|The moated manor house of Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, England|
The metaphor of moat building is often applied to business. In 1999, Warren Buffet pointed out that “The key to investing is . . . determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage. The products or services that have wide, sustainable moats around them are the ones that deliver rewards to investors.” Those moats protect the company from excessive competition and allow them to provide above market rates of return.
In their 2014 book, Why Moats Matter, Heather Brilliant and Elizabeth Collins identify five major sources of competitive advantage or economic moat:
- Intangible Assets include brands, patents or licenses that limit the ability of other companies to compete against you.
- Cost advantages allow you to provide your products or services at a lower cost than your competitors.
- Switching costs are the inconveniences or expenses a customer will incur to move from your company to a competitor.
- Network effects cause the value to of your products or services to expand as more people use them.
- Efficient scale is a situation where a market has a size limitation that discourages competition.
What type of moat are you building?
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