1. Focus on the business, and not on growing staff.
In the letter, Buffett detailed that Berkshire’s total number of employees is up 3% from the previous year. But he notes that the gain wasn’t made at the headquarters where 25 people work. For Buffet, there’s “No sense going crazy.”
2. Ensure that board members relate to shareholders.
At Berkshire, board members are paid token fees rather than large amounts of money for their work as directors. Buffett’s board is also set apart from other companies because Berkshire doesn’t carry liability insurance to protect their board members. In the words of Warren Buffett: “At Berkshire, directors walk in your shoes.”
3. Benefits come from splitting the CEO and chairman role.
Buffett is not fond of having the CEO and chairman be the same person. He wants his son, Howard, to succeed him as a non-executive chairman. That way, it would be easier to make changes should the wrong CEO be employed and there arises a need for the chairman to move forcefully.
4. Think of the company and not yourself.
Buffett wants Berkshire’s next CEO to be a “rational, calm and decisive individual” and someone who “knows his limits.” In other words, Berkshire isn’t a place for an ego-driven CEO who is motivated by a large paycheck. Buffett says, “a Berkshire CEO must be ‘all in’ for the company, not for himself.” In addition, he added that “character is crucial” because “a CEO’s behavior has a huge impact on managers down the line.”
5. There is no room for arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency.
Fighting off all three should be a necessary skill for any leader. According to Buffett, when these three metastasize, “even the strongest of companies can falter.” He even cited General Motors, IBM, Sears Roebuch and US Steel to drive home his point.
6. Trust is important.
Buffett puts trust in the managers of the many companies owned by Berkshire. For Buffett, the trust that he and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger put on their managers have allowed them to produce more “than would be achieved by streams of directives, endless reviews and layers of bureaucracy.”
7. Experience is perhaps the only best teacher.
Buffett mentioned in the letter that two of his investment managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler will manage one of the company’s businesses. The role will make them better investors through hands-on experience.
8. Admit mistakes yet stay humble.
Buffett admitted that he “made a big mistake with this investment by dawdling” in regards to the delayed sale of Tesco shares. He also makes mention that some of his managers are better at running the business than he is.
9. Praise the people who work for you.
Although a letter to investors, Buffett also gave praise to his managers. He didn’t just use the collective “we” but mentioned specific individuals. And he didn’t just stop at managers as he even praised a former secretary who organized the annual meeting of the company.