Exclusive Warren Buffett – A Few Lessons for Investors and Managers

“This [drawing] looks good — as close as I’ve ever look to George Clooney.” – Warren Buffett. (Illustration credit: Monica Bevelin)

“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”

-W. Somerset Maugham

English dramatist & novelist (1874 – 1965)

I have long been a fan of Warren Buffett, who is widely considered the most successful investor of the 20th century. His net worth is currently estimated at $44 billion.

The fascination with his approach to value investing started with Buffett: The Making of An American Capitalist, which led me to devour all of Buffett’s incredibly readable annual letters to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. My fervor culminated in early May of 2008, when I made the pilgrimage to Omaha, Nebraska to elevator pitch Buffett and Charlie Munger directly in front of 20,000+ people (See: “Picking Warren Buffett’s Brain: Notes from a Novice”).

Prompted by all the “Mr. Market” manic-depressive excitement about Facebook, tech, and the world at large, I’m thrilled to offer an exclusive excerpt from a new 81-page book: A Few Lessons for Investors and Managers from Warren E. Buffett.

In it, author Peter Bevelin distills hundreds of pages of annual reports and Berkshire’s An Owner’s Manual into bite-sized principles and key quotes. Of this lightweight handbook, Buffett himself says, “It sums up what Charlie and I have been saying over the years in annual reports and at annual meetings.”

Net proceeds from sales of A Few Lessons are donated to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. It can be bought at the publisher’s site, which is their preference, or it can be found on Amazon.

For this post, I’ve chosen one of my favorite chapters, which relates to Buffett’s criteria for investments (and acquisitions): Business Characteristics: The Great, the Good, and the Gruesome…

The bolded headlines and text are Peter’s.

Enter Buffett – Business Characteristics: The Great, the Good, and the Gruesome

Our acquisition preferences run toward businesses that generate cash, not those that consume it. (1980)

And those are:

The best businesses by far for owners continue to be those that have high returns on capital and that require little incremental investment to grow. (2009)

A. THE REALLY GREAT BUSINESS: High returns, a sustainable competitive advantage and obstacles that make it tough for new companies to enter

A truly great business must have an enduring “moat” that protects excellent returns on invested capital. (2007)

“Moats”—a metaphor for the superiorities they possess that make life difficult for their competitors. (2007)

Moats can widen or shrink

Long-term competitive advantage in a stable industry is what we seek in a business. (2007)

Leadership alone provides no certainties: Witness the shocks some years back at General Motors, IBM and Sears, all of which had enjoyed long periods of seeming invincibility. (1996)

The dynamics of capitalism guarantee that competitors will repeatedly assault any business “castle” that is earning high returns. Therefore a formidable barrier such as a company’s being the low cost producer (GEICO, Costco) or possessing a powerful world-wide brand (Coca-Cola, Gillette, American Express) is essential for sustained success. Business history is filled with “Roman Candles,” companies whose moats proved illusory and were soon crossed. (2007)

One question I always ask myself in appraising a business is how I would like, assuming I had ample capital and skilled personnel, to compete with it. (1983)

If a business requires a superstar to produce great results, the business itself cannot be deemed great. A medical partnership led by your area’s premier brain surgeon may enjoy outsized and growing earnings, but that tells little about its future. The partnership’s moat will go when the surgeon goes. You can count, though, on the moat of the Mayo Clinic to endure, even though you can’t name its CEO. (2007)

A great business has pricing power or the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor

An economic franchise arises from a product or service that:

(1) Is needed or desired; (2) Is thought by its customers to have no close substitute and; (3) Is not subject to price regulation. The existence of all three conditions will be demonstrated by a company’s ability to regularly price its product or service aggressively and thereby to earn high rates of return on capital. Moreover, franchises can tolerate mis-management. Inept managers may diminish a franchise’s profitability, but they cannot inflict mortal damage. (1991)

The best protection against inflation is a great business

Such favored business must have two characteristics: (1) An ability to increase prices rather easily (even when product demand is flat and capacity is not fully utilized) without fear of significant loss of either market share or unit volume, and (2) An ability to accommodate large dollar volume increases in business (often produced more by inflation than by real growth) with only minor additional investment of capital. (1981)

As inflation intensifies, more and more companies find that they must spend all funds they generate internally just to maintain their existing physical volume of business. (1980)

Any unleveraged business that requires some net tangible assets to operate (and almost all do) is hurt by inflation. Businesses needing little in the way of tangible assets simply are hurt the least. (1983)

The dream business—“sweet” returns

Let’s look at the prototype of a dream business, our own See’s Candy. (2007)

In our See’s purchase, Charlie and I had one important insight:

We saw that the business had untapped pricing power. (1991)

At See’s, annual sales were 16 million pounds of candy when Blue Chip Stamps purchased the company in 1972… Last year See’s sold 31 million pounds, a growth rate of only 2% annually. Yet its durable competitive advantage, built by the See’s family over a 50-year period, and strengthened subsequently by Chuck Huggins and Brad Kinstler, has produced extraordinary results for Berkshire. (2007)

We bought See’s for $25 million when its sales were $30 million and pre-tax earnings were less than $5 million. The capital then required to conduct the business was $8 million. (Modest seasonal debt was also needed for a few months each year.) Consequently, the company was earning 60% pre-tax on invested capital. Two factors helped to minimize the funds required for operations. First, the product was sold for cash, and that eliminated accounts receivable. Second, the production and distribution cycle was short, which minimized inventories. (2007)

Last year See’s sales were $383 million, and pre-tax profits were $82 million. The capital now required to run the business is $40 million.

This means we have had to reinvest only $32 million since 1972 to handle the modest physical growth—and somewhat immodest financial growth—of the business. In the meantime pre-tax earnings have totaled $1.35 billion. All of that, except for the $32 million, has been sent to Berkshire (or, in the early years, to Blue Chip). After paying corporate taxes on the profits, we have used the rest to buy other attractive businesses. (2007)

Customer goodwill creates economic goodwill

See’s has a one-of-a-kind product “personality” produced by a combination of its candy’s delicious taste and moderate price, the company’s total control of the distribution process, and the exceptional service provided by store employees. (1986)

It was not the fair market value of the inventories, receivables or fixed assets that produced the premium rates of return. Rather it was a combination of intangible assets, particularly a pervasive favorable reputation with consumers based upon countless pleasant experiences they have had with both product and personnel. (1983)

Such a reputation creates a consumer franchise that allows the value of the product to the purchaser, rather than its production cost, to be the major determinant of selling price. Consumer franchises are a prime source of economic Goodwill. (1983)

A company like See’s is a rarity

There aren’t many See’s in Corporate America. Typically, companies that increase their earnings from $5 million to $82 million require, say, $400 million or so of capital investment to finance their growth. That’s because growing businesses have both working capital needs that increase in proportion to sales growth and significant requirements for fixed asset investments. (2007)

