The Tastes That Change and Stay the Same

    enDecember 22, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Learning from history's repeating patternsBy studying history, we can identify consistent behaviors and lessons, making it crucial for navigating the present and future.

      History repeats itself in many aspects of life, including investing and economics. Morgan Housel, a best-selling author, emphasizes this idea in his latest book, "Same as Ever." He shares how he was inspired to read more history and fewer forecasts after realizing how poorly the industry performs at predicting future events. Housel provides the example of a diary from the 1930s Great Depression, which, when the dates are changed, describes the financial crisis in 2008 almost exactly. This realization that people's responses to financial crises have remained consistent since the 1800s encourages a focus on the unchanging behaviors and lessons from history rather than trying to forecast the future. In essence, the more history we study, the more we see the same patterns emerging, making it essential to learn from the past to navigate the present and future. When it comes to shopping for Mother's Day, Whole Foods Market offers unbeatable savings and timeless gifts, allowing us to celebrate moms in the present with the best of what's always been.

    • Filtering News: Short-term vs Long-termWhen consuming news and investing, it's crucial to distinguish between short-term and long-term information. Short-term news may be entertaining but may not be worth holding on to for the long term. Long-term information, such as competitive advantages and management qualities, is worth focusing on for building a solid investment strategy.

      It's essential to distinguish between information with a short shelf life and information with a long-term relevance when consuming news and investing. While short-term information can be entertaining and relevant in the moment, it may not be worth holding on to or building on for the long term. On the other hand, information with a longer shelf life, such as competitive advantages and management qualities, is worth focusing on as it will serve you better in the long run. When reading the news, it's helpful to ask oneself whether the information will still be relevant a year or more from now. This filter can help investors make informed decisions and maintain a healthy news diet. However, it's important to note that not all news is short-term in nature, and there is a significant amount of information that will remain relevant in the long term. Additionally, the financial crisis serves as a reminder that being a long-term investor is not just about having a high risk tolerance in the abstract. It's also about putting market downturns in the broader context of the economy and understanding how they fit into the larger picture. By recognizing the difference between short-term and long-term information and applying the appropriate filter, investors can make more informed decisions and build a more resilient investment strategy.

    • Understanding Risk Tolerance in PracticeInvestors' perceived risk tolerance and actual behavior can differ significantly during market downturns. Experienced investors have learned to navigate market volatility through lived experience, but newer investors may be caught off guard and ill-prepared.

      People's perceived risk tolerance and investing mindset can be vastly different in theory compared to reality. The speakers discussed how significant events like terrorist attacks or global pandemics can test investors' resolve and reveal unexpectedly lower risk tolerances. They also noted that the modern financial system offers fewer opportunities for investors to experience market volatility, making it harder for them to understand their reactions to such events. As a result, investors may be caught off guard and ill-prepared for market downturns. This is particularly true for newer investors who have limited experience with market declines. The speakers emphasized the importance of understanding one's risk tolerance and investing mindset through lived experience, which can help investors navigate market volatility more effectively.

    • The Importance of Reasonable Optimism in a Changing WorldEmbrace optimism about future progress, but be aware of challenges and setbacks, like with generative AI.

      Reasonable optimism is the belief that the future will bring progress and innovation, but it will also come with challenges and setbacks. Morgan Housel, a best-selling author, emphasizes the importance of this mindset, which he contrasts with complacency. He believes that generative AI, like chatGPT, is a clear example of transformative technology, but making money from it may not be easy. The first use of such technology can feel magical, but the path to success is likely to be filled with obstacles. This perspective encourages individuals to embrace optimism while remaining aware of the potential difficulties that lie ahead.

    • The unpredictability of technological transformationsWhile technological innovations can bring about significant change, predicting which companies or interventions will ultimately succeed is challenging. It's important to approach technological shifts with reasonable optimism, recognizing the potential for transformation while remaining aware of the complexities and uncertainties.

      While technological innovations and breakthroughs can significantly transform the world, it's important to recognize that identifying the specific companies or interventions that will ultimately succeed can be incredibly challenging. The history of technology is filled with examples of massive shifts, such as the Internet, railroads, and even the rise of automobile companies, where the winners were not always obvious at the time. Similarly, the impact of new technologies or innovations, such as AI or weight loss drugs like Ozempic, can be overestimated or misunderstood. For instance, while Prozac was once hailed as a miracle drug for eradicating anxiety and depression, the reality has been more complex. Likewise, while Twitter is a powerful communication tool, it's essential to remember that it's just one component of a larger technological landscape. Ultimately, it's crucial to approach these shifts with a reasonable optimism, recognizing the potential for significant change while remaining aware of the complexities and uncertainties that come with it.

    • Companies can lose their competitive edge if they stray too far from their core business or become complacentSuccessful companies can become 'fat and lazy,' new competitors can emerge, and diversification can lead to downfall. Focus on core business and avoid distractions for long-term success.

