common-stocks-and-uncommon-profits

I just finished reading Philip Fisher’s seminal investment book ‘Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits’. The book tells you how to truly evaluate a company that you want to invest in (or buy stock of).

The book is a little dated, first coming out in 1960. Some things certainly don’t apply to today’s world (I don’t think you or I could go and meet anyone in management of any listed company!), but a lot of the points are valid and can (and should) be done.

With books like this I like to turn them on their head and say “is my company worth investing in” or how to make it so.

Luckily, Fisher was kind enough to list the 15 criteria that a company should satisfy (or as many as possible). This is a perfect tool for measuring my business and I hope you’ll use it for your company too. Making ourselves and our companies outstanding and outstanding investment opportunities is a key goal!

Here’s his list

  1. Does the company have products or services with sufficient market potential to make possible a sizable increase in sales for at least several years?
  2. Does the management have a determination to continue to develop products or processes that will still further increase total sales potentials when the growth potentials of currently attractive product lines have largely been exploited?
  3. How effective are the company’s research-and-development efforts in relation to its size?
  4. Does the company have an above-average sales organization? (ouch!)
  5. Does the company have a worthwhile profit margin?
  6. What is the company doing to maintain or improve profit margins?
  7. Does the company have outstanding labor and personnel relations?
  8. Does the company have outstanding executive relations?
  9. Does the company have depth to its management?
  10. How good are the company’s cost analysis and accounting controls?
  11. Are there other aspects of the business, somewhat peculiar to the industry involved, which will give the investor important clues as to how outstanding the company may be in relation to its competition?
  12. Does the company have a short-range or long-range outlook in regard to profits?
  13. In the foreseeable future will the growth of the company require sufficient equity financing so that the larger number of shares then outstanding will largely cancel the existing stockholders’ benefit from this anticipated growth?
  14. Does management talk freely to investors about its affairs when things are going well but “clam up” when troubles and disappointments occur?
  15. Does the company have a management of unquestionable integrity?

How well did your company do? I can clearly see some areas where my company needs to improve.

The book is an amazing read. Pick it up if you can. I’m not going to include a link to it, I’m sure you know where to find it!

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My Improvised Life – Toastmasters Speech #4

by phil on January 28, 2015

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When I was 13 I entered high school. In my part of Canada we didn’t have junior high school, so we went from elementary school to high school. My high school had a fantastic music program and at 13 I was starting to get serious about music. On my first few days at the school I heard the incredible big band we had and I knew i had to be a part of it. I would need to audition to get in of course. So I spent 4 months locked in my bedroom immersing myself in a music that would change not just the way I played  but I believe it changed the way my brain is wired and how I look on life.
That music was Jazz.
When I say Jazz it frightens a lot of people. They often think they don’t like it. But most of all, I think they don’t understand it. I can’t possibly convince you in 5 minutes about the history and merits of Jazz as a music. But I can relate how Jazz has changed me.
The foundation of Jazz is improvisation. I believe this is the key difference between it and classical music. In classical music you have a ‘score’. It will tell you exactly how to reproduce that piece of music. In Jazz you don’t have a score. You have a ‘chart’. Like on a ship. The chart in Jazz is a guide to the basic features of the piece of music. It might detail the simplified version of the chords or melody. But just like sailing a ship, as a Jazz musician your goal is to find your own way, using that chart as a guide.
Of course, you can’t just jump in and start playing whatever you like.
I liken playing music to cooking.
Music is a broad term. Like ‘food’. Jazz music is also a broad term. Like ‘japanese food’. Is it ramen? Sushi? Is it Gyutan? Jazz also has as many flavours. But at the center of all of them – like cooking – is the understanding of the rules. The rules of combining certain flavours together. It’s the skill of being able to open the refrigerator and knowing how to combine whatever is there into a great meal.
You have to follow your own taste. Some like it spicy, some like it smooth.
And this idea of improvisation, of taking what life gives you as a chart to be interpreted and not a score to be strictly followed, that has affected me most. I took the skills that I learned as a musician, a software developer, a writer and a filmmaker and combined them and applied them in a way that suited my taste.
It led me around the world.
But perhaps a problem with Jazz is that, because it is so dependent on personal taste, measuring success is difficult. You can’t look outside, to the world at large and say “is this good music”. And I think the same is true of life. You should not measure the success of your life by outside metrics. When playing music, at the end of the night you have to look back and say “I played well” or “I could have done better”. I think life’s a little bit like that, whether you believe it now or not.
When I was 16 I started a jazz sextet with 5 of my fellow musicians from the big band. All of us loved Jazz. And all of us took to the concept of an improvised life.
30 years later, from those 5 people, one is a university music instructor, another is involved in Canadian wildlife conservation in British Columbia, another is an Engineer and another is the senior political editor of Canada’s largest national news magazine.
Jazz of course is not responsible for all of our career paths, but, I believe that this rewiring of our brains that a dedication to jazz at an early age accomplished let each of us see how to apply the rules we learned and to combine them and interpret them into a life that was made from our own tastes.
So, my fellow toastmasters, I cannot convince you to go home and listen to Charlie Parker or Miles Davis, but, I hope I can send you on your way with a fresh look at how to interpret the chart of your life.

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Raindance MA in Film: Learning Contract

January 8, 2015

Tweet I’ve always said that I want to be as transparent – warts and all – about my progress through the Raindance MA in Film. This includes doing my bi-weekly or so video blog “I Wanna Be A Producer” (available on YouTube) and posting my assignments. Below you will find my complete ‘Learning Contract’. We […]

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Every Story Ever Told – My take on the Hero’s Journey

August 29, 2014

Tweet [ What follows is the script for my Toastmasters Speech #2, given in Sendai, Japan] Introduction What if I told you that stories as diverse as the ancient Chinese fable ‘Journey to the West’, the life of Jesus as written in the New Testament, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the 12th Century Japanese work Heike Monogatari, […]

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What I learned from writing my presentation

August 1, 2014

Tweet I just wanted to go through some points about doing my presentation of my learning contract. Doing the presentation clarified my mind! This is the most important, for me. Having to distill my learning contract down into a presentation really showed some holes in my learning contract. It got me thinking about the overall […]

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Favourite Film Book(s)

July 21, 2014

Tweet We all know the situation. Someone asks you to recommend your favourite xyz… movie, book, song, band, vacation spot, etc etc. It’s impossible. So, when we were asked to write about our favourite book on filmmaking, I knew that it too was impossible. Filmmaking is such a wide term, that the best I could […]

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Woody Allen: Director

July 4, 2014

Tweet I remember sitting in the basement, what must have been late at night, in the early/mid 1970s. The TV was on, I was alone, and enthralled in the work of a man who’s career now spans 50 years and an incredible 60+ films: Woody Allen. The movies of Woody Allen have always spoken to […]

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What goes around, comes around – life lessons and comedy in Groundhog Day

June 19, 2014

Tweet Yes. ‘Groundhog Day’. It is perhaps not the coolest, hippest film choice I could have made, but, in all honesty, it is a film that has rarely been equalled in it’s combination of profundity and humour. The Story I am sure I don’t need to tell you the basic outline of this plot, as […]

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The state of Canadian race mentality

November 4, 2013

Tweet Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and to destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out. Pierre Burton I never, ever thought that I would be in a position to write such a post as this. I am, after all, on […]

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Death By Perfection

August 20, 2013

Tweet   Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. Salvador Dali Perfection is one of the great things about Japan. Its something that, as a foreigner here I really admire. But, perfection is also stifling the Japanese. Not Everything Can Be Done Perfectly One of the great things about Japanese culture is […]

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