Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have both founded highly profitable companies, so it's safe to say that they've made quite a few smart business decisions. In a 1998 panel discussion with students at the University of Washington's business school, the two billionaires pinpointed the best business decisions they ever made.
Buffett said his best business decision was simply starting a career in investing because he enjoys what he does. Luckily, said Buffett, this has worked out well for him.
"You'll see plenty of times when you get chances to do things that just shout at you," he said. "When that happens, you have to take a big swing."
Alluding to his own experiences as an investor, Buffett said that when these opportunities arise, you must act quickly. There's no time to be "reading a book on the theory of diversification," he said.
"When you find something where you know the business, it's within your circle of competence, you understand it, the price is right, the people are right," he said, "then you take your thumb out of your mouth and you barrel in."
For Gates, the best business decision was choosing the right people to work with.
"Deciding to go into partnership with [Microsoft co-founder] Paul Allen is probably at the top of the list," he said.
Gates explained that it's important to have someone "who you totally trust, who's totally committed, who shares your vision, yet has a little bit different set of skills and who also acts as a check on you."
The benefit of working with this type of person is that it makes work fun and leads to a successful company, said Gates: "Picking a partner is crucial."
Buffett added that Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, had also been that type of dependable partner to him over the years.
"You have to calibrate with Charlie because Charlie says everything I do is dumb," Buffett said jokingly. "But if he says it's really dumb, then I know it is."
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