      Even the most successful companies can lose their competitive edge if they stray too far from their core business or become complacent. Morgan Housel used the examples of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and X to illustrate this point. He noted that as companies grow and prosper, they can become "fat and lazy," and new competitors can emerge to challenge them. Housel also warned against the dangers of diversification, citing the examples of Sears and General Motors. He suggested that companies that focus on what they do best and avoid getting distracted by new ventures are more likely to succeed in the long run. Additionally, Housel touched on the potential downfall of Twitter's ambitious plans to become a financial app and payments processor, as it may be moving away from its core competency. Overall, Housel's insights offer a cautionary tale for companies looking to expand beyond their core business or lose focus on what made them successful in the first place.

    • The Rise of Fast Casual Dining: From Niche to MainstreamConsumers' demand for quality and unique experiences led to the emergence and growth of fast casual dining, continuing to evolve as a dominant trend in the food industry.

      Consumers are seeking quality, special experiences in their food choices, moving beyond the dominance of fast food and fine dining. This trend gave birth to the fast casual movement, which began as a niche in the 1950s when entrepreneurs industrialized food production. Fast food became ubiquitous and people yearned for something more. In the 1990s, specialty categories emerged in response, such as specialty beer, coffee, and beverages. The same trend was predicted for food service, leading to the rise of fast casual dining. Now, as fast casual has become established, the next step is for this niche to continue evolving and thriving. Consumers' desire for quality and special experiences remains a powerful trend in the food industry.

    • From independent to specialty fast casualFast casual's growth into specialty brands risks losing unique experiences, companies must balance efficiency with discovery to maintain customer connection

      The evolution of fast casual dining from independent restaurants to specialty fast casual is following a similar path as specialty retail. Fast casual brought specialty food to the masses, and behind it will likely develop into specialty branded products. However, as these concepts expand and become more ubiquitous, there's a risk of losing the unique, 3rd place experience that defines them. Capital and efficiency can drive out discovery, and companies must be careful not to let this happen. The pressure to meet Wall Street's growth expectations can contribute to this issue. While efficiency brings benefits, it's crucial for companies to protect their discovery capabilities and stay attuned to customers' current desires.

    • Leveraging industry expertise for investment successInvesting in industries you know well and committing to long-term, founder-friendly capital can lead to successful investment strategies.

      Having experience as an operator and understanding the industry can greatly inform and enhance one's investment strategies. Ron Shaikh, a restaurateur, investor, and chairman at Kava, discussed how creating Act 3, an investment vehicle, allowed him to put his knowledge and resources to work in the industry he knows well. Act 3 invests in companies with distinctive competitive advantages, such as Kava in the Mediterranean niche and Life Alive in the positive eating category. Shaikh emphasized the importance of long-term, founder-friendly capital, which contrasts with the short-termism prevalent in capital markets. By committing to providing follow-on rounds of capital and being in it for the long term, Act 3 adds value to the companies they invest in and sets themselves apart from other institutional investors.

    • Sherpa Capital: More Than Just MoneySherpa Capital offers strategic guidance and resources beyond financial investment in food and consumer-facing businesses, with a long-term perspective.

      Sherpa Capital is a unique type of investor that provides more than just financial resources to their portfolio companies. They take a founder-friendly approach, investing in common stock and participating in all follow-on rounds. Their team is composed mostly of operating experts, rather than financial professionals, allowing them to offer strategic guidance and resources in areas like real estate, technology, and operations. Sherpa Capital only invests in food and consumer-facing businesses, where they have a competitive advantage, and they have a long-term perspective. When Kava, a portfolio company, decided to go public, Sherpa Capital supported the decision because the company was well-prepared and had a strong brand and growth potential. The goal for Kava is to reach 1,000 locations in the next decade, but what really matters to Sherpa Capital is whether the company has the units to sustain growth for the next 3 years.

    • Kava's Growth Aligned with Mediterranean Diet TrendsKava's focus on execution, operations, and Mediterranean flavors drives consistent growth and strong customer demand.

      Kava, a brand in the food industry, is experiencing consistent growth due to its alignment with popular diet trends, specifically the Mediterranean diet. The company's success can be seen in its stable volumes and strong margins across various locations, from urban to suburban areas. The key to Kava's future growth lies in its ability to stay true to its game, focusing on execution and operations while leveraging the popularity of Mediterranean flavors. The consistency of volume and customer demand, as evidenced by lines outside its doors, indicates a promising future for the brand. It's essential to distinguish between means and byproducts in business, with value creation being a byproduct of having a better competitive alternative, rather than something that can be manufactured directly.

    • Competing for CustomersUnderstanding how to attract customers from competitors and build a strong business relationship is crucial for success. Insights from Ron Schiek's 'Know What Matters' and Morgan Housel's 'Same as It Ever Was' could provide valuable guidance.

      Key takeaway from this week's Motley Fool Money radio show is the importance of attracting customers away from competitors and choosing to do business with you. This objective is not an easy feat, but it's the ultimate goal. Ron Schiek's book, "Know What Matters," and Morgan Housel's "Same as It Ever Was" are two recent releases that could provide insights for business-minded individuals seeking to improve their competitive edge. It's important to remember that people on the program may have personal interests in the stocks discussed, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations. Therefore, investment decisions should not be based solely on the show's content. Dylan Lewis, the host, and Dan Boyd, the mixer, wish everyone a wonderful holiday season, and they will return next week with a 2024 preview episode.

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