This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, or the “Woodstock of Capitalism” as it is frequently described. Now, more than three decades on from the first annual meeting, this event draws more than 40,000 shareholders to the CenturyLink Center in downtown Omaha each May. People travel from as far afield as China and Australia, and there are many investors who have this event on their calendar each year. We actually met one gentleman who was attending for the eighteenth consecutive year, now that’s dedication!
The festivities start on Friday with an afternoon of discounted shopping opportunities with many subsidiaries of Berkshire Hathaway including Fruit of the Loom, Geico, Dairy Queen, and the increasingly popular Sees Candy. Saturday starts with the shareholders video followed by approximately 5 hours of Q&A with Chairman and CEO, Warren Buffet, and vice-chairman Charlie Munger. Then things get a little more relaxed with a family picnic at the incredible Nebraska Furniture Mart, and conclude with a family 5k fun run on Sunday morning.
I will be the first to admit that I didn’t know much about these two gentlemen, apart from what I had heard from my husband about them. He has read a lot of materials regarding these two incredible businessmen over the past couple of years and he has the utmost respect for them due to the way that they go about their business. No short cuts taken, transparency throughout, long term thinking and most of all, enjoying every step of their journey!
Here are 6 of my husband’s favorite Warren Buffet quotes that prompted us to take the 3 hour trip north from Kansas City to Omaha:
(3) Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.
(4) We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds.
(5) If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don’t care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster.
After hearing Warren and Charlie speak, I can completely understand why my husband is always keen to listen to or read the latest thoughts from these incredible minds. What makes everything even more incredible is the fact that Buffet and Munger have a combined age of 179! Munger is 93, and Buffet is the baby of the organization at the tender age of 86. The pair compliment each other so well, and were able to captivate the audience from start to finish with economical insights, controversial statements and humor. When asked about what he dreams of, Munger quipped, “Sometimes when I am especially wistful, I think ‘Oh, to be 90 again”. After seeing this comedy double act in action this weekend, I would be happy if I had half of their wit as an octogenarian or nonagenarian!
One of the most remarkable aspects of the weekend was the way Buffett and Munger distilled their replies to complex, technical questions into eloquent and thought provoking nuggets of wisdom that even novice investors such as myself could understand. Saturday’s Q & A included discussions on topics such as the current political climate, what driverless vehicles and AI mean for Berkshire Hathaway’s businesses, and what to expect the energy industry to look like a decade from now.
Here are some of Buffet’s and Munger’s quotes which really caught my attention this weekend:
(1) On increasing productivity and 3G’s involvement with Kraft-Heinz: “We don’t enjoy the process at all of getting more productive. Because it’s unpleasant … It’s just not as much fun to be in a business that cuts job as one that adds jobs. So Charlie and I would avoid personally having Berkshire buy businesses where the main benefits are actually having fewer workers”.
(2) On threats to Berkshire Hathaway’s future success: “I can’t think of anything that can harm Berkshire in a material, permanent way except weapons of mass destruction. If that ever happens, there’ll be more to worry about than the price of Berkshire.”
(3) Buffet on the legacy he hopes to leave: “I really like teaching. If somebody thought I’d done a decent job of teaching, I’d feel pretty good about that.”
(4) Buffet on understanding tech investments: “I make no pretense whatsoever of being on the same level as some 15-year-old who has an interest in tech. I’ve gained no real knowledge on tech, well, since I was born, actually.”
(5) Buffet’s introduction to get the weekend started: “That’s Charlie. I’m Warren. You can tell us apart because he can hear and I can see.” Buffet.
(6) Munger on Buffet: “You’re a fatter version of Mahatma Gandhi.” Could be the coke and See’s Candy?!
(7) Buffet on Wells Fargo: “At Wells Fargo, there were three significant mistakes, but one dwarfs all of the others. … You have to be careful what you incentivize. There was an incentive system built around cross-selling. … That was incentivizing the wrong kind of behavior. The main problem was they didn’t act when they learned about it.”
(8) Buffet on missed investments: “We missed a lot of things and we’ll keep doing it.”
“When you go out in the world, look for the job you would take if you didn’t need the money.”