Sitting around waiting for the next shoe to drop is a good way to lose sleep in this market. Considering all the things that can disrupt a market with expectations of perfection is an endless, thankless job. Nonetheless, I worry about one thing more than anything else when it comes to my highflyer tech holdings such as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC): brain drain. Brain drain is the depletion of intellectual capital, and many of today's highly valued companies are all about intellectual capital. Should they lose their talent, who knows what will become of them. Imagine Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) without Warren Buffett or General Electric (NYSE: GE) without Jack Welch or the unthinkable, Pets.com (Nasdaq: IPET) without the sock puppet. Oh, the humanity.
"Keep the talent happy" should be the mantra of these companies. They have created enormous market values from the sweat and neural activity of employees, as the chart below shows. The chart highlights five Rule Maker companies and the value of their employees per dollar of market capitalization (total shares outstanding multiplied by current stock price). General Motors (NYSE: GM) is there for perspective. Market cap is in billions, number of employees is in thousands, and market cap per employee is in millions.
Company Mkt Cap # of Emp MC/Emp CSCO $293.4 38.9 $7.54 MSFT 249.8 39.1 6.39 YHOO 17.4 3.1 5.61 INTC 315.5 73.0 4.32 JDSU 40.3 23.0 1.75 GM 28.7 388.0 0.07According to the equities market, one Cisco employee is worth more than 100 GM employees. Impressive, eh? Does that mean that for every Cisco employee that bolts, Cisco should lose $7.5 million in market value? Well, not exactly. The relationship is not that simple, but it does mean that Cisco and its investors have a lot riding on those 38,000 employees.