the Price-to-Sales Ratio and then doing some other calculation to find the magical handful of stocks that are ready to rock the world. There is a bit of that, but not a real lot. The fact that consistent earnings growth and beating the market's earning expectations will lead to big returns isn't exactly a revelation. But that's pretty much it for the math end of things.
The trick, of course, is figuring out which companies can maintain earnings growth and continue to beat the numbers quarter after quarter. We all know about high flyers that suddenly took it on the chin.
I should take a moment to say that Finding the Next Starbucks author Michael Moe is the founder and CEO of ThinkEquity Partners, was the director of global growth stock research for Merrill Lynch, and has also been named a Wall Street Journal "Best on the Street" research analyst in the past. So he knows a bit about this stuff.
Moe uses what he calls the Four Ps – people, product, potential, and predictability – to help separate the long-term winners from the pretenders. This is somewhat subjective, of course, but one of the things that made me like the book is that Moe spends a vast amount of time looking at the "megatrends" that identify growth industries and then highlighting some of the leading companies within those industries. Those sections feel as much like the thoughts of a professional futurist as an investment professional. This makes sense when you understand that the likely stock market winners are going to be companies poised to lead in alternative energy, open source computing, serving the growing Hispanic market, etc.
The other surprising aspect to Finding the Next Starbucks that makes it such an interesting read is the load of interviews with high-profile business leaders, investment pros, venture capitalists, and more. Among those interviewed: Howard Schultz, Michael Milken, Tim Draper, Vinod Khosla, Bill Campbell, Lou Holtz, Steve Jurvetson, Marc Benioff, and others. Some of these interviews help you understand how to find the best companies, while others help you understand how to be one of the best companies — useful information on both ends for many of the book's likely readers.
So there you go. I liked it. You'll like it.