This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

Talking to Management, Part 1: The Big Questions

Though most of us are outside passive minority investors, pretend for a moment that you are a private-equity investor. There's value to be had in understanding how an investor in the business would benefit in the absence of a secondary market for ownership interests. The value derived by a private-equity investor feeds slowly to the public equity investor in the short run but directly in the long run.

Then sit back and read through these questions. Prepare to ask them of the managements of the companies in which you are currently a shareholder. Imagine the answers, or even try to get them.

And adjust your holdings accordingly.

General Questions

What sustainable competitive advantages do you have vs. your competitors?

As with most of my questions, I usually have a reasonable idea of what the answer is likely to be. Part of my question is to test the competence and veracity of management. If it trots out some answer that is nonsense, that is a big red flag to me.

Given that most of the time I invest in mature industries, I want to hear answers that tell me the company has an expense advantage over competitors. That can be easily verified. Other possible answers include exclusive distribution agreements, patents, technological advantages and company culture.

Once I hear the answer, I try to analyze how much it makes sense. Has the company really created a "moat" that protects its profits from competition, or is it trying to fool me? I don't always get a sharp answer, but the exercise is always valuable. Uncertainty leads to doing nothing or to a smaller position, which is always appropriate when you don't have a big edge.

For instance, longtime readers know that I am a long-term bull on the diversified insurance company Assurant (AIZ - Get Report). In most of Assurant's business lines, it is the No. 1 or No. 2 provider in the businesses in which it chooses to compete. Part of that stems from locking up exclusive distribution arrangements, some from proprietary technology that would be difficult and prohibitively expensive to reverse-engineer.

2 of 3

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

Jim Cramer's protégé, David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
Try it NOW

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Dividend Stock Advisor

Jim Cramer's protégé, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!

Markets

DOW 17,416.85 +225.48 1.31%
S&P 500 2,021.25 +19.09 0.95%
NASDAQ 4,683.4070 +45.4130 0.98%

Partners Compare Online Brokers

Free Reports

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs