Thursday, June 14th, 2012
Earlier in May, after a long week already of travelling, I packed up my bags again and headed to Omaha, Nebraska for the Berkshire Hathaway AGM, or as I prefer to call, a rock concert for capitalists.
You see, it’s always been on my bucket list to do, but for one reason or another, I didn’t actually set aside the time in previous years. Thank goodness this year was different, because it was absolutely one of the most important things I did this year!
1.) Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger are two of the most successful men on the planet. Plus they’re in their 80s and have nothing to prove, which means they call everything like it is in a simple, understated and uncomplicated way. They’re also witty, brilliant and in my opinion, right in their views on business.
2.) They are so successful on their own that they can be forthright on their views on business and the economy. One example they shared is how the financial industry operates when it comes to IPOs. New IPOs get all the attention (just consider Facebook) with brokers associated with these IPOs getting huge commissions, meanwhile many other stocks receive little or not attention during that time – yet the latter is likely where the deals are according to Buffet.
3.) They summarized a lot of things I personally believe (and I’m seeing in business). For example – how it’s so crucial to have a long-term strategy in business. Buffet gave the example of Apple and why they didn’t invest in Apple years ago. It’s because they don’t invest in companies if they can’t predict how successful they will be in five, 10 or 20 years. Simply stated, a decade ago, they couldn’t predict how successful Apple would be now, or where Apple’s technology would be going in the future.
This is why it’s so important to have a compelling and easily understood long-term strategy with a minimum five-year outlook, but ideally 10, particularly if you want to attract investors in the future. You also need to have a clear understanding of your competition and where they’re going. If Warren Buffet doesn’t invest in companies he doesn’t understand, why should other entrepreneurs and business leaders expect any different?
4.) It became clear that businesses need to think differently in this economy. When asked about sluggish growth in the United States, Buffet shared that if “you have 2.2% growth in annual GDP and have a 1% growth in population, that would be 1.2% increase in real per-capita growth.” He also shared that we’re in a very mature market now and we’ll only grow if we get more people.
For companies, this means that business owners and leaders need to think dramatically different about their businesses. They need to be masters of strategy: they can’t just be good at supplying products and services anymore, but instead they have to be amazing at building and driving the demand, and taking market share from the competition. In fact, business owners and leaders need to figure out how to keep the competition from growing. The days of the wind blowing demand your way are gone.
5.) Buffet highlighted how the face of retailing is changing because Amazon is doing such a great job. In fact, Amazon makes it incredibly easy to do business with them as I have personally experienced time and time again. So if you’re a retailer, you need to pay attention to what Amazon is doing to delight customers. And, if you’re not a customer yourself, you need to be so you can see just how easy it is to receive exceptional service.
These are only a few highlights from the AGM, but they are dramatically reshaping how I’m thinking about the future of business. The pure, unfiltered wisdom that Buffet and Munger shared during the six plus hours in front of 30,000+ people also reminded me of the absolute importance of getting in front of incredibly wise people and hearing them speak directly.
Who’s on your bucket list to hear from directly? Don’t wait any longer. Make a plan, set aside time and seize the opportunity to get in front of them. It may just be one of the most important things you do this year too.
Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
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