A company that needs large increases in capital to engender its growth may well prove to be a satisfactory investment. There is, to follow through on our example, nothing shabby about earning $82 million pre-tax on $400 million of net tangible assets. But that equation for the owner is vastly different from the See’s situation. It’s far better to have an ever-increasing stream of earnings with virtually no major capital requirements. Ask Microsoft or Google. (2007)

B. THE GOOD BUSINESS: Earn good returns on tangible

invested capital

One example of good, but far from sensational, business economics is our own Flight Safety. This company delivers benefits to its customers that are the equal of those delivered by any business that I know of. It also possesses a durable competitive advantage: Going to any other flight-training provider than the best is like taking the low bid on a surgical procedure. (2007)

Nevertheless, this business requires a significant reinvestment of earnings if it is to grow. When we purchased FlightSafety in 1996, its pre-tax operating earnings were $111 million, and its net investment in fixed assets was $570 million. Since our purchase, depreciation charges have totaled $923 million. But capital expenditures have totaled $1.635 billion, most of that for simulators to match the new airplane models that are constantly being introduced. (A simulator can cost us more than $12 million, and we have 273 of them.) Our fixed assets, after depreciation, now amount to $1.079 billion. Pre-tax operating earnings in 2007 were $270 million, a gain of $159 million since 1996. That gain gave us a good, but far from See’s-like, return on our incremental investment of $509 million. (2007)

High capital intensity requires high profit margins to achieve a

decent return

At FlightSafety…as much as $3.50 of capital investment is required to produce $1 of annual revenue. With this level of capital intensity, FlightSafety requires very high operating margins in order to obtain reasonable returns on capital, which means that utilization rates are

all-important. (2004)

Consequently, if measured only by economic returns, Flight Safety is an excellent but not extraordinary business. Its put-up-more-to-earn-more experience is that faced by most corporations. (2007)

C. THE GRUESOME: Require-a-lot-of-capital-at-a-low-return-business

The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. (2007)

Asset-heavy businesses generally earn low rates of return—rates that often barely provide enough capital to fund the inflationary needs of the existing business, with nothing left over for real growth, for distribution to owners, or for acquisition of new businesses. (1983)

A depressing industry equation—undifferentiated products, easy to enter, many competitors and over-capacity

Businesses in industries with both substantial over-capacity and a “commodity”product (undifferentiated in any customer-important way by factors such as performance, appearance, service support, etc.) are prime candidates for profit troubles. (1982)

What finally determines levels of long-term profitability in such industries is the ratio of supply-tight to supply-ample years. Frequently that ratio is dismal. (1982)

If…costs and prices are determined by full-bore competition, there is more than ample capacity, and the buyer cares little about whose product or distribution services he uses, industry economics are almost certain to be unexciting. They may well be disastrous. (1982)

In many industries, differentiation can’t be made meaningful

Hence the constant struggle of every vendor to establish and emphasize special qualities of product or service. This works with candy bars (customers buy by brand name, not by asking for a “two-ounce candy bar”) but doesn’t work with sugar (how often do you hear, “I’ll have a cup of coffee with cream and C & H sugar, please”). (1982)

Some make money but only if they are the low-cost operator

When a company is selling a product with commodity-like economic characteristics, being the low-cost producer is all-important. (2000)

A few producers in such industries may consistently do well if they have a cost advantage that is both wide and sustainable. By definition such exceptions are few, and, in many industries, are non-existent. (1982)

With superior management, a company may maintain its status as a low-cost operator for a much longer time, but even then unceasingly faces the possibility of competitive attack. And a business, unlike a franchise, can be killed by poor management. (1991)

Or find a protected niche

Someone operating in a protected, and usually small, niche can sustain high profitability levels. (1987)

Or when supply is tight

When shortages exist…even commodity businesses flourish. (1987)

But it may take time

Over-capacity may eventually self-correct, either as capacity shrinks or demand expands. Unfortunately for the participants, such corrections often are long delayed. (1982)

And it usually doesn’t last long

One of the ironies of capitalism is that most managers in commodity industries abhor shortage conditions—even though those are the only circumstances permitting them good returns. (1987)

When they finally occur, the rebound to prosperity frequently produces a pervasive enthusiasm for expansion that, within a few years, again creates over-capacity and a new profitless environment. In other words, nothing fails like success. (1982)

But in some industries, tightness in supply can last a long time

Sometimes actual growth in demand will outrun forecasted growth for an extended period. In other cases, adding capacity requires very long lead times because complicated manufacturing facilities must be planned and built. (1982)

Berkshire’s unfortunate experience with the textile industry

The domestic textile industry operates in a commodity business, competing in a world market in which substantial excess capacity exists. Much of the trouble we experienced was attributable, both directly and indirectly, to competition from foreign countries whose workers are paid a small fraction of the U.S. minimum wage. (1985)

And whatever improvements Berkshire did, competitors did

Slow capital turnover, coupled with low profit margins on sales, inevitably produces inadequate returns on capital. Obvious approaches to improved profit margins involve differentiation of product, lowered manufacturing costs through more efficient equipment or better utilization of people, redirection toward fabrics enjoying stronger market trends, etc. Our management is diligent in pursuing such objectives.

The problem, of course, is that our competitors are just as diligently doing the same thing. (1978)

Over the years, we had the option of making large capital expenditures in the textile operation that would have allowed us to somewhat reduce variable costs. Each proposal to do so looked like an immediate winner. Measured by standard return-on-investment tests, in fact, these proposals usually promised greater economic benefits than would have resulted from comparable expenditures in our highly-profitable candy and newspaper businesses. (1985)

I see the immediate but illusory benefits of the cost reductions. I don’t see competitive actions and that all the benefits go to the customer

But the promised benefits from these textile investments were illusory. Many of our competitors, both domestic and foreign, were stepping up to the same kind of expenditures and, once enough companies did so, their reduced costs became the baseline for reduced prices industry wide. Viewed individually, each company’s capital investment decision appeared cost-effective and rational; viewed collectively, the decisions neutralized each other and were irrational (just as happens when each person watching a parade decides he can see a little better if he stands on tiptoes). After each round of investment, all the players had more money in the game and returns remained anemic. (1985)

Thus, we faced a miserable choice: Huge capital investment would have helped to keep our textile business alive, but would have left us with terrible returns on ever-growing amounts of capital. After the investment, moreover, the foreign competition would still have retained a major, continuing advantage in labor costs. A refusal to invest, however, would make us increasingly non-competitive, even measured against domestic textile manufacturers. (1985)

This devastating outcome for the shareholders indicates what can happen when much brain power and energy are applied to a faulty premise. The situation is suggestive of Samuel Johnson’s horse:

“A horse that can count to ten is a remarkable horse—not a remarkable mathematician.” Likewise, a textile company that allocates capital brilliantly within its industry is a remarkable textile company—but not

a remarkable business. (1985)

An important lesson

We react with great caution to suggestions that our poor businesses can be restored to satisfactory profitability by major capital expenditures. (The projections will be dazzling and the advocates sincere, but, in the end, major additional investment in a terrible industry usually is about as rewarding as struggling in quicksand.) (An Owner’s Manual)

An important truth

In a business selling a commodity-type product, it’s impossible to be a lot smarter than your dumbest competitor. (1990)

But what if I buy a gruesome business at a real bargain?

