With an estimated net worth of $72 Billion, Warren Buffett is one of the most successful, wealthiest businessmen and investors of all time. There is no doubt that we can all learn more than a few things about doing business and making wealth from this remarkable billionaire, whose been acquiring, starting and growing businesses for longer than many of us have been alive.
His company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns and operates some of the largest corporations in the world, including Helzberg Diamonds, FlightSafety International, and NetJets. And Buffett generously shares lessons he’s learnt along the way through his extensive writings and talks, and by the way he leads his life. Here are powerful lessons we can all learn from Buffett to succeed in business and in life today.
1. Do work that you love.
Success comes when you do what you love. Warren Buffet lives by this rule and urges us all to live by it too. When you do what you love and are passionate about it, he says, you’ll never work a day in your life.
“There comes the time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”
2. Don’t “thumb suck.”
Warren Buffett prides himself in making swift, well-informed decisions and acting on them just as fast. He deems any unnecessary dilly-dallying as “thumb sucking.” Do your research thoroughly, well in advance. Gather all the necessary information and act decisively. Say “No” if you have to.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
3. Spell out the specifics of a deal beforehand.
Warren Buffett tells a story about when he was a young boy. His grandfather, Ernest, hired him and a friend to dig out the family grocery store after a blizzard. The boys spent five hours shovelling until they could barely straighten their frozen hands. Afterward, his grandfather gave the pair less than 90 cents to split. Buffett was horrified that he performed such backbreaking work only to earn pennies an hour.
Even when you are dealing with friends and relatives, have all the specifics of the deal spelt out beforehand, including your monetary benefits. Your bargaining leverage is always greatest before you begin a job—that’s when you have something to offer that the other party wants.
“I am a better investor because I am a businessman, and a better businessman because I am an investor.”
4. Assess the risk involved.
Think about the worst and best possible scenarios and promptly make the most rational, progressive decision. That’s basically the advice Buffet gave his son, Howie, when the FBI accused the younger Buffett of price-fixing in 1995. Howie quickly realized that the risks of staying in his then troubled company far outweighed any potential gains, and so he quit the next day. Assessing risks carefully helps you see where you are struggling and can guide you to make smarter decisions.
“I don’t look to jump over seven-foot bars; I look around for one-foot bars that I can step over.”
5. Exercise vigilance over every expense and spending.
Warren Buffett is well-known for being frugal and encouraging others to do so. He’s lived in the same house he bought when he was 28 for a mere $31,500 to date. Being frugal and conservative with your spending helps you avoid waste. And when you avoid waste, you make your money work for you and save enough to invest for the future.
“If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need.”
6. Limit your borrowing and what you owe others.
Warren Buffet has never borrowed excessively, even when he was starting out in business. He says, “Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money.” He has always negotiated with creditors to pay what he can, and when he is debt-free, saved his money to invest. Living on handouts, loans and credit cards will not make you rich.
“I have pledged – to you, the rating agencies and myself – to always run Berkshire with more than ample cash. We never want to count on the kindness of strangers in order to meet tomorrow’s obligations. When forced to choose, I will not trade even a night’s sleep for the chance of extra profits.”
7. Reinvest your profits.
In high school, Warren Buffet and a friend bought a pinball machine and put it to work in a barbershop. With the money they earned, they bought more machines until they had eight of them in different shops. The friends later sold the venture and Mr. Buffett used his proceeds to buy stocks and the rest to start another business. By the time he was 26, he had amassed $174,000, which is equivalent to about 1.4 million in today’s value.
Look broadly for investment opportunities and reinvest like you have a single lifetime “punch card” with only 20 punches—make each one count. Even a small investment can generate great wealth if you are diligent enough to favor substance over form.
“I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them. Because, sooner or later, one will.”
8. Judge yourself by your own standards.
Don’t base your decisions, successes or even happiness on what others say or do. Buffet notes: “You don’t have to swing at everything—you can wait for your pitch. The problem when you’re a money manager is that your fans keep yelling, ‘Swing, you bum!'” Instead of following the crowd, measure yourself by your “Inner Scorecard”—your own standards and not the world’s.
“I would say the most satisfying thing actually is watching my three children each pick up on their own interests and work many more hours per week than most people that have jobs, and trying to intelligently give away that money in fields that they particularly care about.”
9. Be consistent and patient.
Warren Buffett says, “Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.” The long and rocky road to success holds many valuable lessons and makes victory that much sweeter. So, be patient and keep pressing on. Don’t obsess over quick results and instant gratification. Success doesn’t come overnight—not even for Warren Buffett.
“No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
10. Know when to quit.
Warren Buffet makes mistakes just like any one of us, but he learns from his mistakes and doesn’t repeat them. He recalls: “I bought a company in the mid-’90s called Dexter Shoe and paid $400 million for it. And it went to zero. And I gave about $400 million worth of Berkshire stock, which is probably now worth $400 billion. But I’ve made lots of dumb decisions. That’s part of the game.” He is, however, quick to add: “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”
Know when to walk away from a loss. And remember in businesses and in people, better quality businesses are more likely to grow and compound cash flow; low quality businesses often erode.
“You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.”
*all quotes are from billionaire Warren Buffett
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