In 2015, when I sat down to read all of Warren Buffett's annual letters from the 10 years prior, the world was, shall we say, slightly less interesting. China was or was not in a slowdown, the U.S. stock market was or was not in a bubble and the EU was or was not collapsing. The only thing you can add to those issues above, two years down the line, is that some countries are more, shall we say, nationalistic.
Warren Buffett released the most recent version of his annual letter a few days ago, and I felt it would be a good time to update my learnings by reading the 2015 and 2016 annual letters. So, here goes the (mostly) non-obvious business and life lessons from reading 12 years of Berkshire Hathaway letters to its shareholders.
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I Read 40 Books This Year, Here's What I Learned (aka 10 Lessons for 2017).
1. Enable the people around you and you'll be amazed at how far they'll take you (regardless of what the markets are doing)
As much as the letters are about the numbers and how portfolio companies are doing, a lot of text is dedicated to the people behind the numbers. Warren Buffett (and Charlie Munger) have perfected the art of empowering the right people to achieve phenomenal outcomes. It's unsurprising, it's the foundation of the relationship between these long term friends.
Most investors do not share anecdotes about the people who run their companies, anecdotes abound about Lorimer Davidson of GEICO, Ajit Jain, Tad Mantross, Ted Weschler, James Hambrick of Lubrizol, Frank Ptak of Marmon, etc. Warren Buffett considers himself a contractor hired to help these business experts.
With a mindset like this, his people have no choice but to be inspired to achieve the great things they continue to achieve. The same will serve you and your teams/employee well.