In the latest Berkshire Hathaway letter to shareholders, Vice Chairman Charlie Munger commemorates the 50th anniversary of “present management” by talking at length about the “Berkshire System” implemented by Warren Buffett almost from the beginning.
Charlie has eight things he expects of the chairman of the company (Warren Buffett for now)…
Berkshire’s Chairman would reserve only a few activities for himself.
(i) He would manage almost all security investments, with these normally residing in Berkshire’s casualty insurers.
(ii) He would choose all CEOs of important subsidiaries, and he would fix their compensation and obtain from each a private recommendation for a successor in case one was suddenly needed.
(iii) He would deploy most cash not needed in subsidiaries after they had increased their competitive advantage, with the ideal deployment being the use of that cash to acquire new subsidiaries.
(iv) He would make himself promptly available for almost any contact wanted by any subsidiary’s CEO, and he would require almost no additional contact.
(v) He would write a long, logical, and useful letter for inclusion in his annual report, designed as he would wish it to be if he were only a passive shareholder, and he would be available for hours of answering questions at annual shareholders’ meetings.
(vi) He would try to be an exemplar in a culture that would work well for customers, shareholders, and other incumbents for a long time, both before and after his departure.
(vii) His first priority would be reservation of much time for quiet reading and thinking, particularly that which might advance his determined learning, no matter how old he became;
(viii) He would also spend much time in enthusiastically admiring what others were accomplishing.
Josh here – delegation of duties to fabulous managers is one Buffett’s not-so-secret secrets of success. He’s not a micromanager in any sense, which probably explains how he’s become so knowledgable on so many big-picture aspects of life and investing. The perspective becomes much more important that any kind of hyper-focused technical knowledge when you’re running an operation of Berkshire’s size and breadth.
To me, number seven is the most interesting: “His first priority would be reservation of much time for quiet reading and thinking.” Making the time to do more of this myself is a big goal of mine for me this year.