Have you ever wondered how the measurement of length called a ‘meter’ came to be? It is simply the distance light travels in a given time period. The key isn’t the actual definition, it is whom dictates this time period of travel. Some authority states that this is the definition of a meter (also written as ‘metre’). It is currently the International Committee for Weights and Measures based out of France. It is an 18 person task group promoting uniformity with units of measurement. This committee is the authority.
This same principle of authority exists in business. Every industry has their own authority or set of principles promulgated by an agreed upon group of individuals or a leader within that group. For value investors, understanding the authority for the respective industries is essential to measuring success for each member company within the pool of potential investments. Once a value investor recognizes what is the standard of production or performance, it becomes easy to compare their respective investments and then equate this into financial value. There is a hierarchy of authority for all industries. In almost all cases, the number one authority is a governmental institution or law. Other levels of authority at the next level include academia, associations, journals, books, white papers and committees. The third level of authority include experts and company level affiliations. The final level of authority is the leader in the respective industry.
Each of the following sections explore these different levels of authority. In each section, there is an introduction to the various resources the value investor may wish to use when investigating their respective industry. The key to this lesson is to understand that higher levels of authority are the standard setters. Value investing is about having facts to support a buy/sell position with each member of the pool of investments. The stronger the authoritative position of the standard setter, the more accurate the buy/sell trigger points can be calculated.