Nuggets of wisdom from Warren Buffett's shareholder meeting

The Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting offered pithy wisdom from Warren Buffett and business partner Charlie Munger.

By , Guest blogger

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    Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett arrives to play table tennis against junior champion Ariel Hsing in Omaha May 2 during the company's annual shareholders meeting. the meeting offered insights into life and work from Mr. Buffett.
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This last weekend I had the great pleasure of going to see Warren Buffett at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual meeting in Omaha. Even though I started shopping for hotels a couple months ago, just about everything within 20 miles was full. So we decided to stay in Kansas City and just drive up to Omaha on saturday – about a 3 hour drive.

By the way, if you are planning a vacation this year, I highly recommend Hotwire.com. We have used them in the past to get a great price renting a car and we got another killer deal on our hotel this year. We ended up getting a 4-star hotel on the Plaza (the best place to be in KC, in my opinion) for $100 a night. It was definitely the nicest hotel I have ever stayed at – I mean the toilet paper rolls had the end folded to a point – Linda never does that for me.

Anyway, back to the topic. The event was held at the Qwest center in Omaha which is basically like an area and convention center in one. There were about 40,000 people there and even though we got there an hour before it started, we were sitting pretty high up.

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The meeting began with an hour long video about a lot of Berkshire’s Companies. After that, the next six hours – really all of the meeting – consisted of Warren and Charlie Munger in an open Q&A session. Warren likes to talk, and he is very good at elaborating and explaining in simple terms why he does what he does.

While I am really glad I went, I think anyone who is interested in learning how Warren does what he does can learn more from reading his annual reports than attending the meeting. It may have been the questions that he was asked, but I feel that there is more to be gleaned from his reports than what I got at the meeting.

However, there is something to be said for being there listening to him. It was fun.

So, I didn’t take as many notes as I had planned, but I mostly picked up nuggets of wisdom. Some of these are from Warren and some are from Charlie.

Work and life…

  • Warren said that the common thread with all the managers of his companies is that they absolutely love what they do. That’s what he looks for in a manager.
  • “Find your passion and don’t let anything stop you.”
  • “Always try to go to bed a little wiser than when you woke. If you do that for a long time, you will be a success.”

Investing…

  • When investing Warren is extremely patient. He waits and waits and waits for the perfect opportunity. Then he takes action.
  • Warren likes businesses that get a great return on capital and require little capital to run them.
  • You don’t need to find very many winners. Just a couple big winners make all the difference.

When asked about the resiliency of the US economy…

  • They are both very confident the in US and think this is still a good place to invest.
  • Don’t ever underestimate human’s abilities to solve the world’s problems.

When speaking about the dishonesty of much of Wall Street

  • Create a business structure that minimizes the weaknesses of human behavior. Eliminate the opportunities for transgressions.
  • The system that holds no one accountable is a bad system. Everyone needs to be responsible for their actions.
  • “Having integrity is the safest way to do business.”

Random…

  • Charlie is VERY optimistic about the future of solar energy, but he says not to buy panels now because they will be much cheaper in the near future.
  • Warren likes to do video interviews over newspaper interviews, because he finds that it more accurately portrays what he meant to say.

One of my favorite things that was said was that they both admitted they aren’t particularly brilliant, it is just that they work hard to avoid stupidity. I have been soaking this one up the last couple days and am working to minimize the stupid things I do!

So, there was a lot more I got out of the meeting, but this is the gist of it. Were you there or have you ever been to see Warren? What did you think?

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