Many investors insist on affixing exact values to their investments, seeking precision in an imprecise world, but business value cannot be precisely determined.
- Reported book value, earnings, and cash flow are, after all, only the best guesses of accountants who follow a fairly strict set of standards and practices designed more to achieve conformity than to reflect economic value.
- Projected results are less precise still.
Not only is business value imprecisely knowable, it also changes over time, fluctuating with numerous macroeconomic, microeconomic, and market-related factors. So while investors at any given time cannot determine business value with precision, they must nevertheless almost continuously reassess their estimates of value in order to incorporate all known factors that could influence their appraisal.
Any attempt to value businesses with precision will yield values that are precisely inaccurate. The problem is it is easy to confuse the capability to make precise forecasts with the ability to make accurate ones.