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Warren Buffett on Business: Principles from the Sage of Omaha Paperback – November 7, 2013
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From the Inside Flap
THE NAME WARREN BUFFETT is synonymous with success and prosperity in the business world. There are many books written about how Buffett invests and how you can invest just like himbut this is not one of them. This book is not about how Buffett invests, but rather, it is about his highly successful business management principles and practices. It is about his way of communicating with and treating employees and shareholders fairly and honestly; responsible corporate governance; ethical behavior; patience and perseverance; admitting mistakes; having a passion for work; and having fun and a sense of humor. Warren Buffett on Business is a practical management handbook on the Buffett/Berkshire Hathaway model of effectively managing a business, large or small.
Drawing from carefully selected Berkshire Hathaway shareholders' letters written over four decades (19772008), Connors presents Buffett's own words on corporate culture, communication, risk management, time management, crisis management, executive compensation, capital allocation and management, and much, much more. Taken as a whole, they show that, when you strip it all away, effective business management the Warren Buffett way is remarkably obvious and simple. As Buffett himself describes his business principles, they are "simple, old, and few."
An informative and inspiring book on Berkshire Hathaway's business management practices, all in Warren Buffett's own words, Warren Buffett on Business provides direct, hands-on information on how to effectively manage a company that will connect with senior executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and business students. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Back Cover
The proven business principles ofWarren Buffett—in his own words
Warren Buffett is one of the most admired and prolificinvestors and managers in corporate America. In thisone-of-a-kind collection of Buffett's letters to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, the "Sage of Omaha" reveals, in a clear, simple style, his basic management principles of sound business practices. Through Buffett's own remarkable words, this practical management handbook shares valuable insights on communicating with and treating employees andshareholders fairly; responsible corporate governance; ethical behavior; patience and perseverance; admitting mistakes;having a passion for work; and more. Richard Connors weaves Buffett's priceless pearls of business and management wisdom into an engaging narrative presented in an accessible mannerand organized by business and management topics—with strong lessons from Buffett in every chapter.
Warren Buffett on Business provides direct, hands-oninformation on major topics important to senior executives, managers, entrepreneurs, business students, and anyone interested in business. Informative and inspiring, this unique book puts Warren Buffett's business beliefs in perspective and provides you with a timeless guide to the managementstrategies that will help you run a successful business.
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The prime source for this book--by far--is Buffett's annual letters to Berkshire's shareholders, written over the last 40 years. Indeed, if you were to count words, my guess is that 95% or more of this book is simply the reproduction of Buffett's comments in his various letters, organized by Connors, the book's author. So if you have read Buffett's letters over the years (an exercise I would recommend to almost anyone interested in business or investing), then you won't find much new material in this book, save for excerpts from occasional interviews with Charlie Rose or excerpts from some of Buffett's other interviews or comments.
Connors has organized Buffett's shareholder commentaries into chapters that address the various important issues of corporate management: executive compensation, time management, assessment of risk, corporate governance and culture, crisis management, capital allocation and shareholder communication, among others. Buffett's comments are interesting, valuable and candid, and he is a very clear and entertaining writer. There is some human interest material, such as an account of Buffett's 1951 Saturday trip to Washington, DC to visit the offices of GEICO (because his mentor, Benjamin Graham, was the chairman of the company). As the somewhat well-known story goes, Buffett pounded on the door to GEICO's locked building, until a custodian finally led him to meet Lorimer Davidson, an assistant to GEICO's president at the time. Davidson, who would go on to become CEO of GEICO, took the time to educate young Buffett on the power of direct marketing of insurance, and years later Buffett would go on to buy the whole company.
In short, although there is precious little new material provided here (hence the four-star rating, not five), this is a very interesting book, and it is interesting primarily because it was essentially written by Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors--and corporate managers--of all time.
At the end of what was arguably a good talk, he asked for questions. No one raised their hands. After a pause, he asked for questions again, and I raised my hand. I commented that he should have given his talk to the Life actuaries -- they are the ones concerned about longevity and health costs, and if he really wanted to do a favor for casualty actuaries, don't talk about Buffett the investor -- talk about Buffett the P&C insurance CEO.
He commented that he was asked to speak about the topic by the CAS. I like Lowenstein, so if you are reading this Roger, my apologies for making the comment.
Warren Buffett on Business is one step closer to the book I would like to see -- I would like to see a book on Buffett as an insurance CEO. Buffett is a great insurance CEO, and deserves a lot of credit in that capacity. (Warren, I doubt you are reading this, but if you would like me to write that book, please e-mail me.)
But Berkshire Hathaway is an insurance/industrial hybrid, unique among companies. Warren Buffett on Business ignores Buffett the investor to take up issues that are just as significant: Buffett the business owner and manager.
The words in the book are Buffett's. The man who organized the book took Buffett's words over the last 25-30 years, and organized them into categories regarding management issues. The topics include:
* Berky acts like a partnership even though it is a corporation.
* Corporate Culture and Governance
* Competent Managers and Honest Communication
* GEICO and Gen Re acquisitions (personally I think Buffett got hosed moving to terminate financial contracts at Gen Re rapidly. There is a rule of thumb that says negotiations on illiquid contracts should be undertaken slowly, unless the other side is panicking.)
* Assessing and Managing Risk
* Compensating Management
* Time Management
* Crisis Management
* Acquisitions -- Buffett gets to own a wide number of unique corporations, because the one selling out wants the culture preserved, and if the price is right Buffett will do that.
* Ethics in Business
* And more...
Both in the chapters and in the appendices, the words of Buffett shine forth as a way to manage corporations for the best long term results, even if things don't work so well in the short run.
Much as I like the words of Buffett, I prefer a second voice adding analysis. Let the words of Buffett star, but let someone else add color and history, because Buffett's own words are not complete enough.
Also, an analysis of how Buffett managed the insurance lines of his enterprise would be welcome. Even for those looking exclusively at investment issues, the insurance enterprises offered Buffett the balance sheet he needed to buy assets that could take a while to work out.
Who would benefit from this book: Any manager of any company would benefit from this book. Buffett lovers, if you have read the last 25-30 years of annual reports from Buffett, and notable things he has said outside of that, you likely do not need this, unless you have specific questions on management that you want answered by Buffett, and you can't remember what he said in the past.
For most of the rest of us, this will still be a valuable book.
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