In the world of investing, the term “scuttlebutt” has taken on a specific meaning, moving beyond its casual association with rumors or gossip. Pioneered by renowned investor Phil Fisher, the Scuttlebutt technique involves gathering qualitative information about a company from a wide range of sources, going beyond traditional financial analysis and due diligence.
It is believed that by engaging in conversations with individuals directly connected to the company, such as suppliers, vendors, customers, competitors, industry experts, and even former employees, investors could gain valuable insights into the company’s true character, competitive landscape, and prospects.
The Scuttlebutt technique emphasizes the importance of tapping into the “business grapevine,” a network of individuals who possess firsthand knowledge and perspectives on the company’s operations, culture, and overall standing within the industry.
While financial data and formal reports provide essential information, the Scuttlebutt technique complements these sources by uncovering intangible qualitative factors that may not be readily apparent from traditional analysis.
Why Scuttlebutt research is important?
One of the key benefits of scuttlebutt research is its ability to uncover information that may not be reflected in a company’s financial statements or other public disclosures. For instance, talking to former employees can reveal issues with employee morale or turnover, while conversations with customers can provide insights into product satisfaction and switching costs. This information can be crucial for assessing a company’s competitive advantages and long-term sustainability.
Furthermore, scuttlebutt research can help investors develop a stronger conviction in their investment decisions. By engaging in direct conversations with people involved with the company, investors can gain a more nuanced understanding of the business and its management. This firsthand knowledge can provide a sense of confidence and reassurance during periods of market volatility or uncertainty.
6 Steps to Implement Scuttlebutt Strategy
Narrative + Observation
The scuttlebutt method is often criticized for being illustrative, but it’s important to combine explanatory evidence with empirical data to use it effectively. Before talking to people, thoroughly research the company by reading financial statements, presentations, and the con-calls. This will help you identify the right people to talk to, formulate relevant questions, and interpret the information you gather.
Explore all sides
It is important to be aware of confirmation bias, which can occur when we focus on information that confirms our existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them. To avoid confirmation bias, it is important to consider all sides of an issue and to seek out information that disproves our hypotheses. We should also talk to people who have different viewpoints from our own. By doing so, we can make more informed and impartial decisions.
Break out of the bubble
People tend to surround themselves with people who share their views and opinions. This can create an echo chamber, where people are only exposed to information that confirms their existing beliefs. To get a more well-rounded perspective, it is important to talk to people from all walks of life.
One way to do this is to talk to people you meet in your everyday life, such as Uber drivers, store clerks, and customers. These people can provide valuable insights into different perspectives.
Another way to get out of the echo chamber is to read reviews online. Reviews can provide a broad cross-section of opinions on a variety of topics.
When forming an opinion, it is important to talk to multiple people and consider a variety of perspectives. This will help you to develop a more informed and well-rounded view.
Understanding the End Customer
To understand the end customer or consumer, it’s important to find people who use the product or service and delve into their motivations and preferences. One approach is to post on social media platforms like Facebook, seeking individuals who have used or are currently using a particular product. This can yield valuable insights from a diverse range of users, including friends and acquaintances. Additionally, personally using the product or service in question can provide firsthand experience of its strengths and weaknesses. This approach can be extended to competitive products to gain a comprehensive understanding of the industry landscape.
Engage the Experts
When you’re researching a topic or company that’s unfamiliar to you, it can be hard to know who to talk to. But don’t underestimate the power of your network! You’re likely only one or two connections away from someone who can help you. And you’ll be surprised how much people love talking about their work or industry. So don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask questions. You might be surprised at what you learn.
Scuttlebutt, the art of gathering information through casual conversations, relies heavily on confidentiality. Building trust with sources is essential to elicit candid and insightful information that may not be readily available through traditional research methods.