First, I want to mention two constructive feedback about this book. One is that this book is probably only suitable for Warren Buffett fanatics/fans. For general investors interested about Berkshire Hathaway or how Warren Buffett invest, this is probably not the best book to read (as it has so much more info. i.e. more than 1000 pages). Second is that I have read this book more than once and I still don't know how the book is organized (the chapters aren't following chronological order, alphabetical nor topical order), therefore it is quite confusing to read as you progress from one chapter to another. Only after you read enough chapter (or completed the book) then you can put it all in the big picture in your head (from Warren's childhood till his current Berkshire days). Nonetheless, kudos to Andrew Kilpatrick for putting this book together. Moreover, once you know the limitation, this book is easily considered the best book about Warren Buffett in my opinion.
Now about the content of the book. You will learn a lot about Warren Buffett and his life, and not only investing topic (investing decisions that he made throughout his career) but his life principles, family, and business in general as well. You will learn about his first job delivering papers when he was 13 (he filed income tax and deducted the bike as business cost), and how he build his first business (pinball machine business), created Buffett partnership, break it up (liquidate), acquire berkshire mills, creating Berkshire Hathaway as investment vehicle, and many other great investment decision/story that he made (Geico, See's Candies, Dairy Queen, General Re, Coca Cola, Salomon, Washington Post, Gillette etc)
Buffett concrete rules for investing are: 1. Never lose money 2. Never forget rule #1
I know it's easier said (what he say above about to never lose money) than done based on my 10 years of invesitng experience , but then again I'm no Warren Buffett.
In my opinion, here are the 5 strategy/skills that Warren Buffett uses (Mr. Buffett, please correct me if I'm wrong): 1. Intrinsic Value 2. Margin of Safety 3. Temperament (discipline and understanding Mr.Market) 4. Circle of Competence (knowing what your circle of competence) 5. Common Sense (which I think is the most important factor and encapsulate everything about Warren Buffett.)
You will learn that Warren is very good with numbers (calculating in his head) and memorizing so many facts and numbers. You will also learn that Warren is a man with a very good sense of humor.
There are so many things/chapters that I like on this book. Let me try to mention two of my favorite sections.
One is when Warren need to make a decision who would run Salomon ($150B institution with 8000 employees) within 2 days during their first crisis. There are 12 top-level managers that he interviewed. "This was the most important hire of my life", said Warren to the Columbia business students. The chapter explain his thought process of this candidate selection in detail. Warren mentioned that the good news (for the students and the candidate) is that he didn't ask what their grades were (laughter). Warren also said, "Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. and if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you. if you think about it, it's true, if you hire somebody without integrity, you want them to be dumb and lazy" (laughter). And he conclude the topic with this statement which I think is very powerful: "Pick the kind of person to work for you that you want to marry your son or daughter. You won't go wrong". By the way, he picked Deryck Maughan by the way for his integrity.
Another chapter that I really like is how Warren put the audience (of more than 2000 people) through Business School in an electrifying two minutes (The chapter about "Generics"). See how Warren answer the question of "Will developments in the generic brand area hurt coca-cola?" which is a very important questions. I'll try not to spill too much and take the joy of reading this chapter yourself but he basically explains in a nutshell (with all the details and numbers) how business and competition works (and using several other example like Gilette, Marlboro, Sam Cola etc) and how he convinced the audience (and me as a reader) that coca cola is considered immune to generics. He explains how one can save $500 for smoking generic brand (vs Marlboro) which is a lot of money. While a man will probably will only save $11 per year by not using Gilette Sensor and probably leave band-aids on his face and an uncomfotable experience for opting for generics/lower quality blades. And for coca cola, the net profit margin is only 1 cents per serving (can) while a lot of the ingredients cost (such as the aluminium close to 6 cents a can, sugar 1.3 ounce per can or 1.75 cents etc) the same regardless for coke or other cola company.
I'll stop here before it's getting too long. In summary, If you are a Warren Buffett fans, then this book is for you. If you are uncertain, you can get other books first (potentially less thick book), like "Warren Buffet Way" or maybe "Buffettology", and if you like them (Warren) or want to know more about Warren then get this book. I personally don't like it in the beginning but as time goes by (and after I re-read the book/chapters), I changed my mind, this book is a masterpiece.
As a Berkshire shareholder, I want to encourage all berkshire shareholders (and potential/future shareholders) to read this book to know more about the person in charge of your berkshire investment. I also want to encourage all shareholders to go to the annual shareholder meeting while Mr. Buffett is still in charge.
Last but not least, if I have to sum this book up in a word or two, I would use the word "WISDOM" to describe this book, though I have a strong feeling that Warren will disagree with me and think that the more suitable phrase is "COMMON SENSE"
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
What's your opinion on Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren ...?