The Star Principle & the Coffee Can Portfolio -looking at the same picture from different angles

Financial Independence, Uncategorized

I was re-reading the book – The Start Principle: How it can make you rich by Richard Koch.  If you have been following my posts you will know that I am quite a fan of his writings and have almost all the books that he has written.  Each time I re-read them, I identify something which I had not noticed earlier.

For all those of you who haven’t heard of Richard Koch, he was the first one to write a book on the 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto principle.  He has written a lot of books related to the application of the 80/20 rule but in addition to that his basic slant has always been on strategy and has a lot of wonderful books written with strategy as the back drop.

If you want to read an author who simplifies strategy, not only for corporates but in real life, then he is one author you should read.

This time while I was reading the Star Principle once again, one aspect which leaped out of the book was that the Star Principle is so very similar to the Coffee Can portfolio which is covered by Saurabh Maukherjea in his book – Coffee Can Investing.

As per Richard if you invest in a company which is a leader in the market place and the market itself is growing at more than 10% compounded, then you will make money hand-over-fist if you can see that the market itself has longevity.  His logic is- if you invest in such a company in its early stages, then the possibility of making massive returns is even higher.  These companies are very few and far between and hence are STARS.

The concept of Stars, Cash Cows, Dogs and Question Marks was first propagated by the consulting company BCG (Boston Consulting Group) where Richard had his first job.

The concept of the Coffee Can portfolio was first espoused by Robert Kirby in 1984.   It was serendipity because Kirby had recommended a certain portfolio to a friend’s husband who did not sell any shares in the portfolio over a period of 10 years while Kirby did.  The amount of wealth that the portfolio created was way higher than what Kirby created in his portfolio.  This is the central concept of compounding which I keep harping about in each of my posts.  If you let something compound over long periods the amount created is enormous.

Saurabh takes the concept further and shows us examples with research, done over multiple blocks of 10 year periods, on companies which grew every year at a minimum of 15%.  If you had bought shares in those companies and then forgotten all about them for the next 10 years you would have got a very large return on your investment.  The number of such companies would be quite small.  If you extend the research to 15 year periods then the number of companies which had such consistent growth would be even smaller, but the certainty of returns would be much higher.

At the end of the day if there are only a few companies which can grow consistently year on year over such long periods of time then thats only possible if they are market leaders in the niche they occupy.  They also cannot continue to keep growing over long periods of time at such high rates, if the market itself is not growing fast enough.  Which then end up being STARS by the definition given by Richard.

The one difference which I perceive is that the Coffee Can portfolio does take into account the fact that some of the companies may close down  or lose market leadership by emphasising that you need to have a “portfolio of companies” with these characteristics.

So its not only about compounding but about creating a sensibly constructed portfolio of STARS which can create enormous wealth.

Wealth generation is not complex if you follow some simple rules….its not easy either though.

Till next time.

Carpe Diem

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