On My Mind
The Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting was held May 2 in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve been wanting to attend for a long time and the opportunity finally presented itself. It was worth the time and expense to learn from Warren Buffett (84) and Charlie Munger (91)—the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway respectively—during their 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. “Question & Answer” segment of the Annual Meeting. The Century Link Center was at capacity with over 18,000 attendees including over 2,000 from China according to one report. There were overflow venues nearby to accommodate those who didn’t make it through the doors in time. The crowd was especially large this year because it was the 50th Anniversary of Warren Buffet’s leadership of Berkshire Hathaway. The company now has over 300,000 employees—with less than thirty working at Corporate Headquarters—and is ranked the world’s fourteenth largest company based on 2013 revenue and is the fifth largest company trading on U.S. stock exchanges ranked by market capitalization. Buffet is a rare combination of Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer with contrarian views on centralization, macroeconomic forecasting, share repurchasing, brand management, and the effects of synergy. If you are tired of studying companies run by conventional wisdom, then study Berkshire Hathaway.
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger told many stories during the Q&A segment of their recent Annual Meeting. They both possess a storytelling-type style which reminded me of the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming and Dr. George E. P. Box. Buffett and Munger are skilled at simplifying a complex topic to its core essence and then communicating their message in a practical and straightforward manner. For example, with respect to safety in the railroad industry, Charlie Munger said something to the effect, “You would have to be out of your mind not to pay attention to safety in the railroad industry—and we are not out of our minds.”
“The needs of the patient come first.” This is the primary value that continues to guide the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation (CFI) which began operations in 2008. I’ve had the privilege of visiting the center several times since its inception and have witnessed its development. CFI staff members continue to collaboratively guide groups intent on “transforming the experience and delivery of health and health care.” There is a new book that explains the history and activities of the CFI titled, “Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast: A Blueprint for Transformation from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation.” On another note, there is still time to register for the intensive eight-day public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course which will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN June 1-3, July 15-16, August 19-20, and September 30. Please send me an e-mail message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a brochure. Registrations must be received before May 20. The public Continuous Improvement Black Belt and Continuous Improvement Master Black Belt course schedules will be available late May.
If you want to learn more about the history of Berkshire Hathaway, then read the new commemorative book on the company titled, “Celebrating 50 Years of a Profitable Partnership: Berkshire Hathaway Inc.” This is a beautiful book that contains numerous historical documents and pictures dating back to the start of the company.