(1) the price we paid,
(2) the management we joined, or,
(3) the future economics of the business.
Miscalculations in the third instance are, Buffett notes, the most common.
It is Buffett's intention not only to identify businesses that earn above-average returns, but to purchase these businesses at prices far below their indicated value. The margin of safety also provides opportunities for extraordinary stock returns.
If Buffett correctly identifies a company possessing above-average economic returns, the value of the shares of stock over the long term will steadily march upwards as the share price mimics the returns of the business.
If a company consistently earns 15% on equity, its share appreciation will advance more each year than the share price of a company that earns 10% on equity.
Additionally, if Buffett, by using the margin of safety, is able to buy this outstanding business at a significant discount to its intrinsic value, Berkshire will earn an extra bonus when the market corrects the price of the business.
"The market, like the Lord, helps those who help themselves." Buffett says, "But unlike the Lord, the market does not forgive those who know not what they do."