From a very young age, Warren Buffett was interested in stocks and used a lot of his time reading about investing. In fact, at 11 years of age, he invested in his father’s company. At age 13 he filed his first tax returns. His family testifies to his interest in reading about companies mostly in daily newspapers.
Buffet in 2022
In 2022, he is 92 years old, has beaten prostate cancer, and is the third richest man in the world with a net worth of $109.5 billion. He controls up to 60 companies that are a part of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio. He began investing in Berkshire Hathaway in 1962 when it was a failing textile manufacturing business that had found it hard to recover from both world wars.
Admitting later that it would be hard to revive this company as a textile business, Warren eventually invested enough into the company to become the majority shareholder, later venturing into the insurance industry and other investments that have seen this company become a holding company for five-dozen businesses ever since. As of December 2022, buying one stock in the company would cost you $475,969. That’s the equivalent of a luxury house in a select few high-end locations around the world.
Buffet has earned the nickname “Oracle of Omaha.” Several times a year thousands of shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway gather in Omaha, Nebraska, to listen to Warren speak about investments and entrepreneurship.
He has cut down a lot on those conferences and graduation talks lately and now focuses on speaking at events for small businesses, women, or philanthropy. He is famously frugal, and even with his high net worth has continued to live in the $31,500 home he bought in 1958. Until recently, he drove a 2006 Cadillac DTS and only upgraded to a $45,000 Cadillac XTS after his daughter told him the DTS was embarrassing.
Warren Buffett is a household name in the USA and indeed around the world for several reasons. His investing acumen and great entrepreneurship experience can do so much good for startups launching in 2018. This is especially the case for startups that want to create an impact and be there for the long haul.
This is why we figured that he should feature in our series of inspiring entrepreneurs. So far, this list includes Anthony Bourdain, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jeff Bezos, Simon Sinek, and Chris Sacca.
If there is a virtue that defines Warren Buffett more than any other, it’s patience. Investing in stocks that sometimes take decades to turn into great investments takes so much patience for the long-term game.
When starting out, he wasn’t very patient. In fact, he recalls that at 11 years old he invested in his father’s business, buying a stock at $38 a share. He then sold it a few weeks later when it was at $40 only for the stock to go rallying up to $200 per share in later months.
He missed a big earning opportunity to make so much money due to his lack of patience at the time.
Equally, for startups today, it takes so much patience to build a company that is worth its weight in gold. Every year, so many entrepreneurs give up on their startups, some selling early. Others just quit outright if the startup doesn’t turn a profit in a few months. This mentality cannot lead to success.
Coupled with several other attributes, Warren Buffett advocates for patience in entrepreneurship. This isn’t a year-long goal, but more of a lifetime goal to make your company successful.
At Pressfarm we see this impatience from startups a number of times. Public relations is not a short-term game. Rather, it takes several days, weeks, and sometimes a few months to see PR results. However, we see the best results when the company has been patient enough to build media relationships while implementing PR strategies in little bursts over time.
How Pressfarm can help
Do you need help executing your public relations strategy? Pressfarm’s team of account managers, expert writers, and PR specialists can create world-class content and design a strategy to push it out to leading journalists in your field. With a professional press release, a few compelling guest posts, and a creative media kit, you can capture media attention and inspire action among your target audience. Besides creating quality content to help you make heads turn, Pressfarm can help you develop a media outreach strategy to get this content in front of the right eyes.
As a client, you have access to our media database which helps you to connect with 1 million+ journalists across industries. Likewise, with customized media lists built by an account executive, you can connect with the best journalists in your niche. When Pressfarm builds a campaign for you, this campaign is designed to boost your online visibility by helping you feature in relevant search results across different search engines. Check out our packages and start generating publicity for your brand today.
“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.” – Warren Buffett
2. Don’t take too many risks
Entrepreneurs are known for their risk-taking abilities. They are courageous and brave enough to take risks that many people do not think very highly of. This is very true for so many stories. However, even Warren agrees that being overly risky in taking up opportunities can sometimes cost you dearly.
He advocates for strategic risk-taking and does not stand for people who expect mountains to grow out of molehills.
