Unlike Peter Lynch, who advocated investing in the makers of products you love and who, in my estimation, stands out as one of the greatest of all stock pickers, I did not examine a single financial metric to build my portfolio. Instead, I simply ranked competitors in each industry based on customer love and then bet on the winner.
My portfolio has performed so well because the market undervalues the economic power of customer love. When customers feel loved, they come back for more and refer their friends. This is the economic flywheel that drives sustainable prosperity, and companies built on it generate surprising levels of profitable growth.
To measure customer love, I used the Net Promoter Score (NPS) that I created 20 years ago. It captures how likely a customer is to recommend a product or service to a friend or colleague. I relied on the market to incorporate all financial insights into the current stock price.
I serve on the board of directors at FirstService, a real-estate services company whose social media handle #FirstServeOthers provides a hint about its corporate philosophy. Over the 25 years since the IPO, its annual total shareholder return has been just under 22%, a better record than all but seven of the 2,800 firms with revenues of at least $100 million at the time of their NASDAQ listing.
For a long time, like many great customer-focused organizations, it remained below investors’ radar screens. One reason: GAAP accounting is woefully lacking at measuring customer centricity. It doesn’t even require organizations to report the number of customers they serve, let alone how many are returning, increasing purchases, or referring friends and family.