When your nickname in the business world is the “Oracle of Omaha,” it’s likely that you have wisdom worth sharing with entrepreneurs. Meet Warren Buffett. You’ve probably heard of him, whether for his notable leadership at Berkshire Hathaway or his infamous appetite for fast food.
How did Buffett rise to the top of the business ranks? By all accounts, he was destined for greatness. When he was only 6 years old, Buffett began buying batches of Coca-Cola bottles at his grandpa’s store. Each 6-pack cost 25 cents and Buffett then sold the bottles for 5 cents apiece.
Not satisfied with his soda profits, 11-year-old Buffett began purchasing Cities Service Preferred stock shares. The stock value dropped, causing him to doubt his decision. When the shares rebounded, he quickly sold them to ensure a profit. The move proved hasty, as the stocks soared over 150% after his sale.
Based on his hard lessons from the Cities Service Preferred stock, Buffett embraced the importance of patience in business—and this mantra began to pay off in major ways.
“By the late ’70s, his reputation had grown to the point that the rumor Buffett was buying a stock was enough to shoot its price up 10%,” says The Balance Small Business. “Berkshire Hathaway’s stock was trading at more than $290 a share, and Buffett’s personal wealth was almost $140 million.”
Aside from patience, there are plenty of other lessons to take from a Yoda-like guru such as Buffett. Here are some of his notable quotes:
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
This statement hearkens to the very heart of entrepreneurship. Having a small business idea is only valuable if you take the time to nurture it and bring it to life. Whether it’s the creation of your business or implementing a crucial strategy that could help take it to the next level, you’ve got to “plant the trees” so that you can relish their benefit in the future.
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make fewer impulse decisions than most people in business.”
Yes, there are times in business when fast action is required. But don’t confuse decisiveness with impulsivity. If you’ve taken the time to understand a situation and ponder your options, you’ll be prepared to make the right decision at the right time.
During your quiet times, reflect on why you started in business and what you hope to accomplish. Do a little competitor research. Read about someone who inspires you. Drink a glass of wine. Think about whatever your creative mind guides you to consider. Cap it off with another glass of wine.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”
Many small business owners have already learned this lesson from harsh experience. Developing a solid business reputation is a tedious effort. In many ways, it’s like Sisyphus from Greek mythology, who had to roll a giant rock up a hill only to have the rock roll back down every time it neared the top. You can work hard for months and months, but when reputation-related disasters strike, it can all come crashing back down the hill.
The difference between your business and Sisyphus is that a tumble down the hill isn’t an inevitability for your business. By thoughtfully considering all your customer interactions and resolving issues when they arise, you can keep things moving in a positive direction.
“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”
It can be hard to know what lies ahead for your business—in fact, it’s downright impossible. But the past has always been a useful way to anticipate the future. As Buffett mentions above, never miss an opportunity to reflect on how your business has been going and where it could be heading. The more you think, the more you’ll grow as a business owner.
Your efforts will always be more effective if you draw your lessons from actual data. This requires you to track results studiously. Put systems in place to record relevant information so that you can draw from the complete story. Otherwise, you’ll just be cherry-picking, which is never the way to make accurate assessments.
You might never develop Buffett’s legendary investing acumen, but you can certainly apply his wisdom to your business efforts. By using patience, reflection, strategy, and customer service, you’ll separate yourself from the competition and set the stage for years of success.