Dan Sweet

Warren Buffett on due diligence, evaluating management, and buy and hold: (4 of 12)

This is the fourth in a series of twelve posts. The introduction to the series is here. By way of review, these are my notes of Warren Buffett’s responses to questions from Notre Dame and Stanford MBAs on October 9. 2007.

How do you perform due diligence?

Just look for durable competitive advantage.
Iscar – they sent me a letter – guy came to visit – we bought it.
The real key is how much cash are you going to get over the years.
Dexter shoe was a disaster.  It wasn’t the leases or clauses, I was just wrong about the shoe business.  (gave them 2% of Berkshire)

What do you look for in management?

We look for management that loves to work and has passion.
I like doing what I’m doing.
I get to paint my painting on the ceiling – it’ll never be finished, but I do it my way.
I’m looking for people who love the business, not the money.  Employment contracts mean nothing.
My job is to judge whether or not they have the passion in them.
I set all the compensation in ten minutes a year.

What questions do you find most useful when meeting with companies?

Always ask at the end—if you could only buy stock in one of your competitors before going to a desert island for ten years, who would it be?  Who would you short?
Andy Grove—Only the Paranoid Survive
Silver bullet to take out competition.  Who would you take out?  I want the answer to that from the top ten players in the industry

Is it true that Berkshire will never sell a good company?

True.
Not true for our marketable securities.
I have three kids and some days some look more promising than others but I’ve never thought of putting one in a foster home.
I want to own something I feel good about.

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