If you buy a stock at a sufficiently low price, there will usually be some hiccup in the fortunes of the business that gives you a chance to unload at a decent profit, even though the long-term performance of the business may be terrible. I call this the “cigar butt” approach to investing. A cigar butt found on the street that has only one puff left in it may not offer much of a smoke, but the “bargain purchase” will make that puff all profit. (1989)

Don’t confuse “cheap” with a good deal

Unless you are a liquidator, that kind of approach to buying businesses is foolish. First, the original “bargain” price probably will not turn out to be such a steal after all. In a difficult business, no sooner is one problem solved than another surfaces—never is there just one cockroach in the kitchen. (1989)

Second, any initial advantage you secure will be quickly eroded by the low return that the business earns. For example, if you buy a business for $8 million that can be sold or liquidated for $10 million and promptly take either course, you can realize a high return. But the investment will disappoint if the business is sold for $10 million in ten years and in the interim has annually earned and distributed only a few percent on cost. Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre. (1989)

In some businesses, not even brilliant management helps

I’ve said many times that when a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is

the reputation of the business that remains intact. (1989)

Good jockeys will do well on good horses, but not on broken-down

nags. (1989)

When an industry’s underlying economics are crumbling, talented management may slow the rate of decline. Eventually, though, eroding fundamentals will overwhelm managerial brilliance. (As a wise friend told me long ago, “If you want to get a reputation as a good businessman, be sure to get into a good business.”) (2006)

My conclusion from my own experiences and from much observation of other businesses is that a good managerial record (measured by economic returns) is far more a function of what business boat you get into than it is of how effectively you row (though intelligence and effort help considerably, of course, in any business, good or bad). (1985)

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. (1985)

Turnarounds seldom turn or take longer than I expect

Both our operating and investment experience cause us to conclude that “turn-arounds” seldom turn, and that the same energies and talent are much better employed in a good business purchased at a fair price than in a poor business purchased at a bargain price. (1979)

But separate a general and permanent problem from an isolated and correctable problem and temporary setback—assuming it’s a great or good business

Extraordinary business franchises with a localized excisable cancer (needing, to be sure, a skilled surgeon), should be distinguished from the true “turnaround” situation in which the managers expect—and need—to pull off a corporate Pygmalion. (1980)

A great investment opportunity occurs when a marvelous business encounters a one-time huge, but solvable, problem as was the case many years back at both American Express and GEICO. Overall, however, we’ve done better by avoiding dragons than by slaying them. (1989)

All earnings are not created equal—Restricted earnings must often

be discounted heavily in capital intensive businesses

In many businesses particularly those that have high asset/profit ratios—inflation causes some or all of the reported earnings to become ersatz. The ersatz portion—let’s call these earnings “restricted”—cannot, if the business is to retain its economic position, be distributed as dividends. Were these earnings to be paid out, the business would lose ground in one or more of the following areas: Its ability to maintain its unit volume of sales, its long-term competitive position, its financial strength. No matter how conservative its payout ratio, a company that consistently distributes restricted earnings is destined for oblivion unless equity capital is otherwise infused. (1984)

Let’s turn to the much-more-valued unrestricted variety. These earnings may, with equal feasibility, be retained or distributed. In our opinion, management should choose whichever course makes greater sense for the owners of the business. (1984)

Unrestricted earnings should be retained only when there is a reasonable prospect—backed preferably by historical evidence or, when appropriate, by a thoughtful analysis of the future—that for every dollar retained by the corporation, at least one dollar of market value will be created for owners. This will happen only if the capital retained produces incremental earnings equal to, or above, those generally available to investors. (1984)



Retailing is a tough business… In part, this is because a retailer must stay smart, day after day. Your competitor is always copying and then topping whatever you do. Shoppers are meanwhile beckoned in every conceivable way to try a stream of new merchants. In retailing, to coast

is to fail. (1995)

In contrast to this have-to-be-smart-every-day business, there is what I call the have-to-be-smart-once business. For example, if you were smart enough to buy a network TV station very early in the game, you could put in a shiftless and backward nephew to run things, and the business would still do well for decades. (1995)

Fast changing industries can also be troublesome—even if I understand their products, it may be close to impossible to judge future competitive position and what can go wrong over time

Our criterion of “enduring” causes us to rule out companies in

industries prone to rapid and continuous change… A moat that must

be continuously rebuilt will eventually be no moat at all. (2007)

In the past, it required no brilliance for people to foresee the fabulous growth that awaited such industries as autos (in 1910), aircraft (in 1930) and television sets (in 1950). But the future then also included competitive dynamics that would decimate almost all of the companies entering those industries. Even the survivors tended to come away bleeding. (2009)

A business that constantly encounters major change also encounters many chances for major error. Furthermore, economic terrain that is forever shifting violently is ground on which it is difficult to build a fortress-like business franchise. Such a franchise is usually the key to sustained high returns. (1987)

And this includes technology—a few will make money but many will lose and it’s hard to see who does what in advance

A business that must deal with fast-moving technology is not going to lend itself to reliable evaluations of its long-term economics. (1993)

At Berkshire, we make no attempt to pick the few winners that will emerge from an ocean of unproven enterprises. We’re not smart enough to do that, and we know it. (2000)

Did we foresee thirty years ago what would transpire in the television-manufacturing or computer industries? Of course not. (Nor did most of the investors and corporate managers who enthusiastically entered those industries.) Why, then, should Charlie and I now think we can predict the future of other rapidly-evolving businesses? (1993)

Severe change and exceptional returns usually don’t go together.

Most investors, of course, behave as if just the opposite were true. That is, they usually confer the highest price-earnings ratios on exotic-sounding businesses that hold out the promise of feverish change.

That prospect lets investors fantasize about future profitability rather than face today’s business realities. For such investor-dreamers, any blind date is preferable to one with the girl next door, no matter how desirable she may be. (1987)

Just because Charlie and I can clearly see dramatic growth ahead for

an industry does not mean we can judge what its profit margins and returns on capital will be as a host of competitors battle for supremacy.

