Today we’re bringing you another round of He Said/She Said. These posts are really your chance as readers to hear how discussions (and sometimes disagreements) play out when managing our lives with each other. For a look at some of the past He Said/She Said discussions – check ‘em out here.
This past weekend, Mr PoP and I joined the 1500’s and attended our very first Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting. Mr PoP has been an avid reader of everything Buffett for many years, and while I’ve always liked what I’ve read (newspaper articles, etc) about the man and his company, I was never interested enough to want to read the 800+ pages worth of Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letters that Mr PoP has read (some multiple times) over the years, not to mention multiple books on Buffett and Munger. But, with Buffett now an 83-year-old, and Munger now 90 (90!), we knew we couldn’t postpone visiting the Oracle of Omaha for much longer and decided to go for it.
So what did we think of the trip?
In short, one visit, and we’re hooked. Perhaps we got hoodwinked by unseasonably lovely weather in Omaha, but we are already planning on going again next year and making this a yearly trip. That said, we each walked away with different takeaways on the weekend.
First off, big thanks to the 1500’s for letting us use their tickets. Mr. and Mrs. 1500 were an absolute blasts to hang out with, and one of the reasons the weekend was so enjoyable; check them out at 1500days and ask Mr. 1500 about his dinosaur!
What I learned:
1.) The thing that I struck me the most was the the timeframe that Buffett and Munger operated in. Quarterly numbers were basically non-events; yearly numbers were only of vague interest; Buffett and Munger used a 5 year time frame as the smallest amount of time you could draw useful comparisons from regarding their performance vs. the broader market. I like to think that Mrs. PoP and play the long game, but this was eye-opening! If Charlie and Warren were evaluating our performance against our peers they would likely say something to the effect, “early returns are promising.”
2.) Midwesterners are some of the nicest people int he world. We used AirBnB to stay at an apartment that belonged to a law student-he made us feel very, very welcome, had decorated his door with the different BRK logos, and had laid out different books on the topic of Buffett and BRK on the coffee table. He even offered us tickets to the baseball game that night! Sure, the geography is boring, and the weather can be brutal, but the people are great out there.
3.) These guys love each other, what they do, and what they have built. Buffett and Munger acted like an old married couple on stage, and obviously share a pretty deep connection. I think that Munger actually got wistful at one point while he was talking about how Berkshire will live on after he does. I wonder if I’ll be able to look back in my 90’s at something that I’ve built that will live on after I’m gone.
I think the biggest takeaway from the 6-hour long Q&A session with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger is just how much of a team they really are. Being just a casual observer of Berkshire Hathaway over the years (and not a true devotee the way Mr PoP is), I had never really learned much about Munger. It’s always Buffett, Buffett, Buffett, and very little mention of Munger ever makes it to the news. However, there were several points at which it became clear that they are truly a team.
1. Verbose and Taciturn Both Have Their Place. Buffett is very clearly the talker among the pair, while Munger’s taciturn manner seems to have turned into a bit of a joke over the years. Some audience members even giggled when Munger followed up Buffett’s lengthy answers with abrupt statements like “I agree” or “I have nothing to add”.
2. Qualitative and Quantitative Evaluation Methods Are Both Needed. I’ve always heard about the quantitative aspects of Buffett’s investing style – and his long love affair with Benjamin Graham’s very quantitative “value investing” style. So it was interesting to hear Buffett talk about how that quantitative style has been augmented over the years by Munger’s qualitative investment approach. It seemed as though it was the combination of these approaches more than any one over another that were responsible for the success of BRK.
3. Which Came First, The Agreement, Or The Years Of Working Together? After years of working together, Buffett and Munger agree on virtually every business decision. Though I also wondered in a chicken/egg manner if it was in part because they reached similar conclusions so often that their business partnership and friendship had endured as long as it has. Either way, it was very interesting to see that they both reached the same conclusion, though occasionally via different means on many discussions.
It was really this view into a 50+ year business partnership that I found myself reflecting upon again and again on over the weekend and thinking about Mr PoP and me. While it’d be tough to pin either of us down strictly as a “Charlie” or a “Warren”, (Mr. PoP Edit-thats a bunch of crap-she is obviously the quantitative Buffett, I’m Munger) the vibe of taking complicated and hard scenarios, and working on them together with different strengths really hit home, even though we’ve only been in a financial partnership (marriage) for about 1/10th of the time that Charlie and Warren have been. But hopefully the strength of their friendship and partnership bodes well for ours, since I wouldn’t mind another 45+ years with Mr PoP.
PS – And next year I’d love it if we can finagle a later flight so I can participate in the Invest In Yourself 5K (the running shoe company Brooks is owned by BRK) that Warren Buffett pulls the starting gun at.
Who’s up for joining us at next year’s BRK Shareholder Meeting!?! We’re all running the 5K!