Friday, November 10, 2023

Woodstock for Capitalists

Each May, thousands of people flock to Omaha for this event, more prosaically known as the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting. All it takes to attend the party is to be considered a stockholder. A share of the company’s Class A shares (currently trading at about $525,000) might be a little bit beyond the reach of many, but a share of its Class B stock (about $350) will also do the trick.

The event is a true spectacle, offering a 5K run, comedy skits, disco balls, music, celebrities, and even visits by characters from the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio of companies (such as the GEICO gecko).

There is no shortage of fun events for those attending the meeting in person, but you can also follow the live coverage of the proceedings online, including what is for me the most interesting part of the entire event: the question-and-answer session put on by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.

Each year, Buffett and Munger sit down for nearly five hours to answer shareholder questions and provide insight on their views of the state of the market, investing, friendship, wisdom, and just about anything else on their minds. Luckily for us, Berkshire Hathaway has begun sharing these famous Q&A sessions dating back to 1994, now available for viewing on CNBC’s Warren Buffett Archive.

Not only are Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger undoubtedly two of the best business and investing minds around, but they are also known for their pithy observations. Author Lawrence Cunningham has compiled Warren Buffett’s writings and published them as The Essays of Warren Buffett, and Charlie Munger himself put together Poor Charlies Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger. Both books are must-reads.

Here are a few of my favorite quotations:

  • Buffett’s best advice for entrepreneurs: “The best advice to a small business owner, or for that matter, the large business owner, is never stop thinking about how to delight your customer. Not to satisfy your customer, but to delight your customer. . . When you wake up in the morning, start thinking about it. During the day, think about it. At night, think about it. And then dream about it. No company has ever failed that had millions of delighted customers. You start with them, and you get them one at a time.” 
  • Warren Buffett, from his 1991 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, on evaluating the past to improve future action: “In the business world, unfortunately, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”
  • Charlie Munger, from Poor Charlies Almanack, on history: “There is no better teacher than history in determining the future. . . there are answers worth billions of dollars in a history book.”

If you ever get the chance, I’d highly recommend listening to their speeches, and especially their chats with each other.

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