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The Ten Commandments of Business Failure

January 26, 2012 | About:
The Science of Hitting

The Science of Hitting

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"In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time — none, zero."

— Charlie Munger

In the late 1950s, Warren Buffett was running his partnerships in Omaha, and was still pretty much unknown in the investment community (he had been investment sales for his father’s firm and a securities analyst for Ben Graham’s firm up until this point). One day, he was having a conversation with his neighbor, and inquired about his plans for putting his children through college; the man, who was a father of six and a coffee salesman, had no real plan. Warren asked, “Why don’t you give me $25,000 for the partnership to invest?” which the man rejected. Later, Warren came back and asked for $10,000, which was also rejected. While the man missed out on this particular opportunity, he ended up doing all right when all was said and done…

The gentleman’s name was Donald Keough. As mentioned above, Don was a salesman at Paxton and Gallagher’s Butternut Coffee; eventually, he moved on to Duncan Foods, which was eventually acquired by Coca-Cola (KO) in 1964. After working his way up the corporate ladder, Don became president of the Coca-Cola Company in 1981, a position he held for 12 years; since 2004, he has served as a director for the company, and also sits on the board of directors at Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)(BRK.B).

In 2008, Don released a book entitled “The Ten Commandments of Business Failure,” based upon his lifetime in business. The ten things he lays out for guaranteed failure are:

1. Quit Taking Risks

2. Be Inflexible

3. Isolate Yourself

4. Assume Infallibility

5. Play the Game Close to the Foul Line

6. Don’t Take Time to Think

7. Put All Your Faith in Experts & Outside Consultants

8. Love Your Bureaucracy

9. Send Mixed Messages

10. Be Afraid of the Future

Not surprisingly, some of these commandments are very similar to what we’ve heard from Warren over the years; for example, imagining that your actions will be on the front page of tomorrow’s paper for your family and neighbors to read about fits nicely with number five, a commandment that far too many people in corporate America fail to live by these days. Without diving in any further, it’s safe to say that you want to read this book; as Bill Gates put it, this book “will teach you more about business success than a whole shelf full of books.”

About the author:

The Science of Hitting
I'm a value investor, with a focus on patience; I look to buy great companies that are suffering from short term issues, and hope to load up when these opportunities present themselves. As this would suggest, I run a fairly concentrated portfolio by most standards, usually with 8-10 names; from the perspective of a businessman rather than a market participant / stock trader, I believe this is more than sufficient diversification.

I hope to own a collection of great businesses; to ever sell one, I would demand a substantial premium to the average market valuation due to what I believe are the understated benefits to the long term investor of superior fundamentals and time on intrinsic value. I don't have a target when I purchase a stock; my goal is to replicate the underlying returns of the business in question - which if I've done my job properly, should be very attractive over many years.

Rating: 3.9/5 (16 votes)

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