At Berkshire we will stick with businesses whose profit picture for decades to come seems reasonably predictable. Even then, we will make plenty of mistakes. (2009)

Our problem—which we can’t solve by studying up—is that we have

no insights into which participants in the tech field possess a truly durable competitive advantage. (1999)

And growth has its limits—no trees grow to the sky

In a finite world, high growth rates must self-destruct. If the base from which the growth is taking place is tiny, this law may not operate for a time. But when the base balloons, the party ends: A high growth rate eventually forges its own anchor. (1989)

For a major corporation to predict that its per-share earnings will grow over the long term at, say, 15% annually is to court trouble. That’s true because a growth rate of that magnitude can only be maintained by a very small percentage of large businesses. Here’s a test: Examine the record of, say, the 200 highest earning companies from 1970 or 1980 and tabulate how many have increased per-share earnings by 15% annually since those dates. You will find that only a handful have. I would wager you a very significant sum that fewer than 10 of the 200 most profitable companies in 2000 will attain 15% annual growth in earnings-per-share over the next 20 years. (2000)

We readily acknowledge that there has been a huge amount of true value created in the past decade by new or young businesses, and that there is much more to come. But value is destroyed, not created, by any business that loses money over its lifetime, no matter how high its interim valuation may get. (2000)

Our lack of tech insights, we should add, does not distress us. After all, there are a great many business areas in which Charlie and I have no special capital-allocation expertise. For instance, we bring nothing to the table when it comes to evaluating patents, manufacturing processes or geological prospects. So we simply don’t get into judgments in those fields. (1999)


We believe managers and investors alike should view intangible assets from two perspectives: (1983)

When you evaluate the attractiveness of a business look at the return on net tangible assets

(1) In analysis of operating results—that is, in evaluating the underlying economics of a business unit-amortization charges should be ignored. What a business can be expected to earn on unleveraged net tangible assets, excluding any charges against earnings for amortization of Goodwill, is the best guide to the economic attractiveness of the operation. It is also the best guide to the current value of the operation’s economic Goodwill. (1983)

Goodwill should not be amortized, but written off when necessary

(2) In evaluating the wisdom of business acquisitions, amortization charges should be ignored also. They should be deducted neither from earnings nor from the cost of the business. This means forever viewing purchased Goodwill at its full cost, before any amortization. Furthermore, cost should be defined as including the full intrinsic business value—not just the recorded accounting value—of all consideration given, irrespective of market prices of the securities involved at the time of merger and irrespective of whether pooling treatment was allowed. (1983)

Operations that appear to be winners based upon perspective (1) may pale when viewed from perspective (2). A good business is not always a good purchase—although it’s a good place to look for one. (1983)

We will try to acquire businesses that have excellent operating economics measured by (1) and that provide reasonable returns measured by (2). Accounting consequences will be totally ignored. (1983)


Let’s translate the analysis into a simple question: Does the business have something people need or want now and in the future (demand), that no one else has (competitive advantage) or can copy, take away or get now and in the future (sustainable) and can these advantages be translated into business value?

Investors should remember that their scorecard is not computed using Olympic-diving methods: Degree-of-difficulty doesn’t count. If you are right about a business whose value is largely dependent on a single key factor that is both easy to understand and enduring, the payoff is the same as if you had correctly analyzed an investment alternative characterized by many constantly shifting and complex variables. (1994)

The truly big investment idea can usually be explained in a short paragraph. (1994)

Distinguish what matters from what doesn’t—Try to figure out the key factors that make the business succeed or fail. A few examples:


Our main business…is insurance. To understand Berkshire, therefore, it is necessary that you understand how to evaluate an insurance company. The key determinants are: (1) The amount of float that the business generates; (2) Its cost; and (3) Most critical of all, the long-term outlook for both of these factors. (1999)

The most important ingredient in GEICO’s success is rock-bottom operating costs, which set the company apart from literally hundreds of competitors that offer auto insurance. (1986)

Because of the company’s low costs, its policyholders were consistently profitable and unusually loyal. (2010)


Within this environment the News has one exceptional strength: its acceptance by the public, a matter measured by the paper’s “penetration ratio”—the percentage of households within the community purchasing the paper each day… We believe a paper’s penetration ratio to be the best measure of the strength of its franchise. (1983)

A large and intelligently-utilized news hole…attracts a wide spectrum of readers and thereby boosts penetration. High penetration, in turn, makes a newspaper particularly valuable to retailers since it allows them to talk to the entire community through a single “megaphone.” A low-penetration paper is a far less compelling purchase for many advertisers and will eventually suffer in both ad rates and profits. (1989)


We regard the most important measure of retail trends to be units sold per store rather than dollar volume. (1983)

NFM [Nebraska Furniture Mart] and Borsheim’s [Fine Jewelry] follow precisely the same formula for success: (1) unparalleled depth and breadth of merchandise at one location; (2) the lowest operating costs in the business; (3) the shrewdest of buying, made possible in part by the huge volumes purchased; (4) gross margins, and therefore prices, far below competitors’; and (5) friendly personalized service with family members on hand at all times. (1989)


Both of us are enthusiastic about BNSF’s future because railroads have major cost and environmental advantages over trucking, their main competitor. Last year BNSF moved each ton of freight it carried a record 500 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. That’s three times more fuel-efficient than trucking is, which means our railroad owns an important advantage in operating costs. (2010)

To sum up the great, good and gruesome

To sum up, think of three types of “savings accounts.” The great one pays an extraordinarily high interest rate that will rise as the years pass. The good one pays an attractive rate of interest that will be earned also on deposits that are added. Finally, the gruesome account both pays an inadequate interest rate and requires you to keep adding money at those disappointing returns. (2007)

Business experience, direct and vicarious, produced my present strong preference for businesses that possess large amounts of enduring Goodwill and that utilize a minimum of tangible assets. (1983)

Published with permission from Post Scriptum AB.

### For the comments: Do you have any favorite investment or investor quotes? ###

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87 Replies to “Exclusive Warren Buffett – A Few Lessons for Investors and Managers”

  1. I’m glad there are people that know this kind of stuff, but it’s like reading about paint drying for me.

    There are plenty of people that would say that about my chosen field of expertise: Nutritional Endocrinology.

    You inspired me, Tim.

  2. Huge fan of Warren Buffett – live his philosophies on investing and business in general. Definitely try to incorporate them into my own financial plans. Thanks for the great post!


  3. Great post. I’m always looking to soak up as much information as I can find on Buffet and Munger’s thought processes.

    1. Hey Jamie, have you read “Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger”? If you’re really interested in their wisdom – that is a dense book, packed full of it!

  4. Great post, lots and lots of info in there to digest later. Stuff like this becomes way more relevant when the global economy is in the state it is now.

  5. Why not invest your assets in the companies you really like? As Mae West said, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful”. – Warren Buffet

    Pretty simple advice. Invest in what you believe in.

    1. Yeah, Chris – I’ve found that following the advice or picks of someone else, even if they are an expert, leaves me worse off, and with little to no satisfaction with the wins. I feel much better investing in an area I am comfortable with and in companies and products I really support.

  6. Tim, when will you be on quarterly.co? I still don’t see you listed as a contributor.

    Love this type of article! I’m setting this aside for reading tonight. Must go back to work!

    1. I’ll have much more up on Quarterly.co in a few weeks. We want it to be really kick-ass and are assembling everything. More soon.

      Thanks for the comments, all!


  7. “And this includes technology—a few will make money but many will lose and it’s hard to see who does what in advance”

    I completely agree with this. I think a lot of bad startups/tech companies are being funded right now and people are throwing money at them blindly. I think a lot of people are going to lose a lot of money in doing this, and it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

    While many startups/tech companies have “cool” ideas, I believe the inability to monetize these companies will ultimately end up loosing people a lot of money.

    However, the “few” ideas that do work are going to make some people very rich.

