Warren Buffett Says Gratitude and Sharing Success Has Led to His Long-Lasting Fortune
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While looking to the future, Warren Buffett noted in his annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders letter the choices and circumstances that led to his 54-year tenure at the company. That included the first investment he ever made, when in 1942, an 11-year-old Buffett used $114.75 he had been saving since the first grade to buy three shares of stock in gas and oil company Cities Service. “I had become a capitalist, and it felt good,” he wrote of the memory.
In talking about the 77-year-old decision, Buffett emphasized the idea that no economic success or failure is made in a vacuum.
“Charlie [Munger] and I happily acknowledge that much of Berkshire’s success has simply been a product of what I think should be called The American Tailwind. It is beyond arrogance for American businesses or individuals to boast that they have 'done it alone.' The tidy rows of simple white crosses at Normandy should shame those who make such claims,” Buffett wrote. “There are also many other countries around the world that have bright futures. About that, we should rejoice: Americans will be both more prosperous and safer if all nations thrive. At Berkshire, we hope to invest significant sums across borders.”Related: Billionaires Like Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos and Mark Cuban Live by Ancient Stoic Philosophy
Also in the letter, Buffett broke down the different financial assets that the company holds, but professed to still have his eye on a big get. “We continue, nevertheless, to hope for an elephant-sized acquisition. Even at our ages of 88 and 95 -- I’m the young one -- that prospect is what causes my heart and Charlie’s to beat faster. (Just writing about the possibility of a huge purchase has caused my pulse rate to soar.)’” Buffett wrote.
From a logistical standpoint, Buffett explained why it is that he and vice chairman Charlie Munger favor quarterly reports over monthly ones and why they don’t have a company-wide budgets. It all comes down to company culture and wanting remove any sort of pressure to meet an arbitrary mark that can lead to dishonesty.
“Charlie and I have seen all sorts of bad corporate behavior, both accounting and operational, induced by the desire of management to meet Wall Street expectations,” Buffett wrote. “What starts as an 'innocent' fudge in order to not disappoint 'the Street' -- say, trade-loading at quarter-end, turning a blind eye to rising insurance losses, or drawing down a 'cookie-jar' reserve -- can become the first step toward full-fledged fraud. Playing with the numbers 'just this once' may well be the CEO’s intent; it’s seldom the end result. And if it’s okay for the boss to cheat a little, it’s easy for subordinates to rationalize similar behavior.”