“I always knew I was going to be rich. I don’t think I ever doubted it for a minute. ” – Warren Buffett
I am writing about Warren Buffett not so much because he has been among the top five richest men in the world consistently for several years, but because he lives the traditional and tested qualities that will gravitate anyone towards success in any field of human endeavour: Integrity, Intelligence, and Diligence.
Warren was born in August 1930. As a child, he sold chewing gums and weekly magazines. By the age of ten, he visited New York for the first time and made it a point to visit the New York Stock Exchange. By eleven, he had started buying shares and as a teenager, he was into several business such as putting pinball machines in barber shops, investing in his father’s business etc.
He graduated at the age of nineteen with a BSc in Business Adminstration. He also earned a Master of Science degree in Economics from Columbia in 1951. From that year, he started his career in investment, culminating in becoming the Chairman/CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Before then, he had worked with Walter Schloss and Benjamin Graham. Graham is considered the father of value-investing. He taught at Columbia Business School and influenced notable investors as Warren Buffet, Walter Schloss, Irving Kahn etc.
Buffett is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway, his principal investment vehicle, is a publicly traded holding company. It operates a broad collection of businesses such as insurance, manufacturing, energy and services. It owns stakes in Coca-Cola, American Express, Procter & Gamble, Wells Fargo etc. The total assets of Berkshire Hathaway as at the end of 2014 was in excess of $534 billion. This included over $63 billion in cash!
Around 1958, Warren bought a five-bedroom house in Omaha at a price of $31,500.00. Seventy billion dollars and 57 years after, Warren still lives there! It took a long while for Warren Buffett to get a corporate jet. When he bought a Bombardier Challenger 600, he named it ‘The Indefensible’ due to his past criticisms on such acquisitions by corporate CEOs. Subsequently, he realised and accepted its value as a business tool, and renamed it ‘The Indispensible’.
In June 2006, Buffett announced that he would be giving his entire fortune away to charity. He committed 85 percent of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This donation became the largest act of charitable giving in the history of the United States. He subsequently declared his intention to give away 99 percent of his wealth either in his lifetime or when he dies. On his children, he said “I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.”
He is worth over $72 billion as estimated by Forbes. He loves playing bridge with his friend Bill Gates. He is married and has three children.
I leave you with a few quotes of Warren Buffett:
“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”
“I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy.”
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”
“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behaviour is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”