Although I mainly write about education and technology I have an avid interest in finance especially value investing in the manner of Graham and Dodd. As I spend a lot of time scouring for value in the global markets, I thought it may be of interest to some of you to begin writing a monthly brief showing what I am looking at; areas and industries where I am finding what could be good value!
Technological change is a constant, the others, life, death and taxes are not really so pleasant or as interesting. There has of course been hiccups in our technological advancement; the fact that the great castles of England are made not of concrete but hewn stone is perhaps one of the most poignant examples of technology moving in the wrong direction. Even with these types of rare setbacks I think we can safely assume that our children will live in a far different future to that which we imagine today, it will be a radically different world, probably more different than that between your parents and yourself.
Warren Buffett looks for excellent businesses where there are considerable barriers to entry, high returns on investment and excellent, honest management. This strategy has led him to become the most successful investor on the planet, compounding value over many decades for his shareholders.
What would Warren make of British tuition agencies? Would Berkshire make a bid for Bonas MacFarlane, Keystone, or even Bright Young Things?
I would haphazardly suggest that you are not going to see any one of those names pinned up in an office in Omaha, Nebraska any time soon. Over the last few years it has been clear that everyone and their Labrador has had the excellent idea of starting a tuition agency. I would guess that over half of agency owners have no relevant teaching experience and perhaps a quarter have come from a separate profession. How did this happen? To answer this question we have to think about what you need to start a tutoring agency and how innovative technology has made it so easy. Although I have never started my own agency I know many people who have, it is an asset light business, no heavy machinery is required to squeeze information into a thirteen year old boy’s head. The use of a laptop, mobile phone and access to tutors, clients and perhaps the use of the wonderful TUTORCRUNCHER software to automate all the boring maths is the bones of the business; some staff and an office outside of your bedroom can obviously come later.