May 17, 2018

My encounter with Warren Buffett, and what I learned

This time last week, I was on a plane heading back to Calgary, after an inspiring week at the Berkshire Hathaway AGM in Omaha. I got to see 3 people on my bucket list: Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, and Bill Gates. 

I’m sure most of you know Buffett’s story. He started out as a paperboy, and grew to be the world’s richest man in 2008 (the third richest today). Even though his current net worth is enormous (84.4 billion USD), he is a man with so much humility. I spoke with dozens of Omaha locals, and they all said he was a good, down-to-earth man.

 Warren’s right-hand man – Charlie Munger – is a genius. (Even Buffett’s children think he’s smarter than their dad!) Charlie is a man of very few words… very, very few… but he’s incredibly sharp, and they’re both crazy witty. 

Whenever Charlie spoke, the room burst into laughter because of his candour and directness. The man doesn’t mince his words. Warren is 87 and Charlie is 93; I think their age and success is a true testament to the power of keeping your mind sharp and always learning.

Warren and Charlie shared an unbelievable amount of wisdom at the AGM. Here is a summary of what they said… at least, the stuff that impacted me the most.

Wisdom from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger

  1. If people lose money for the firm, be understanding. If they lose reputation with customers, be ruthless.
  2. As a leader, every time you leave a meeting, you should feel like the culture is stronger than when you entered the room.
  3. Don’t just do things because form and structure require you to, or because others are doing it. Creating systems, processes, and departments for the sake of it is useless.
  4. Be your own compliance officer. Think about your actions within the company and whether you would want them to be featured on the front page of a newspaper the next day.
  5. Have a long-term outlook.
  6. Invest in things you understand.
  7. Invest in yourself first.
  8. Instead of a formula, have a set of philosophies and principles to make decisions. “If you want a formula, go back to grad school.” – Charlie Munger

Because of my work with leadership and team development, #2, 4 and 7, really hit home. 

Doesn’t matter if you’re a three-person, 300-person or 3000-person company. Every single piece of wisdom Warren and Charlie shared, applies. 

I took tons away from the AGM itself but also from the wonderful people I connected with at the event. Can’t wait to see what #BRK2019 has in store!

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