It’s no secret that Warren Buffett is regarded as the greatest investor of all time and constantly being looked toward for advice. He’s spent quite a bit of time in the limelight, and by heading the fourth largest company in the world which happens to be a huge conglomerate, he’s constantly meeting other VIP’s and, with a lot of them, leaving good impressions.
Buffett’s also quite a quotable person— here are 10 of the best— so while it does interest me to read about Buffett and expand my knowledge of him, it pleases me much more when I can hear other quotable people talk about the Oracle of Omaha specifically.
The first would be Neal Patterson from Cerner Corporation, a company that focuses on record systems for hospitals and clinics. which he founded in 1979. Neal Patterson was listed in Forbes top five list of “America’s Best-Performing Bosses” in 2010 and, more recently, Cerner was ranked as one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” by Fortune.
Much like Buffett himself, Patterson writes an annual letter to his shareholders. Here is what he said in one:
“Warren Buffett says 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.’
Where is Cerner’s moat? It is clearly in our intellectual property and in the intellectual capital of our associates and their experiences. Only time will tell how wide, deep and enduring our moat is. We have tried to give you some ideas in this letter of where we are investing to improve Cerner’s moat.”
While he isn’t necessarily speaking about Buffett in personal regards, it is somewhat inspiring to see another successful, mid-western, businessman implementing Buffett’s advice and doing so successfully— in 2015, Cerner generated almost $5 billion in revenue out of their Kansas City headquarters.
Another CEO who has spoke out about his admiration for Buffett is Jim Weber of Brooks Running, a company that focuses on running shoes. Weber has actually spend a lot of time studying Buffett— he says he’s done so religiously since the 80’s—but he actually gets the chance to work with him now. Brooks Running’s ex-parent company, Russell Athletic, was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway and later separated into its own company, so now Weber reports directly to Buffett. Here’s what he’s learned:
“It sounds cliche, but this long-term thinking about really building a brand of strength is what makes Berkshire so unique, and him so unique,” Weber said. “You can measure brand strength and you can track business results, and they’re not always in sync. We all like growth, and bigger businesses are more valuable than smaller ones, but the key is, the brand has to be stronger at the end of the year than at the beginning… Brands are built over years and years and years. And they’re built on trust. If we’re going to do something meaningful here, you can’t change who you are every three years. You build a brand over literally a decade, or two or three.”
Honestly, this sounds like advice that would come straight from the Oracle himself, so it is not surprising to me at all that Weber learned this from working under Buffett. Buffett is all about patience, not expecting instant satisfaction or instant returns, and of course trust.
The third CEO that stuck out to me, and arguably the most note-able, is Tim Cook from Apple. When The Washington Post asked Cook who he turns to advice, the first name he offers up is none other than Warren Buffett.
“Whoever I think can help me. When I was going through the question of what should we do on returning cash to shareholders, I thought who could really give us great advice here? Who wouldn’t have a bias? So I called up Warren Buffett. I thought he’s the natural person, and so I try to go through that process on everyone. That doesn’t mean I always do what they say. But I think it’s incumbent on a CEO to not just listen to points of view but to actually solicit them,” he replied.
It’s interesting that Cook first thought to turn to Buffett in this instance, as his company Berkshire has not made a dividend payment since 1967, just two years after Buffett took control of the company. Because of this, I like to think that Buffett advised Cook to reinvest those profits rather than return them, but like Cook said; it isn’t always about doing what they say, but rather expanding your perspective on the situation.
Other CEO’s are often found quoting the famed octogenarian, but it is refreshing to see that there are still important people who look to Buffett for advice and in some cases even ask— WWWBD? (What Would Warren Buffett Do?) There is plenty to be learned!