    But I agree with Berkshires strategy of not trying to predict the few companies that will succeed, as it is just to hard, which is why I stick to currency trading.

  8. It’s difficult to find true investing information and although it might not be as “entertaining” as some of your other posts, its immensely valuable and I’m glad you shared it!

  9. thanks for the post. great investing info. however, would be interested to see how you reconcile this with the tech venture business and IPO business which has nothing to do with Buffets approach to investing. Facebook being a great example, doubt Buffet is to impressed with the hoard of extremely weathy insiders dumping their shares to investor lemmings in the IPO.

  10. Lets not forget that Buffett lost his ass in the newspaper business, these are mostly a thing of the past and will be dinosaured shortly.

    I agree with Buffett on many things (the organics of business) but I believe he lacks vision now, especially in new technologies and the global economy. These have all changed and he has not, he like the newspaper will be a dinosaur.


    Within this environment the News has one exceptional strength: its acceptance by the public, a matter measured by the paper’s “penetration ratio”—the percentage of households within the community purchasing the paper each day… We believe a paper’s penetration ratio to be the best measure of the strength of its franchise. (1983)

    A large and intelligently-utilized news hole…attracts a wide spectrum of readers and thereby boosts penetration. High penetration, in turn, makes a newspaper particularly valuable to retailers since it allows them to talk to the entire community through a single “megaphone.” A low-penetration paper is a far less compelling purchase for many advertisers and will eventually suffer in both ad rates and profits. (1989)

  11. So glad to see Tim opening some new eyes to Peter’s great compilation. I was lucky enough to interview Peter twice for my blog (Value Investing World) in 2007 and 2009.

  12. SM, good questions.

    To my mind, they are parallel in some respects, as least speaking personally. Buffett sticks to what he knows. I also (in tech) stick to what I know and invest only where I have an informational advantage that allows me to “buy” at a discount. Despite the Facebook IPO woes, I’m still strongly in the money. Only time will tell, of course… 🙂

    One thing to also keep in mind. Henry Ford (I believe) once said: “You can set the price if I can set the terms.” Don’t forget that not all shares are alike. For example, if you have preferred stock with liquidation preferences, what appears to be a minor success from the outside can be a huge success to early participants. This also doesn’t count secondary options for selling stock.

    I try not to participate in the “greater fool” economy, but there are good opportunities for people close to the worlds in which they trade. Suffice to say: never, never, never invest in something you don’t understand better than the majority.

    All the best,


  13. I’ve always been a fan of Warren’s advice on moats. It applies no matter what you do, whether running a business or just building a name for yourself. You’ve got to identify those unique factors that make you as irreplaceable as possible and make sure those come across in what you do.

  14. Warren Buffett recommended the best book I’ve ever read on investing called “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham. http://www.amazon.com/The-Intelligent-Investor-Definitive-Investing/dp/0060555661. As many people know, Graham was a mentor of Buffett’s. I look forward to reading this book and continuing my education on value investing.

    I’ve owned BRK-B for years and look forward to picking up a copy of “A Few Lessons for Investors and Managers from Warren E. Buffett.”

  15. +1 for Cam’s book recommendation!

    Also: Tim, do you know the reasons behind Peter Bevelin not publishing his books for the kindle?

  16. It’s more useful to read originals (I mean Warren Buffet letters to shareholders) cause a lot of things can be better understood when they are in the context.

  17. Warren Buffet will always serve as a model for investing consistency based on simple principles. I’ve been more entertained by his comments in recent years by his philosophy than his actual investment actions. You got to love a guy who keeps his sense of humor and wisdom through the toughest to times.

  18. This is so exhaustive. I really appreciate you putting the time and effort to keep this blog going strong where so many would fall off over the years. It’s helped and inspired so many people and this is just another great addition to the many cool posts you’ve written.

    My favorite part here is about economic good will.

    Thanks for taking the time,


  19. Looks like a very good book.

    I’m days away from releasing one similar to it, written with Warren Buffett’s permission* “Gems from Warren Buffett – Wit and Wisdom from 34 Years of Letters to Shareholders” – http://gemsfrombuffett.com

    Mr. Buffett’s letters add up to more than 415,000 words, so it’s interesting to see what quotes Peter Bevelin has chosen out of all that.

    So far, I like everything I’ve read and it looks like he’s done a great job.

    *My deal with Mr. Buffett is that 20% of sales (not just profits) go to a charity he supports.

  20. Tim,

    You should entertain the idea of looking at Morningstar’s Institutional Equity Research. The ‘Moat’ is the cornerstone of the methodology and will give you access to the work of more than 90 analysts. Outsourcing at its best. This sort of access, ensure ideas that have competitive advantages and that have a margin of safety built in. I’d be happy to speak further offline on how the research product can help.

    I’ve been a fan of your book and hope to hear from you. I’ve been waiting for a chance to intro myself.

  21. The quote about value from Mr. Buffett’s 2000 letter struck me as being one of the prime reasons that he has been, is, and always will be heads and shoulders above the crop of large public company executives and venture (“vulture”) capitalists that have run much of corporate America since the 1980’s take over boom. The quote I’m referencing is “…value is destroyed, not created, by any business that loses money over its lifetime, no matter how high its interim valuation may get. (2000)”. The short term orientation of executive reward systems and the resulting focus on doing anything and everything to increase immediate stock market share prices (which have come to be accepted as the quick view proxy of “value”), has been instrumental in the seemingly continual occurrence of ethic failures; fraudulent financial reporting; and poorly thought-out “me to” cost slashing, head count reduction, and outsourcing that can seriously compromise a business’ long term growth, sustainability, and ability to react/adapt to/take advantage of changes in business climate and economic opportunities. The key is value over the life of the business, not shortening the life of the business by methods that produce a share price increase tomorrow and business failure the next day (or at least shortly thereafter).

    Kudos to Mr. Buffett. Let’s pray that he and Mr. Munger and those who follow their investment philosophies/practices are around for many more years as reminders to the financial technocrats in corporate executive positions of what real value creation is like.

  22. “Never Never invest in something you don’t understand better than the Majority”

    True words, but most of us do it every day. We go to school to invest in a degree without understanding and that Sally Mae will soon come knocking, we go get a job and spend the time that we should be investing from 9-5. Even after reading the 4HWW people still will need jobs, but have to learn to transition properly.

    Having a Job requires HIGH CAPITAL INTENSITY. thats the way we hedge the bets. I started applying many of the principles that i learned in 4HWW to get a better job paying more money (16% raise) and now i have more free time at work to continue learning. It was this kind of learning that lead to the desire to create americanjobjourney.com its been a great way to prepare people to be able to follow the conversation.

    Investment and capital does not always mean cash… thank you for investing your time in people.


    1. You are so right about this, Joseph! There is hardly a thought given to the $40-80K it costs to get a higher education degree just to get a job that soaks up all your time and does not allow you to do anything else.

      It’s so important to do something that allows time for other pursuits, acquiring new knowledge and skills, and developing new dreams.

  23. To Everyone,

    Warren’s life’s work helps crystallize some of the most important ways of growing a business.

