Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of all time, and he’s also one of today’s most quotable businessmen. Executives can learn a lot from Buffett, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to check out some of his quotes.
Warren Buffett writes annual letters to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) shareholders, and most of his quotes pertain to investing. However, many can also be applied to business. Here are some of Buffett’s best quotes for investing and business.
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
This quote is important for executives because it’s a reminder about how taking small steps now can make a big difference down the line. Businesses don’t scale up overnight, and changes don’t occur instantaneously. Anything you do now will take some time to come to fruition. Executives should be looking at their careers with a long-term legacy in mind.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Managers at every level should remember this quote because it applies to every aspect of life. Executives have a public profile to think about, but they also deal with customers and employees. It’s much easier to ruin a reputation you have spent decades building than it is to build one up. Unfortunately, by the time some managers learn this lesson, it’s too late for them.
“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours, and you’ll drift in that direction.”
No matter where you are in your career, this quote offers important advice about choosing friends and colleagues to spend time with. Buffett’s statement could also be applied to selecting employees. Executives and managers aren’t friends with the employees they hire, but they would do well to look for workers who exhibit the traits they would look for in their friends.
After all, you’re going to spend quite a bit of time with certain employees, and they will spend even more time with each other. You should build a reliable team of workers who challenge each other in a positive way and build each other up.
“There is nothing wrong with a ‘know nothing’ investor who realizes it. The problem is when you are a ‘know nothing’ investor, but you think you know something.”
Although this quote directly mentions investing, it can also be applied to business. Executives can think about this advice in terms of their company. Wise leaders surround themselves with people whose knowledge complements their own. They also know when to defer to someone else on their team because their own knowledge and experience just don’t cut it.
Executives who think they know everything will find barriers to success. As Buffett said, there’s nothing wrong with a manager who doesn’t know anything about one aspect of the business — as long as they realize it and defer to the team member who does know. However, executives who proceed as if they know everything about all aspects of the business are bound to make a lot of mistakes, setting the company back years in some cases.
It’s only when the tide goes out that you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
Every business goes through rough patches, no matter what industry they are in. Executives are successful when they manage the company well during the good times and the bad. Some leaders may seem like excellent managers, but then tragedy strikes. To be successful, you must be adaptable, able to handle both the ups and the downs of business.
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business.”
Finally, executives are some of the busiest people in the world, but no matter how busy you are, you should take time to yourself just to think. You can’t open yourself up to new opportunities if you don’t take time to ponder where things are going and where your path has taken you.
Leaders get some of their best ideas from just relaxing and thinking. It’s easier to solve problems when you take time to think, and you’ll come up with ideas that never would’ve occurred to you if you just stayed occupied every waking moment.
There is much to learn from Warren Buffett. Every letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders is a goldmine of advice, and leaders would do well to read them every year to see what the Oracle of Omaha has to say.