"What should we do now?" seems to be the prevailing question these days in Fooldom. Hell, we named our most recent interactive seminar "What To Do Now" in response to all of the craziness going on. David and Tom Gardner wrote these lessons personally, which is saying something, especially since we haven't gotten very many opportunities to read those guys lately.
The lousy job market and economy, along with the aftermath of September 11 has people (myself included) asking questions like: Do I have enough money in the bank to pay the bills if I get laid off? Is it finally time to get off my butt and get that will finished? It's kind of a downer to have to think about these things, but it's reality, folks. Don't bury your head and hope it all goes away. I'm looking forward to working through this stuff with them and everyone reading is welcome to take the seminar with Tom and David. If you don't like it, we'll give you your money back. Plain and simple. Time is almost up to sign up, so be there or be square. (Thursday at noon is the deadline).
Keeping with the theme of "What should we do now?," I move away from my not-so-shameless plug for the seminar (you'll really enjoy it), and firmly into Rule Maker territory. In recent weeks, we've had a friendly banter internally about how Rule Maker should evolve and grow. One of our core values at the Fool is "relentlessly searching for better solutions" and as a generally optimistic but oft critical group, we're always looking at the way we do things to see if we're on the right track. As I survey the landscape of opinions here inside the secret Fool HQ editorial vaults, the thinking about how to move forward with Rule Maker falls into three general groupings:
Use the Rule Maker criteria as a guideline, but not gospel.
As you know, Rule Maker has some pretty numeric and exacting criteria. One idea would be to use those criteria as more of a guideline than a gospel. While no purchase ever really achieves all of the criteria, some followers of the methodology are very steadfast in adhering. For example, if the Flow Ratio isn't 1.25, forget it. The idea here is that perhaps things shouldn't be so stringent and we should address the spirit of the criteria and not the letter. Slippery slope?
Keep it as it is and change nothing.
The hardcore reader might say that if you change any of the criteria for Rule Maker, or add in things like valuation methods and sell criteria, that this is no longer Rule Maker, but some different beast. Therefore, we should continue to do our best to execute on finding true Rule Makers and let the chips fall where they may.
Get rid of (or at least rethink) the criteria all together.
Finally, there are folks who think having these specific criteria at all is too restrictive and that investors should be able to use all of the tools in their toolbox and not just a restrictive few. Sure, the Flow Ratio is a great tool, but what about days sales outstanding? Net margins are great, but what about operating margins? Is it okay to not adhere to any specific criteria at all and still stay true Rule Maker? If that's too anarchist for you, I'll lump in the idea that the current set of criteria may at least need some rethinking. Cast your vote in our poll and explain your answer.
In recent days, I've spoken with Tom Gardner about this and I get the feeling that he's ready to make some serious long-term decisions about these kinds of things, especially as they relate to Rule Maker. As the debate goes on here inside Fool HQ, I thought it would be fun to get our customer's perspective. Given the very general overview I've given above, which sounds more appealing to you as a regular visitor to the Fool? Click on over to our Rule Maker discussion board and voice your choice in this poll: What should we do now?
Oh, and for those of you wondering when this column would be over so you can order the seminar... we're done. See you on our private seminar boards! Enroll now.