A lot of readers have been contacting me with repeat questions about doing a 4M analysis. Because of this I took a cue from the Carnival of the Capitalists and decided to host my own mini-Carnival here on the site, as a recap of useful Rule #1 posts that have all the info you'll need.
I'll link to this post in the sidebar and add all of this to the FAQ as well.
First, here's a basic summary of Rule #1 investing from the FAQ, and the site disclaimer, which explains what Rule #1 is about, and why you have to make your own decisions about what companies to buy. My Watch List post covers the same.
Now, onto the fun stuff...
Doing & Submitting Homework
I like this Refresher Course post as an Intro to the process of finding a Rule #1 company that is 4M for you: one that has Meaning, Moat, a Margin of Safety, and good Management. Start with the 3 Circles assignment outlined there.
The next step after that is to gather a list of companies in the Industry sector you've chosen, and run them through the 4M's to see if they are potential Rule #1 companies, either using pro tools (like Success/Investools) or free tools (Yahoo Finance, MSN Money).
If you're new to Rule #1, read this FAQ entry on Getting Started, YUMMMMY Becomes 4M (which outlines the 4M process in detail), and my Google Posts #1, #2 & #3. (Which also outlines when to put a Wonderful Company in your Risky Biz folder).
If you need more examples, read through all the Homeworks on the site.
Once you've tried the 4M's for yourself, send your picks to me for critique.
Now, onto detailed posts related to doing each of the 4M's:
Meaning means you understand the business you're thinking of buying. YUMMMMY Becomes 4M covers this well, but the best way to learn is to read all the Homeworks on the site to see how others determined Meaning for themselves. Also check out How Deep Should Rule #1 Investors Dig? for tips on how far to take your research, and Don't Forget the Meaning Part of 4M, which explains why having great numbers isn't enough.
The St. Joe posts, #1 & #2, are good examples of doing Moat (durable competitive advantage) research. This Garmin post is also great for Moat, and supplies a definition of BAG (Big Audacious Goal), which relates to Management. Determining Brand Moat is pretty straightforward. Reading Between the Lines defines Toll Bridge Moat. And Netflix is an excellent example of detailed research, including a comparison of the company to its competitors. Be sure to read Shopping for Certainty: Netflix Part II to get the entire picture. (Netflix is another Risky Biz without a lot of historical data.)
The Big Five, Nahmean? lists the Big 5 Numbers we use to quantify whether a company has Moat. It also runs through the 5 Kinds of Moat (Brand, Toll Bridge, Switching, Trade Secrets, Low Price). The Smithfield Food Company homework post does a good job of pointing you in the right place to find the Big 5 Numbers on free tools sites. It also shows where to find analysts' growth projections. Go here to learn where to find ROIC on Success/Investools. And be sure to read this Bud followup post to learn all about Equity Growth Rate: what it means and why it's important.
Margin of Safety (including Excel formulas & Sticker Price)
I like this post because it explains what Sticker Price is, why it's so important, and how it helps us decide when to get in -- and out -- of a company. Similarly, this Whole Foods post goes over Sticker Price calculations and gives a concrete example of how to determine & use S.P. (Garmin's Up: Now What? is another case study that shows when to get out of a company.) Margin of Safety, as a reminder, is half the Sticker Price.
The Whys Behind the Buy explains the reasoning behind the numbers we use in Excel calculations. Generating Excel Numbers further clarifies the formula. The Rule of 72 shows you how to do the math in your head and explains what Equity/Book Value Per Share (BVPS) is and where to find it. More on the Rule of 72 takes this a bit further.
I think that's enough information recap for one day... now go play!