    The title of his book Snowball is a perfect analogy for strong business growth.

    One quote I remember from Snowball goes like this

    “it can take you years to build a positive reputation and minutes to lose it”

    I love simplicity and how it powers business and life.

    What client can you not inspire by saying ‘thank you for buying from us, what relationship can you not inspire by saying ‘thank you’ for your presence in my life.

    All the best,


  24. Thanks for another great post Tim. I hope to make it to a BH shareholders meeting someday soon.

    I was curious what brainquicken.com looked like when you started so I checked it out via Wayback Machine. Awesome site, especially for ’02!

  25. The funny thing about value investing is that it makes you a better business person. It forces you to look at all aspects of a business. I have been reading book about Warren Buffett for years. All investors should read his yearly letters to the shareholders.

    Good post.

  26. Great advice for business sellers planning their exit too. Everything Buffet advises for evaluating a good investment – is the advice every business should apply to become that good investment, becoming buyer ready and buyer attractive.

    Thank you Tim/Peter for organizing/sharing this here.

  27. Would love to see some examples that bear this out

    “In a business selling a commodity-type product, it’s impossible to be a lot smarter than your dumbest competitor.”

    1. Take the airline industry as an example where the competition’s pricing influences pricing.

      Let me quote Warren Buffett from the 1990 annual report:

      “ In making the USAir purchase, your Chairman displayed exquisite timing: I plunged into the business at almost the exact moment that it ran into severe problems. (No one pushed me; in tennis parlance, I committed an “unforced error.”) The company’s troubles were brought on both by industry conditions and by the post-merger difficulties it encountered in integrating Piedmont, an affliction I should have expected since almost all airline mergers have been followed by operational turmoil.

      In short order, Ed Colodny and Seth Schofield resolved the second problem: The airline now gets excellent marks for service. Industry-wide problems have proved to be far more serious. Since our purchase, the economics of the airline industry have deteriorated at an alarming pace, accelerated by the kamikaze pricing tactics of certain carriers. The trouble this pricing has produced for all carriers illustrates an important truth: In a business selling a commodity-type product, it’s impossible to be a lot smarter than your dumbest competitor.”

  28. This is great information, and taken as great advice may mean giving up on a lifetime invested in a business segment that offers virtually no upside, a lot of risk, and ties up capital for little gain. Some time must be dedicated to really thinking about what direction you’re going, and maybe jumping to a better track.

  29. Could someone explain what is meant by Goodwill? I didn’t understand its meaning and know it doesn’t mean good intentions! My understanding is enduring goodwill means the customer continually derives high value from the very product or service.

    Great run-down on investing from the best. Learned a lot. Many lessons I knew from running a business, but never even thought of applying to an investment – duh!

  30. I’ve always thought of Warren Buffett as a “Black Swan”. Not to take credit away from his talent, but I think he has more patience than business acumen. Even today with billions of dollars fluctuating up and down he remains patient. The guy has seen it all and he truly is one of a kind.

    Great write up Tim, once again.

  31. Warren Buffet cannot help you. There are only a few people capable of playing at the same level as Warren Buffet. He has been a millionaire since the 1960’s, and a billionaire since 1990, which is out of reach of 95% of the world’s population. This is not the 1960’s or 1990. I’m 99.5% sure that none of the readers here are Warren Buffet himself or possess the same skill-set/opportunity/experience he had in the 1960’s, 1990 or the present. So surprisingly, this post is pretty much noise instead of content.

    I know some people think calling Warren Buffet’s material irrelevant is blasphemy, and should be followed by a burning at the stake of the offender. But think about it. How many quotes, anecdotes, and clever sayings actually measurably helped you up til now? Because if they had any magical power as people claim, we should all be billionaires living utopia by now.

    We must look at it as it is. People’s fascination with Warren Buffet is pretty much the same as with Justion Beiber or the Kadashians, and it is just as useless. There is no harm if we understand his material as just that. However, if we deity him and his work, we’ll just destroy ourselves.

    That being said, Warren Buffet is the dear of grand papi of most businessowners/investors/newsoutlets. What he says pretty much goes. If he says the U.S economy is going to comeback, people start investing in the market. If he buys silver, people by silver. If he plays the ukelele at his stockholders meeting, people go “awww”. He is irrelevant to most people on this earth, but we will miss his goofiness when he is gone.

    Stay healthy, Warren. I know it takes 3.5 million to have lunch with you, so we’ll never have lunch, ever. But you’re pretty much the only interesting thing in state of Omaha, and forks need the tourist business. 🙂

    1. David,

      Respectfully, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although, your post is simply just that, an opinion. Tim’s post is not just clever sayings and quotes and the post is not just noise. In fact, if you want noise – watch CNBC and listen to Wall Street Analysts. This is noise.

      The post implies a simple message. Buy companies that have a ‘Moat’, that have a clear embedded sustainable competitive advantage. Then buy these companies opportunistically when a margin of safety is built in.

      Interestingly enough Buffet’s strategy can work more than ever. Over the past several decades, Wall Street has seen a shift from privately managed money to institutional managed money. Much of the money today is managed by professional investors. You would think that this would make investing for the common investor that much harder. It’s just the opposite. Unfortunately, these so ‘professional’ investors are judged on their daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly performance. These investors cannot participate in the purchase of these companies during trough cycles. There employment would be short-lived. This often leads to Moaty companies, that are out of favor, being punished unfairly.

      This is where Warren comes in. Your’e correct, most people, don’t possess the same skill-set/opportunity/experience that Warren has. Oddly enough, it’s not because they don’t possess the ability to do the work; it’s because most don’t have the discipline.

      I tried to leave my opinion out of this post as I really don’t have much of an opinion on Warren. I do however believe in fundamental investing.

      These are my 2 cents. Hopefully, no offense has been taken.

      1. Thank you, Michael. Yes, what I wrote was my opinion. What you wrote (well written) was your opinion. What Tim(or his VAs or guests) post in his(their) opinion. What Warren Buffet say is also his opinion. What I dislike is people’s tendency to deity individuals and take their word as gospel without thinking things thru. Warren Buffet and Tim Ferriss can be terribly wrong, or dishonest. Since I didn’t have the pleasure to know either of them in person or had the opportunity of examine their financials thoroughly, I still have to be on my toes. Even very intelligent people suspend common sense and critical thinking when information if given in story form or given by someone famous. I think that is a big mistake.

        That being said, I do find Tim’s material to be dishonest at times. Too spectacle driven and too commercial under the guise of benefiting the readers. (did anyone else have to burn an address to get the “free” videos and materials?) Bloggers, authors and gurus are the new noise makers occupying the internet medium. So I am extra careful with tim’s, seth godin’s, and derek shiver’s posts. They are master storytellers. To think that they will not used that skill on you will be a bit naive. They can’t really be on your side when they don’t even know who you are.

        I’ve met a lot of professional investors but not enough individual investors. So it wouldn’t be fair to comment on your statement regarding investing in the market.

