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Jim Cramer's 10 Step Checklist to Picking Winning Growth Stocks

The dynamic and excitable host of CNBC's Mad Money recently addressed the National Society of Leadership and Success at New Jersey City University.

Jim Cramer spoke about the economy, his life experience, how he picks stocks, as well as his new book, "Get Rich Carefully."

Source: Tulane Public Relations.

I was invited to watch the presentation via webcast, and I soaked in Cramer's 10 step checklist to evaluating growth stocks. 

1. What's the growth potential?
When it comes to growth potential, there are two sides to the coin.

On the one side is companies with optionality. Cramer used the example of Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) , so I'll do the same. Google started out as strictly a search engine, but it has since begun its quest to take over the world.

The company has several revenue streams, and perhaps even more that are yet to be tapped. So, the two questions to ask yourself are: What can the company become? And what does its platform make possible?

On the other side, there's straightforward growth potential. Bank of the Internet currently has about $3 billion in assets. Compare that to today's biggest banks, which sport assets in the trillions, and I think you'll see where I'm going with this.

2. Total addressable market
The total addressable market, or TAM, is how many people could potentially use the product. 

This question, again, has to be broken up in to two parts. Investors should first ask themselves how large is the current TAM? And second, how large is the potential TAM?

Looking at a company like Tesla, the original electric cars had a very small potential market -- however, with the addition of the Model S, it has expanded its TAM, and it will continue to do so as the price point trends down. 

3. Can the company stay competitive?
Cramer, much like Warren Buffett, believes that companies need strong "moats" in order to stay competitive.

Source: Philippe Ales

Moats, or competitive advantages, come in a variety of flavors. For instance, Google dominates with sheer size, Facebook has a strong network, and Under Armour has a recognizable brand name.

4. Can the company return capital?
Don't let me fool you with the way the question is worded. The question is, can the company return capital, not does the company return capital.

Apple was recently in the headlines for its huge share buyback. After which Cramer suggested the company doesn't see opportunity to better put that money to work.

Google, meanwhile, has yet to yield a dividend because there are such great opportunities to reinvest capital.

Source: Nike.

5. Can the company grow internationally?
It's easy to get caught up in U.S. news and the U.S. economy, but it's a big world out there.

Consider Nike's rise to become the most powerful athletic brand in the world. Nike's model is to create quality branded footwear, and then put that footwear on recognizable athletes.

Would Nike's model work overseas as it did in the U.S.? Of course, just put Nike footwear on soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and wait for the profits to roll in.

6. Can the balance sheet support growth?
They say it takes money to make money, and this is where we find out.

We're looking for two things: First, how much debt is on the books? And second, how much total cash is available?

Cramer noted, what if Google wanted to purchase the rights to the NFL? The company has so much cash it would be almost impossible for anyone to outbid them.

7. How expensive is the stock?
Cramer somewhat blew past this, saying that if you project out earnings, Google is cheaper today than most stocks -- but we have to keep in mind that's based on his estimates of growth, which may or may not be accurate.

So, whether you choose to evaluate the stock through metrics, or comparisons to similar stocks, or with technical analysis, always leave yourself a margin of safety.

8. Does it have the right management?
Finding the right management is extremely difficult -- but when it comes to investing in growth stocks, at least in this investor's opinion, you want management with integrity, competence, and vision.

9. Does it need a strong economy?
Cyclical stocks are those that will correlate with the overall economy.

While there isn't necessarily anything wrong with investing in cyclical businesses, Cramer favors those business that can grow despite the overall economy.

10. Gross margin

There will be variance from industry to industry, but in general, the wider the margin -- or, the higher the percentage -- the better.

For example, Google's fourth-quarter revenue (ads and mobile) was $17 billion, and its cost of revenue was $7 billion. Plug that into the formula, and you come out with 59% -- which is a very strong margin.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 12:12 PM, DoctorLewis4 wrote:

    Cramer has some good ideas but please don't anyone buy or sell based on what he says. He is a trader, not a long term investor. And at one point or another he "gets behind" almost every stock - so he can say he's gotten behind it. Also remember that the average home investor does not have the money to scale into and out of positions like Cramer recommends. (trading isn't free) So if you trade like Cramer your broker makes the money that you should have invested in the market. All those buys and sells add up.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 1:29 AM, ryanchandler25 wrote:

    To use Cramer in the same sentence as Buffett, is such an insult to Buffett.

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Dave Koppenheffer

Dave Koppenheffer, is a contributor for the Motley Fool's financial sector. And much like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, when he speaks, he speaks with an earnest vibe and an earnest energy.

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