Friday, February 14, 2020

No master plan...

From Warren Buffett at the 1997 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
30 years ago we didn’t know we would be in the insurance business.  
We have no master plan. Charlie and I did not sit down in 1960 — early ’65 — and say, “We’re going to do this and that,” and all that.  
We’re going to try and do sensible things as we go along. The more money we have, the harder it is to find sensible things. But that’s the criterion.
Insurance is certainly a major area of opportunity for us. It’s been a major opportunity.  
In certain fields we have a terrific advantage for the three reasons I laid out in the annual report. We have capital strength, and a willingness to take on risk, and a speed of action, and a certainty of payment, that in aggregate no one matches.  
Now, how much demand there is for that depends on circumstances in the business and how much supply there is at lower prices that we think don’t make sense is another question. But I think we’ll do OK in insurance over time. 
From Warren Buffett at the 2001 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
We don’t have a master plan. Charlie and I do not sit around and strategize or talk about the future of various industries or do anything of that sort. It just doesn’t happen. We don’t have any reports. We don’t have any staff. We don’t have any of that.  
We try to survey the whole financial field. We try to look at what comes in and look for things we understand, where we think they have a durable, competitive advantage, where we like the management, and where the price is sensible.  
We had no idea two or three years ago, that we would be the 87 percent owner of the largest broadloom carpet company in the world. 
We don’t plan these things. But I would tell you in a general way that 20 or so years from now, we will own a lot more businesses. 
...So we have no more master plan now than we had back in 1965 when we bought the textile mill, really. I mean, we had a lousy business. I didn’t realize it was as lousy as it was when I got into it. And we just had to start trying to deploy capital in an intelligent way.... That’s our business and we enjoy it.
From Charlie Munger in 2013
Therein lies a lesson in life. I think most lives work best when you simply react intelligently to the opportunities and difficulties you encounter, and just take the results as they fall.  
Some people think that by master planning, you will solve everything, but what I find is that the master plan gets a life of its own, and people believe it because they previously decided on that then, and they make all kinds of mistakes.  
(Thomas) Carlyle was a very smart man, and one of his favorite sayings was, the task of man is not to see what lies dimly in the distance but to do what lies clearly at hand. [Ed: actual quote: “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand.”]