BLOGNAME: LOUDER THAN WORDSAn informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur
|The Perfect Weekend Getaway For A Businessperson With Warren Buffett In Omaha|
Sage advice from the Oracle of Omaha
By Paul Tomori
Wednesday, May 05, 2010 at 17:18:26 (EDT)
One of my biggest disappointments last year was not making it to the Annual General Meeting of shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, the company managed by famed investor, Warren E. Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger. This year, I was not going to miss out. Just days ago, I spent the weekend in Omaha Nebraska (corn and steak country) where I attended the day-long Saturday event taking notes and listening and laughing with 40,000 other "fans" of the business world's equivalent of a bona fide rock star.
If nothing else, the meeting confirmed my basic business philosophy that a small but steady trajectory over time is the way to run one's shop. But, I must say, I found 79 year old Mr. Buffett and 87 year Mr. Munger to be very compelling as ethical exemplars for the rest of us common folk. I came away wanting to be a better person, not just a better businessperson. These gentlemen are kind of like that teacher you respect when you're a kid: you just want to do well so that you can earn the teacher's respect back.
In the fashion of Ben Franklin, Messrs. Buffett and Munger found their principles early and adhered to them steadfastly. Their remarkable lives consist of having established a routine that just worked for them when they were young men and a business method that earned them great advancement, then they simply "rinsed and repeated"... for over 50 years. Buffett still has the same office in Omaha that he started leasing back in the mid-60's. The building is older than mine. It's on the same street as his house which he has lived in since the mid-50's. His house is located in the upper-middle-class Dundee neighbourhood. You could easily drive by his place and not think twice that the world's third richest man lives there... and has lived their for over 50 years. It's truly remarkable... and a testament to living by simple values. In case you didn't know, Buffett's wealth is almost entirely "on paper". You can't get super rich by earning just $100,000 per year, which is the salary the guy pays himself! Wall Street hotshots should take notice. The winner is not necessarily the highest paid individual - rather, the winner is the one who generates the most value. 40,000 fellow attendees could not disagree I am sure.
Some of the quips that stood out:
"Lengthy agreements or contracts are intended to obfuscate, not illuminate" - Warren Buffett
(he prefers one page outlines for even some of his biggest deals)
"Take the high road - it's less crowded" - Charlie Munger
"I'd like to make Paul Volker look like a sissy" - Charlie Munger
(Volker was a hard-nosed former Federal Reserve Chairman)
"If I can be optimistic when I'm almost dead, surely the rest of you can handle a little inflation" - Charlie Munger
"We've made our share of dumb deals at Berkshire, so I've gotten more tolerant of other people." - Warren Buffett
(on Kraft's decision to buy Cadbury)
There was a lot of classic humility and self-deprecation which made both gentlemen very endearing and almost grandfatherly.
I will be writing shortly on some of the more philosophical inferences I derived from the experience.
Here are a few photos... enjoy!
Berkshire Hathaway AGM 2010
QWEST Centre in downtown Omaha under the glorious star-spangled banner
That's Bill Gates walking toward the exit. He sat in the front row fidgeting for most of the day. Gates is one of Buffett's best friends and also a board member of Berkshire Hathaway as well as the overseer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the charity to which Warren has left the majority of his multi-billion dollar fortune
My t-bone steak dinner at Gorat's, one of Buffett and Munger's favourite weekly haunts
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