Warren Buffett is widely regarded as the greatest living investor, having grown his company, Berkshire Hathaway, into an investing and business conglomerate valued at more than $200 billion. Along the way he’s made himself and his investors very rich. Today Buffett’s fortune is estimated at $50 billion, making him the world’s third-richest person, according to Forbes 2011 Richest People list.
The secret to his success is chronicled in a new book, Secrets in Plain Sight: Business & Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett, written by Jeff Matthews, a Buffett follower and investment manager. In the accompanying interview, Matthews and Henry Blodget discuss a few of the 39 secrets listed in the book.
Buffett’s approach starts with simplicity and common sense. “He can take very profound ideas and communicate them very simply,” says Matthews. For the most part, Buffett’s strategy and philosophy are fairly simple and easy to follow.
Here are some of our favourite and most surprising secrets:
1. Ignore stock price… at first. “Buffett doesn’t look at the stock price when he’s evaluating a company,” says Matthews. Obviously, stock price is the first thing most people look at when deciding to invest. Instead, Buffett reads up on the company, does the analysis and then looks at the stock price. If, after doing the research, he finds the stock to be undervalued, then he invests; if it’s overvalued, he passes. “It’s a very profound and different way” to approach investing.
2. Ignore the noise. Buffett doesn’t have a quote machine in the office and largely ignores the media. “He’s out in Omaha, Nebraska. He’s not in the middle of New York City constantly getting hit with all this extraneous stimuli, which enables him to focus,” Matthews notes.
3. Read everything. Knowledge is power, something Buffett recognised at a young age. By the age of 10, Buffett had read every finance book in the Omaha library. His appetite for reading has never waned; Matthews says it’s probably Buffett’s favourite hobby.
All of this success has come at a price. Buffett’s myopic focus on investing means other aspects of his life have suffered. Matthews speculates that Buffett’s obsession with investing probably ruined his first marriage. Luckily, “you don’t have to take it as far as Buffett did,” Matthews says. “But the advice is pretty good nonetheless.”