        My point with Warren Buffet is that what he does isn’t as critical to the average person or investor as it is perceived to be. I don’t automatically believe in what Warren Buffet says. But I do believe a lot of people do and move accordingly.

        I share your dislike of MSNBC and the other media outlets. However, we do have to consider that Warren Buffet(and Tim Ferriss, I think) appeared on MSNBC. Again caution, common sense, critical thinking are the keywords.

        I really liked your comment and enjoyed replying to the best of my abilities. Have a wonderful day.

  32. Buffet’s financial rating company MOODY’s made the entire mortgage meltdown possible.

    If it wasn’t for MOODY’s ratings real estate backed securities would never have been though of as AAA equivalent to US treasury bonds.

    Warren appears to be a good businessman, but is he really?

  33. I remember a few years ago Buffet gave away a large part of his fortune to Bill Gates for the Gates Foundation. Looks like Buffet has earned it all the way back and then some

  34. I am curious what do you think of Warren Buffett’s comment on holding the precious metal. 2011 shareholder meeting, Warren Buffett made a snide comment about holding the gold such as bullion, bars, or in any form?

    This was the first time in my life, I disagree with Buffett and joined the ranks who incorporating investment in precious metal as a hedge to the bankrupting monetary system which we are see it unfolding right now in Euro Zone and USA.

    1. I think Buffett sees himself as a part of the economic-political establishment and doesn’t want people to panic. Let’s not forget that in the last years he has profited a lot from buying shares of financial institutions that were later bailed out by the government.

      The long-term government’s plan is to kill the dollar incrementally (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeIFcuVTS3U) in order to reduce the public debt burden and reduce labor costs in the U.S. They’re starting to implement financial repression and they want people to stay in stocks, bonds and cash. They want an incremental process and they don’t want people suddenly panicking and abandoning the dollar in favor of precious metals.

      And I would guess that Buffett thinks that because of his position in society he has to help prevent a collapse of the U.S. financial system in the coming years by preventing people from abandoning it in droves. I’m sure Buffett himself knows what’s up as his father was an advocate of the gold standard (http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig12/buffett1.1.1.html)

  35. Buffett was born in 1930 and started investing during the post-WW II economic boom that pretty much has been going on until today. He has been through one secular bear-market in stocks (end of 1960s-1982) which was also a period of high inflation and later stagflation – but it wasn’t a major crisis.

    So it’s been pretty much smooth sailing and his approach to investing coupled with his intelligence has produced great results. But now the times have changed and the U.S. is heading towards a major economic crisis that will end in a big default on public and private debt probably through hyperinflation and then currency reform. This will create a new paradigm where the most important question will be “How do I preserve the value of my assets when everything’s going down?”

  36. I find it interesting that some people “agree” with Warren Buffett or calling him a dinosaur. Being at present the worlds 4th richest man and the most successful investor known to human kind I really think it’s serious understatement calling him a dinosaur. As far as agreeing with him, hey guys, whatever this man says even today it’s DOGMA !!!

    Great post Tim keep them coming !!!

  37. It seems even the great man himself uses simple, common-sense principles to gain wealth.

    I would like to see an experiment with what he would do with 5000 dollars today. Its obvious that money grows money, but lets see a challenge.

  38. Tim,

    I’m an engineer at SpaceX, just had some parts on the Dragon that went and docked with the ISS. I think we’re on the verge of achieving the first point above about a great business. (THE REALLY GREAT BUSINESS: High returns, a sustainable competitive advantage and obstacles that make it tough for new companies to enter). We currently definitely have the latter two and are working hard to achieve the third.

    On another note, if you’d ever like a tour of our facility in LA to see the Dragons that went up and the current builds let me know, I’d be happy to take you.


  39. Ok– first off I do not invest in the stock market. Having studied the markets for 20 years, I believe that 99% of those who invest in the market do not understand it.

    Many who swear by it make very little on the post tax dollars that they invest (not to mention that you are taxed heavily on your returns). When you subtract 2% for inflation you make very little. The managers who manage your money make significant profits off of your money and give you a little of what is left over.

    Why would you invest like this? You might not understand the management of your capital and you don’t know the fund managers who are in charge of your money. You are able to hold NO ONE accountable for their performance. Most of you guys would probably be better off in investing in hard investments, real estate, local bonds, local businesses, etc. don’t get me wrong you have to read and study diligently in order to even understand these investments– however you may have a greater likelihood of attaining financial success.

    Reading about sensationalized investment gods in order to learn about investment decisions is about as helpful as watching ESPN in order to learn basketball.

    Tim i applaud your dedication to this blog but please “keep it real”. The catchy headlines and lack of original content are killing some of us out here. Please stick to what you know and then show your readers. Hopefully the next 4 hour…. will be as good as the 4HWW. Heaven knows the 4HB needed some additional work. Thanks.

  40. This is a great post. I’ve listened to many books on Warren Buffett while driving–he is a great businessman.

  41. Hey Tim,

    Not sure where to post this but I was wondering: will the new book (4HC) talk about learning the “science” part of skills or the “art” – or both?

    For example, deconstructing guitar into individual techniques, identifying the ones necessary to play the music you want to play, and drilling those to mastery (the “science” part) vs. writing a song using those skills (the “art” part).


  42. Favorite Buffett quote:

    “Take a job that you love. 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?”

  43. I relocated and worked 3 months early last summer for a Berkshire Hathaway company. My thought was a BH Company should be well run…. well, it turned out to be reeking with nepotism, weak inexperienced management and a seemingly poor understanding of the manufacturer to dealer sales process. There was no concept of long term growth – the only concern was where you were at at the end of the month.

    I decided that it was not a good idea for me to stay and now a year later I am still being contacted by dealers who have obviously not been contacted or followed up on.

    If that is good business, then no wonder WB is rich and I am not.

    1. Jim,

      It seems you experienced first hand how poorly some of his companies are run.

      As long as they make a profit he leaves them alone.

      If BH really cared for the stock holders they would make sure the companies maximize profits and maximize returns on capital.

      You saw how much gets left on the table, so maybe that is opportunity knocking.

  44. Warren Buffet will always serve as a model for investing consistency based on simple principles. I’ve been more entertained by his comments in recent years by his philosophy than his actual investment actions. You got to love a guy who keeps his sense of humor and wisdom through the toughest to times.

  45. I admire Warren Buffett’s investing skill. So much I bought and enjoyed the book by Mark Tier titled “The Winning Investment Habits of Warren Buffett and George Soros.” But I had considered that Buffett contained certain “contradictions” that belied his rather avuncular image. What then made me feel this even more firmly was a very insightful article by Mark Tier—at his website—titled WARREN BUFFET’S “SPLIT PERSONALITY.” It’s worth reading (at the following link) http://marktier.com/InvestorsEdge/WarrenBuffettSplitPersonality.php

  46. I think that whenever enough people wake up to the fact that the dollar has lost 98% of its value in less than 100 years, and that the Fed has printed more money in the last 5 years than the government has run up in 200+ years of debt… the securities game is going to be a lot less believable. Poof… gone. Who’s Warren Buffett?