“I don’t look to jump over seven-foot bars: I look around for one-foot bars that I can step over.” – Warren Buffett
This can be carried over to startups. Rather than being overly ambitious and taking huge risks, take little risks that the startup can survive if the risks were not to pay off. For instance, if you want to take one huge risk, can you start to do that by breaking this down into small risks or steps that can slowly get you to cumulatively cover the whole risk?
3. Change the things you can change; let the rest be
Even with his investing acumen, Buffet believes that some things are unchangeable when you’re a mere entrepreneur. There are things we cannot change in every vertical of life, in every field. Depending on your capacity, if you see something you cannot change, let it be. If you see things you can change, change them for the better.
“The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” – Warren Buffett
Several times, startups find themselves in holes and situations that are challenging. When this happens, stop digging and start to rectify the course of the ship. Entrepreneurship can be a good kind of challenging, but sometimes you will find yourself in situations where you can do nothing, or you can only change direction. Do the wise thing and let the direction change be something you can control.
4. You only have to be right a few times
As an entrepreneur, Warren’s whole life has relied upon making the right bets and calls when it comes to identifying which businesses to buy, which ones to let go of, which ones to invest in and which ones will pay off in the long run.
Fortunately, many of these decisions have gone well for Buffett. Even so, he has made a few bad decisions along the way since taking over Berkshire Hathaway. However, the bad decisions weren’t enough to affect the health of the company. This is his advice to entrepreneurs:
“You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” – Warren Buffett
All startup founders make mistakes, but these are not as important if you don’t make too many. As well, the rights have to be really right. They also have to be significant enough to push your company in the right direction.
A good mix of right and wrong in business has never been detrimental. The founders will only get better at making the right calls.
5. Think long-term
The mindset of Warren Buffett was never based on the short-term. If it were, he would never have bought a failing textile business. He went on to turn it into the multi-billion business it is today. Additionally, a short-term mindset would never have encouraged him to buy up to 60 companies, most of them struggling to survive. This kind of mindset wouldn’t have allowed him to turn these companies into highly profitable businesses decades later.
Warren has often said that the goal should be to build a brand and position your mindset for the long haul. Go big on building your reputation in several years to build a business that stands the test of time.
Startups sometimes believe that they will exit after a few couples of years and go away rich. In reality, this only happens for a few startups around the world. What’s more, most of them have groundbreaking ideas – it is not the same for millions of new companies every year. For such companies, doing things that could affect long-term goals negatively with a short-term mindset could ruin the business fast.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett
Change your mindset to see the long-term goals, and slowly build towards achieving those goals. It will take several years sometimes, but that is okay. You might even make some good billions while at it.
6. Hire more women
Women have not been given chances to build themselves and enhance their careers for a long time in the past. This is now changing as the world moves to empower women and bring equality into workplaces and communities. Warren Buffett noticed this problem about 15 years ago and has since then been trying to achieve equality at Berkshire Hathaway.
It didn’t strike him before then that there were grievous discrepancies between expectations and compensation for women at the workplace. Since that realization, he has hired 6 female CEOs who run big-name companies. He also hired more women in the younger crew of directors. Out of every 5 directors, 3 are now women.
In many of his speeches, Buffet has insisted that founders must hire as many women as they hire men. He’s also adamant that any good employer should provide equal compensation for the same amount of work. Achieving equality in our workplaces is important for significant progress. If America does not give chances to women as well, then the whole nation will be working with one hand tied at the back, and we will never achieve our true potential as a country.
7. Make sure your customers are happy
One of the most significant philosophies that Warren has cultivated in the Berkshire Hathaway team is the importance of not only providing valuable service to the customer but also making their day.
You can obsess over your products, prices and marketing but none of these matters if the customers are never really delighted. Loyalty is brewed out of happy customers. It is not enough to provide a good service or product if the customer service is not top-notch.
“If you’ve been treated well and honestly, if you’ve been delighted by the person you’re doing business with, you’re going to return to that person,” – Warren Buffett
The magic of customer service
Startups often struggle with customer service. This eventually affects retention rates, leading instead to high churn rates. While it can be hard to point out the specific moments when a customer was dissatisfied, boosting the customer service channel can do so much to reduce the churn rate. Doing this can also help you find out if customers are having a problem with the service.
On the other hand, if the churn rates are not scary, or the customers don’t have an issue with the platform, how can startups improve the customer experience? The point is to go the extra mile that makes the customer want to return.
