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Do Barrett Business Services's (NASDAQ:BBSI) Earnings Warrant Your Attention?

Simply Wall St

It's only natural that many investors, especially those who are new to the game, prefer to buy shares in 'sexy' stocks with a good story, even if those businesses lose money. But as Warren Buffett has mused, 'If you've been playing poker for half an hour and you still don't know who the patsy is, you're the patsy.' When they buy such story stocks, investors are all too often the patsy.

So if you're like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like Barrett Business Services (NASDAQ:BBSI). While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.

See our latest analysis for Barrett Business Services

Barrett Business Services's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.

The market is a voting machine in the short term, but a weighing machine in the long term, so share price follows earnings per share (EPS) eventually. That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. As a tree reaches steadily for the sky, Barrett Business Services's EPS has grown 33% each year, compound, over three years. If the company can sustain that sort of growth, we'd expect shareholders to come away winners.

Careful consideration of revenue growth and earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margins can help inform a view on the sustainability of the recent profit growth. This approach makes Barrett Business Services look pretty good, on balance; although revenue is flattish, EBIT margins improved from 3.3% to 5.9% in the last year. That's something to smile about.

In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. To see the actual numbers, click on the chart.

NasdaqGS:BBSI Income Statement, February 10th 2020

Of course the knack is to find stocks that have their best days in the future, not in the past. You could base your opinion on past performance, of course, but you may also want to check this interactive graph of professional analyst EPS forecasts for Barrett Business Services.

Are Barrett Business Services Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

I like company leaders to have some skin in the game, so to speak, because it increases alignment of incentives between the people running the business, and its true owners. So it is good to see that Barrett Business Services insiders have a significant amount of capital invested in the stock. Indeed, they hold US$28m worth of its stock. That's a lot of money, and no small incentive to work hard. Even though that's only about 4.5% of the company, it's enough money to indicate alignment between the leaders of the business and ordinary shareholders.

Should You Add Barrett Business Services To Your Watchlist?

You can't deny that Barrett Business Services has grown its earnings per share at a very impressive rate. That's attractive. Further, the high level of insider ownership impresses me, and suggests that I'm not the only one who appreciates the EPS growth. So this is very likely the kind of business that I like to spend time researching, with a view to discerning its true value. While we've looked at the quality of the earnings, we haven't yet done any work to value the stock. So if you like to buy cheap, you may want to check if Barrett Business Services is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.

You can invest in any company you want. But if you prefer to focus on stocks that have demonstrated insider buying, here is a list of companies with insider buying in the last three months.

Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.