    I’m looking forward to the soon-to-come collapse of the banking system and stock market because it will clean out the fraud and monopolies and make room for freedom, free trade, and the ability of the small businessperson to raise money freely again. All those things were absolutely required for the U.S. to become the wealthiest country in the world from about 1860-1905. Returning to those circumstances with our higher level of technology and wealth now is going to be very exciting!

  47. Totally off topic but I don’t have a twitter account.


    Just Started reading your book and today emailed the CEO of wireless company my idea. Within minutes I received a response from the VP of Marketing. Even if this is as far it goes, it shows that persistence pays off and that you just need get outside of your comfort zone. Thank you.

  48. Good Gawd Tim, I just stumbled onto this post – amazing. I’ve been a Buffett fan since reading “The Buffett Way” in the late 90’s. I thought I’d learn a bit about Margaritaville back then, but was pleasantly surprised. Since I read his book, I’ve managed to amass very little in the way of fortune, but am still plugging away. His comments in the post about See’s Candy is worth the price of admission…great insight into the inner thoughts of a true genius.

  49. Thank you for the heads up on this book Tim. I’ve long been fascinated by Buffet and am always interested to hear his perspective on any issue. The Charlie Rose interview is great. As is the biography, Snowball. Charlie Munger’s book Damn Right! is very interesting as well.

    One of my favorite Buffet quotes is:

    “You can’t make a good deal with a lousy person.”

  50. I cannot wait to read the whole book, just what you have shared with us is amazing. My favorite tidbit of knowledge was one of the smallest section, the power of finding a niche. When you know your niche it is like fishing in a deep well, lots of fish and very little competition. Thank you for reminding me of that.

  51. Warren is such an awesome person. Though I love Richard Branson so much and he is a great guy. Warren is also good too but I really don’t do investing stuff.


  52. Too many people, in these comment section, are hell bent on criticizing WB.

    But just a deep breath and think if a person can make $40-50 billion in his lifetime, his lessons are worth something.

    Rightly said, we may not understand all of it, simply because we(or many of us) dont have the experience, insight or skill to even read and fully comprehend what he said.

    After all his worth is few million times more than most of us here as well as his critics.

    Realistically speaking, its utter stupidity for most of us to think we are in same intellect level as Warren Buffett. I know this hurts the ego. But its as if monkey’s criticizing human decisions, just because monkey’s thought they are equal to humans as they same number of limbs.

  53. This is a great post – I always try to come up with my own list of bullets for the “ideal business” – but it’s great to hear one of the best business minds in history give his viewpoint.

    Recurring revenue, global audience, blue ocean.

    Mr. Buffett operates on a different level, but it’s great to apply his values to where we invest our time and $.

  54. I found this vaguely epic.Its turn of ideas. As delivered by your head and heart.

    Adept in its distillation of all the most recent up-to-date Buffet-isms.

    A complex-beast of a man, this Buffet, for you to whittle-down so well, as you have done here, is a task of endurance if anything, and a feat or even test.

    You’ve devoted great time and energy in this pursuit, I see.

    You have, obvious for some, mulled over his huckleberry-wits and Franklin sageness for more than four hours. Otherwise your choice of emphasis in this article, wouldn’t be so careful, reflective, subtle and so fully precise in its clarity.

    You’ve suffered a bit, in learning all these lessons. So it feels like you have this serious dedication to peeling back the noise, finding the pearls and rejecting the swine.

    I applaud your efforts. Congratulations on your progress. Know that its still early beginnings. Go into the future forthwith Tim, as the tide still turns, with you in it. What is your next choice?

    Do not fall into falsehood, please.

  55. Your post title attract me lot and whole post is very useful i love to read Warren Buffet lessons I see him like an institute of business where you learn all about things business related to get success.

  56. Tim, I agree with all of your posts, however, Warren Buffets style of investing is not applicable for the ‘everyday’ man. He speaks of the fundamentals which sound great, especially when you have his connections, but that is nowhere near realistic. There are more advanced/modern methods of investing, rather, trading that really produce wealth.

  57. It is fine to talk about finding your niche and cornering your market but why are all of these pronouncements devoid of ideas about cooperation and community? Why are our generation of Western (and now Eastern) capitalists so in thrall to the ubiquity of the philosophy? In short – are we so narrow minded that we accept this way of living and organising society as the be all and end all, unbeatable.

  58. Warren Buffett, with an estimated fortune of $52 billion, is the third richest man in the world. But Buffett doesn’t possess a retail empire, a brand of oil well, unlike other billionaires who have been featured in Forbes; he simply has plenty of share certificates. Being able to identify hidden golden opportunities and making long-term investments in companies, that he believed were worth more than their market value, has made this 81-year-old man one of the wisest and most successful investors in the world as per Warren Buffett Book.

    In Berkshire Hathaway Class, A shares were just $15 when he first took over the company way back in 1965 and by the end of August 2011, one share was valued at $103,500. Even though this may seem extremely simple, surviving in the cacophonous world of the stock market takes determination, conviction, discipline and nerves of steel, while sticking to a sound investment strategy. You might not have billions of dollars to invest, but learning a few guidelines from this Oracle of Omaha can pay you big dividends. Warren Buffett has never written a book explaining his investment style, but a lot can be gathered from the annual shareholder letters, he sends to his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett believes that the investor should feel that he is actually buying the business in it’s entirety, rather than viewing the purchase of shares as gambling bargaining chips. Due to this reason, he looks for a durable competitive edge, quality management, and low capital expenditures. Many companies with a strong brand name, such as McDonald’s, Cocoa Cola and Gillette feature his holdings.

  59. This makes me want to read more of what buffet has wrote. It seems he’s pretty no-nonsesne type of guy. I appreciate that he gives his insight so freely.

  60. Warren Buffet is an inspiration to every investor and to the whole business world and I am no exception to it. Well researched and excellently put.. there should be a PDF version for this as well.

  61. Thanks for bring this up. Investing in my financial education is the one I’m looking first and I’m doing it now by reading this post. Excellent post!.

  62. Fantastic article, Tim!

    Thanks for sharing the intricacies of this book; I believe you’ve highlighted the most important parts, such as:

    1. Being wary about the quality of your business, according to BH’s guidelines

    2. Knowing when to spot a turnaround, or solve a centralized problem

    3. Understanding & predicting rapid growth, preparing for it, and staying in your circles of competence/knowing your limits

    I always appreciate the in-depth lessons from Buffett & Munger, and really got lots of value out of Poor Charlie’s Almanack too.

    Keep crushing it brother!

    – Evan

  63. Fantastic post, thank you Tim. As a long time Buffett/Munger admirer I just published a book about Berkshire’s recent entry into the quagmire of American healthcare — Buffett and company are applying the same principles that made him one of the richest men in America to fix healthcare. Those interested in healthcare, or those who are simply Buffett or Munger fans may enjoy. (p.s. I’m the author of Tripping Over the Truth — forward by Dominic D’Agostino, a frequent Tim Ferris guest.).

    [Moderator: Amazon link removed.]