If you want to make your customers happy, you should start by making the employees happy. After all, they interact with customers every single day. Warren insists that you cannot achieve customer delight if employees are not happy with how they are treated. Treating your employees better will help you to get the best out of them. This will ultimately delight the customers.
8. Focus on your area of expertise
Young Buffet began investing in stocks really early on. Most of his investment bets have paid off, which is why he consistently ranks high on the list of billionaires, beaten only by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.
This is what he is good at – predicting outcomes of businesses and stocks from an informed point of view. He doesn’t go out there and try to do marketing, sales, programming, etc. He has focused on his one specialty and he’s ended up being right 60 times.
Startup founders need to do what Warren calls “mining your area of expertise.” Find something that you do really well, focus on that, and hire someone to do what you cannot.
Understandably, it can be really difficult to hire the right people at the beginning. However, as time passes it is helpful to identify where you are holding the company back. Attempting to be a marketer when you are not good at it could delay the growth of your startup because you are achieving less there. Struggling to be the content writer for your company could delay the uptake of your company’s content if you just aren’t that good of a writer. Trying to do coding for your startup might jeopardize the product. In fact, your product might look shoddy simply because you’re not that great a software engineer.
Find your point of magic, stick to it and make it work. Delegate as much as you can to someone else who is good at what you struggle with.
9. Read 500 pages a day
At one time, Warren Buffett was asked what he does to become smarter. He said he reads 500 pages per day. He compared reading to compound interest. Every day you get new knowledge that builds onto previously gained knowledge. Eventually, you sound smart, look smart, and speak smart. Even more, your decisions become smarter.
He admitted that he spends a lot of time at work reading journals, reports, and financial statements. At home, he reads newspapers and books. The cumulative benefit is that he is always one of the smartest in the room.
“I do more reading and thinking, and make fewer impulse decisions than most people in business.” – Warren Buffett
10. Do your part to improve the world
In the last few years, Warren has donated over $30 billion to charity. Most of this went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Together with Bill Gates, he founded The Giving Pledge – an organization that brings together several high-net-worth people to give towards philanthropic causes. Many other billionaires have joined the program, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.
Warren Buffett has promised to give to a variety of charitable causes around the world. In fact, he made a pledge to give a majority of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
For startups, you can touch the world in one way or another. Even as a small company, donating a small percentage of your profits to the betterment of the world as well as the people and animals that live in it is worth it. However, philanthropy isn’t the only way to give back.
It could be that your business is so groundbreaking it makes the world a better place just by being around and running. You could be addressing world challenges like global warming, environmental sustainability, hunger, famine, drought, floods, cybersecurity, and earthquakes. Whatever you do, aim to change the world and move it towards being a little better for the next person.
11. Have fun at work
This is really simple, but you will be surprised that billions of people around the world are doing jobs they hate just to be able to survive. Warren doesn’t think you can get to 87 years doing that.
You have to enjoy and love your job for you to be able to do it on a daily basis for many years. Even when things are not looking great, if you are having fun at work that is all that matters.
“Find your passion, find the job that you would hold if you didn’t need to have a job. If you do this, every day is fun.” – Warren Buffett
Entrepreneurs who go out to launch startups and businesses catering to various verticals must find something they love to do. This way, the fun they get to have at work will keep them running during the tough days. It is all about thinking about your job and saying that you are really enjoying doing it.
12. Be transparent
For most companies worldwide, when the CEO gets sick they would rather hide that from shareholders and customers. Not Berkshire Hathaway. For this conglomerate, transparency is important.
Buffet’s cancer diagnosis
Early in April 2012, Warren was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer. He wrote a letter to the shareholders and employees sharing this with them. He indicated that the doctor had said the cancer was not life-threatening.
Later in September 2012, he announced that he had completed his 44th and last radiation. He was cancer-free. His announcement could’ve brought the company’s stocks down but he did not flinch.
Startup founders and entrepreneurs have to learn that transparency is not a weakness. If anything, it makes your customers and employees trust you more. They can learn from this to make their businesses more transparent.
