In contrast, "a business" earns exceptional profits only if it is the low-cost operator or if supply of its product or service is tight. Tightness in supply usually does not last long. With superior management, a company may maintain its status as a low-cost operator for a much longer time, but even then unceasingly faces the possibility of competitive attack. And a business, unlike a franchise, can be killed by poor management."
We believe equity investors can do themselves a world of good by taking the above advice to heart and using them in their analysis. If one were to visualise the financials of a company possessing characteristics of a 'franchise', the company that emerges is the one with a consistent long-term growth in revenues (the master says that a 'franchise' should have a product or a service that is needed or desired with no close substitutes) and high and stable margins, arising from the pricing power that the master mentioned, thus leading to a similar rise in earnings as the topline.
On the other hand, a 'business' would be an operation with erratic growth in earnings owing to frequent demand-supply imbalances or a company with a continuous decline after a period of strong growth owing to the competition playing catching up.
Thus, if an investor approaches the analysis of a firm armed with these tools or with the characteristics firmly ingrained into their brains, then we believe he should be able to weed out a lot of bad companies by simply glancing through their financials of the past few years and save considerable time in the process. Further, as the master has said that since a bad management cannot permanently dent the profitability of a franchise, turbulent times in such firms could be used as an opportunity for entering at attractive levels. It should, however, be borne in mind that the master is also of the opinion that most companies lie between the two definitions and hence, one needs to exercise utmost caution before committing a substantial sum towards a so-called 'franchise'.