My main takeaway from this year’s annual report, is a strong sense of admiration for the quiet humility of the people behind Berkshire Hathaway. The business is thriving due to their work and skill. Without major new acquisitions and investments, we get to see the sustainability and momentum in plain sight with buybacks increasing our ownership. It’s a beautiful thing.
All those hours of work, insights, discipline, seeds planted and operational and entrepreneurial skills brought to bear by the Berkshire employees and managers, day in, day out is wonderful to watch.
I think of the personal thoughts of the woman who has dedicated herself to customer service and community interaction at See’s Candy. The feeling of satisfaction for making a contribution and being part of something really special.
I think of Ajit Jain and his values and his ability as an insurance underwriter. I think about his brain power and experience. And I think about his sense of duty and the joy he feels from doing his work to the best of his ability. The hours he spends pouring over documents. His leadership to his team. Taking credit: not even on his worst day would he even consider it.
I think of Greg Abel the future CEO. What he is achieving in a complex and important space. What kind of personal qualities must this man have to have the complete trust of Warren Buffett. The responsibility he must feel but more importantly the deserved quiet confidence that he will face the challenges like the old stoics of Rome.
I heard Charlie say on a clip from a couple of years ago, that Warren would not have bought the Apple stake, had it not been for the influence of the capital allocation lieutenants. I think about the impact on intrinsic value and how it’s not remotely in their nature to take any credit.
I think about the Board of Directors, their experiences and achievements, which are off the charts, how they like and find it personally rewarding to be associated with high class people. A term that is inadequate to describe Mr Buffett and Mr Munger, who continue to make a mark on the world, on a wide array of areas, important to the civilisation, not least financial education and integrity.
I think about how long the list of businesses and employees is now. How many lives engaged in something so meaningful. Productive, meaningful lives spent with like minded, brilliant people.
I think of the shareholders who have watched from the sidelines and give only their applause and wonderment. Who can never begin to repay what has has happened and what continues to unfold.
I think about the day, when I first heard the name Warren Buffett and how incredibly lucky I was.