Buffet names his successor
Warren Buffett’s expert insight will always resonate in the hearts and minds of entrepreneurs and business people around the world. Even the highest and mightiest have got to step down and pass the torch on to the next generation. In 2021, with the business world waiting in anticipation, Buffett named his successor once he is no longer the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He made this announcement in front of millions of people who tuned into the annual meeting, Buffett named Greg Abel the head of Berkshire Hathaway’s non-insurance business, as the next CEO as of May 3rd, 2021. Abel has long been considered one of the two men likely to follow in Buffett’s footsteps. The second candidate for this position was Ajit Jain, who heads Berkshire’s insurance business.
Greg Abel began his career working as a chartered accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in the San Francisco office. In 1992 he joined geothermal electricity producer CalEnergy and acquired MidAmerican Energy in 1999. That same year, Berkshire Hathaway acquired a controlling interest, and Abel became CEO of MidAmerican in 2008. Six years later, the company was renamed Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Abel was named vice chairman for non-insurance operations and appointed to Berkshire’s board of directors. His lengthy experience in the company is a big part of the reason he has been confirmed as the future successor CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
Buffet’s tips on investing
Along with Buffett’s announcement of his successor, he also talks about the future of investing and the current landscape of the industry. This is an environment that has long been characterized by a combination of uncertainty and opportunity currently on the stock market horizon.
Let us look at some insights and advice presented by one of the investing world’s all-time greats that he implemented himself and hopes to impart to future generations.
1) Stock-picking is more complex than it may seem
During the annual meeting on May 1st, 2021, he warned all attendees against investing in individual stocks because it can be difficult for an average person to do so effectively. He advises new entrants to the stock market to consider it just a bit before they start making multiple trades a day to profit from what they think is an easy game.
To illustrate the difficulty of achieving success when stock-picking, Buffett shared a list of 20 stocks with the largest market capitalization as of March 2021. This list included Apple, Saudi Aramco, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. He then asked the audience which of those stocks would remain in 30 years. He then shared the top 20 companies by market cap in 1989, including Japanese firms, Exxon, GE, Merck, and IBM. These are no longer in the top 20 today.
The idea behind this was to show people that the world can change in very dramatic ways. What seemed relevant in 1989 has been rendered relatively obsolete in 2022. As Buffet states:
“I would guess that very few of you would have said zero. I don’t think it will be, but it’s a reminder of what extraordinary things can happen. We were just as sure of ourselves, as Wall Street was in 1989 and as we are today. But the world can change in very, very dramatic ways. After all, there is a lot more to picking stocks than figuring out what’s going to be a wonderful industry in the future.” – Warren Buffett
2) Great argument for index funds
Given the difficulty of stock-picking, Buffett instead suggested investing in a low-cost index fund. In the meeting, he recommended the S&P 500 index fund, which holds 500 of the largest companies in the U.S. and has done so for a long time. To get his point across, he highlighted that many automobile companies entered the auto business in the early 1900s because it had a great future. However, in 2009, there were only three left, two of which went bankrupt. He stated that index funds are a great alternative because even if an individual has a diversified group of equities, they can hold over a long period. That understanding is why Buffett instructed the trustee in charge of his estate to invest 90% of his money into index funds.
3) Don’t treat the stock market like a casino
Finally, in the past year, Buffett discussed the greatest increase in the “number of gamblers” trying to get into the stock market. It’s true that he commented that there was nothing wrong with gambling in the stock market because individuals will have better odds than if they played the state lottery. Be that as it may, the results still aren’t what you would expect.
He provided an example and expressed concern with the trading app Robinhood by saying that the company was part of the “casino group” that had joined the stock market in the last year and a half. While he states that there is nothing illegal or immoral about the concept, he also says that it is not advisable to build a society around people. Regardless of his concern, he still tells the audience that American corporations have become an excellent place for people to put their money and save. Nevertheless, they “also make terrific gambling chips.”
As Buffett has mentioned, investing is still great, but people need to be aware of the stocks they are planning to invest in and the other alternatives for gaining residual income. To invest as wisely as Warren Buffett, one of the obvious steps is buying Berkshire Hathaway stocks. After all, the company has invested more in buying its shares than any other stock or asset over a year reporting period.
However, whatever stocks you plan to invest in, the critical thing to remember is to truly do the research to see whether it will be worth your while.
These tips from one of the biggest investors in the world are golden. In fact, these are aspects of running a business that have helped Warren to thrive as an entrepreneur for years on end. Startups need to borrow from these to build better companies focusing on long-term goals and branding.