7 Warren Buffett Quotes That CEOs of Fast-Growing Companies Should Live By
The Oracle of Omaha’s market outlook tends to make the most headlines. But it’s the way that Warren Buffett invests his leadership style with strong personal and corporate values that has grown Berkshire Hathaway into one of the BIGGEST companies in the world. These 7 quotes from Mr. Buffett exemplify how effective CEOs should be thinking about team-building, fueling growth, and building a lasting legacy.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
2019 was a banner year for bad CEOs. Any CEO who’s still tolerating a frat house workplace or letting poor personal judgment bleed into the business isn’t long for the job. But even the best companies and CEOs make mistakes. You can prevent the inevitable tweetstorm from escalating into a hurricane by taking responsibility and providing an immediate plan for correcting the problem.
“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”
Smart CEOs never want to be the smartest person in the room. That’s why they hire the best people, get out of the way, and let those top performers perform. But here, Mr. Buffett extends that maxim beyond just professional skills. A shiny resume and Ivy League degrees might vault a resume to the top of your pile. But when you’re sitting down with a top job candidate, face-to-face, you have to assess how this person is going to impact your company’s culture. Is this candidate going to inspire the rest of your team to excel? Or is he going to work harder at burnishing his own credentials than helping the whole company grow?
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”
Mr. Buffett understands that when a company has a strong culture of accountability, there’s a self-perpetuating momentum that hums through the whole building. Every member of every department knows what they’re working towards and they feel empowered to hit those targets every day. On the management level, daily huddles build to productive weekly meetings. Weekly meetings create visible monthly progress. Monthly progress leads to quarterly goals. And at the end of the year, BIG long-term goals are that much closer.
“You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.”
To transform Grasshopper from a good virtual voicemail company into a $170 million acquisition target, CEO Coaching International’s Don Schiavone started by firing bullets: a series of quarterly tests to see what the market responds to, what processes could improve efficiency, what language generates more conversions, and a whole host of different things. These tests didn’t involve huge commitments but when they found something that worked, they backed up the truck and piled in. It only takes a few big successes to generate BIG results.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
This echoes something that Rick Sapio said recently on our podcast when he discussed interviewing over 40 billionaires – including Warren Buffett. Restauranteur Phil Romano told Rick, “a billionaire doesn’t do anything, they don’t even move a pinky, unless they find the perfect person to run the business.” In other words, successful people say Yes to things they know they can execute better than anyone else, and tasks that only they themselves can execute. They trash or delegate the rest.
“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”
Heck, sometimes seriously distressed companies won’t even admit that the boat is leaking! The longer the CEO waits to accept what’s happening, get the facts straight, and create an action plan, the less company there’s going to be left to save. One key is to take emotion out of the equation. Mom and Dad’s “traditional” product line might be outdated. Your customers might never respond to that dream project you spent a year developing. Move on from things that aren’t working and double down on your core competencies to stay buoyant. Sunk costs are called “sunk” for a reason.
“Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble.”
Exponential growth requires careful planning, goal-tracking, and management. But it also takes courage. Small, complacent companies that never take a BIG swing stay small forever. That is, until they go out of business.
The very first question we ask our entrepreneur coaching clients is: What do you want? If you have a clear vision that you’re building towards every day, you’ll be ready to seize a transformative opportunity when it comes along. And, even better, you’ll have the processes, the team, and the values you need at the ready to make BIG happen.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make BIG Happen. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.