Some of the most important ways to value a company have nothing to do with balance sheets or overwrought financial calculations. Sure, you have to monitor a company's finances, but when it comes to picking strong stocks for the long term, there are other aspects we might want to consider first. In particular, the quality of management almost always dictates a company's long-term success.

A job only a Fool could love
Fools love founder-led companies such as Jeff Bezos' Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Reed Hastings' Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX). These founders are typical examples of leaders who had the epic vision to start the company in the first place. At best, those visions continue into successive generations of leaders, and the company enjoys long-lasting success. Even at worst, the best founders make a significant personal and professional investment in a company, and will do anything to make it succeed. In some cases, doing so becomes their life's work.

Of course, you can make many terrific investments in companies that aren't founder-led. Coca-Cola and McDonald's spring readily to mind. If companies don't or can't have a founder to lead them, they can choose one of two paths to successfully hire a new CEO. First, they can select someone who has worked within the company for a number of years in another capacity. Second, they hire someone from the outside who has found success doing whatever thing the company needs most at the time. Let's take a look at two examples.

Smokin'
In 2008, Altria (NYSE: MO) named Mike Szymanczyk CEO. He joined what was then known as Philip Morris USA in 1990. His 18 years of experience and loyalty within the company helped Szymanczyk lead Altria to increase its annual profits by $700 million last year, despite declining sales volumes in the cigarette industry.

Motorin'
The current CEO of Ford (NYSE: F) , Alan Mulally, has only been with the company for five years, coming on board in 2006. In his last job, this engineer-turned-executive put in 37 years at Boeing. These industries are vastly different; even Mulally's mother was quoted as saying "But Alan, you're an airplane guy." But Mulally was credited with turning Boeing around, steering it through the airliner market decline following the 9/11 tragedy. Ford needed a similar turnaround, and Mulally was able to pull it off, guiding the automaker through the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

... And bankrupt
Not every infusion of fresh talent in the management suite ends quite as well as the examples above. To put things in perspective, let's consider one epic failure that began with a change in management.

Boston Chicken was a slow-growing, successful fast-food chain when founders Arthur Cores and Stephen Kolow sold out to two former Blockbuster Video executives. Shortly after the sale, the company went public in 1993, expanded too rapidly, changed the name and business model, and went bankrupt five years later.  Five years later. Never underestimate the impact that management can have on an established, successful business.

How does this apply to now?
Tim Hortons (NYSE: THI) is one of the latest companies to lose its CEO. This company is wildly popular in Canada and looking to make serious inroads in the U.S and the Middle East. The coffee-and-doughnut chain's executive chairman is serving as interim CEO until Tim Hortons can find a permanent replacement.  Investors should pay close attention to the new hire. Where is this person coming from, and what is his or her track record? Will the board select an outside CEO with American franchising experience, or favor an internal hire coming up through the Tim Hortons ranks?

It's no secret that management matters to a company's success, but you should never underestimate just how crucial it is. Knowing that there are multiple avenues for success, it is especially important to pay attention to how companies select incoming CEOs.

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Fool contributor Aimee Duffy doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford, Coca-Cola, and Altria. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Ford, Netflix, Tim Hortons, and Amazon.com, and buying puts in Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.