Billionaires have quick reaction times to both opportunity and crisis.
Here’s a great story from Martin Fridson about the importance of quick reaction time to crisis. Future billionaire Phillip Anschutz was contract drilling for Chevron in 1968, when a spark from a truck set his entire field ablaze.
Anschutz found himself facing ruin as he had borrowed heavily to secure the lease. The average person watching his capital go up in smoke would have been forgiven for curling up into a ball on the floor and going catatonic. Not Anschutz. What he did was quickly buy the lease of his panicked neighbor by assuming his liabilities and then raising $100,000 by selling Universal Studios the rights to film his burning oil rigs for their film Hellfighters, which had John Wayne playing the famous oil field fire-fighter Red Adair. The money allowed him to then hire the real Adair to put out the fire. In the end, Anschutz realized a “healthy profit.”
Its the calm and the ability to see the opportunity in adversity, that makes a great man.
What would you have done at this time?
Billionaire Warren Buffett shares his business lessons and wisdom.
Here are the hi-lites:
When do you decide to invest in a firm?
The best thing that happens to us is when a great company gets into temporary trouble. We want to buy them when they’re on the operating table. (Mr. Buffett bought Coke when it had its biggest fiasco after launching New Coke; he bought American Express when it went through a loss making phase in the early 60’s)
What do you look for in people when they come to sell their firms to you?
I don’t look for the usual credentials such as an MBA, a pedigree (Harvard, Wharton), or cash reserves or market cap of their firm.
What I look for is just a passion in their eyes; I think that’s the key. A person who is hungry will always do well. I prefer it when people even after selling stay on and work for the firm; they are people who can’t wait to get off their bed to get to work. Passion is everything; there is no replacement for innate interest.
Why do stock market crashes happen?
Because of human nature for greed and insecurity. The 1970s were unbelievable. The world wasn’t going to end, but businesses were being given away. Human nature has not changed. People will always behave in a manic-depressive way over time. They will offer great values to you.”
What are the things that are taught wrong in Business school and the corporate world?
I like such open ended questions, I think Business schools should refrain from teaching their wards about profit making and profit making alone, it gives a sense of 1 dimensional outlook to the young students that loss is a curse. In reality, in the corporate world, failure and loss making are inevitable. The capital market without loss is like Christianity without hell. I think they should teach the student on how to buy a business, how to value a business? Not just on how to determine the price of a business. Because price is what you pay, value is what you get.
How do you feel after donating $ 40 Billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation? You are a hero to us!
I feel nothing. I haven’t sacrificed anything in life. I have had a good life. I donated after I turned 75. I think I admire those people who sacrifice their time, share their food and home, as the people to be emulated not me. Besides, what is money before a man’s life?
What do you think are the pitfalls in donation?
I have never donated a dime to churches or other such organizations; I need to believe in something before I end up doing that. I have been observing the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation for years now and I am confident they will do a fantastic job of making use of the money. I am a big believer in Outsourcing, others believed in me as an Investor and gave their hard earned money to invest. I believe in Bill Gates, he is a better donor than me.
You seem to be so well read, tell us how it all started.
My father was a stock broker, so we had all these financial books in our library. He introduced me to those classics and I got into them. I am lucky that my father was not a fan of Playboy! Reading is the best habit you can get. Well, you can learn from teachers too, and have mentors but there are so many constraints attached- they will talk fast, talk slow, they might talk like a pro or they might be terrible communicators. Books are a different animal altogether, I love reading! The beauty about reading and learning is that the more you learn the more you want to learn.
What is the 1 biggest advice you would impart to a young investor like me?
Think for a moment that you are given a car and told this is the only car you would get for the rest of your life. Then you would make sure that you car is taken care of well, it is oiled and detailed every now and then. You would make sure that it never gets rusted, and you would garage it. Think of yourself as that car. You just get 1 body, 1 mind and 1 soul. Take care of it well. Invest in yourself that would be my advice.
So, what is your roadmap to becoming a billionaire?