Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Buffett on Analyzing People

One crucial element in investing is the analzying not of numbers but of people. In a recent interview, Warren Buffett details what it is that he focuses on when making these judgements:

...[T]he real insight you get about a banker is how they bank. You've got to see what they do and what they don't do. Their speeches don't make any difference. It's what they do and what they don't do.
Buffett is talking about John Stumpf, of Wells Fargo, here--but the principle applies across every industry. Thus, if you want to analyze managers "the Warren Buffett way", you should focus not on their words but on their actions (including how the two relate).

What virtues is Buffett concerned with above? The virtues of being productive (i.e., industrious) and of having integrity. In the same article, he mentions a virtue that I've mentioned here recently--that of seeing for oneself, of being an independent thinker.

John is a very good bridge player. But he doesn't play as much as I do. I play all the time. He's smart. He's a different personality than Dick. Dick is a real sales person. They both subscribe to the same principles of banking. They just don't think you have to do things that the other guy is doing.
This manner of judging managers obviously works in the world of investing--and no doubt in the world outside of it as well.

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