What can entrepreneurs learn from Charlie Munger?

What can you learn from Charlie Munger?What can you learn from Charlie Munger?

Who shapes the way you see the world? What makes this person someone you want to emulate in your life and career? I was lucky enough to be introduced to Charlie Munger and his business philosophy by a mutual friend many years ago.

What I have learned from Charlie Munger changed how I approached psychology, leadership, and investing. I will share how he impacted the way I work with my clients.

You might be thinking that’s an odd combination to learn from one person. I’ll try to share why they work so well together while introducing you to this fascinating leader. Bill Gates said, “Charlie Munger is truly the broadest thinker I have ever encountered.” High praise coming from a man who has had a major impact on the world for well over 30 years.

Charlie Munger is one of the most influential people that a majority of people don’t know.  Charlie is Warren Buffett’s business partner and Vice Chairman at Berkshire Hathaway.  He’s provided Warren with his advice and outlook on business since the mid 1970’s.  While they have very complementary leadership styles, saying merely that would do a disservice to this rare and long term friendship.

When you see them together you might underestimate their impact on each other’s leadership. Charlie can dissect ideas and businesses faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. But even Charlie would say that it’s not his intelligence that provides Warren an edge. He is a multidisciplinary dynamo who is very good at understanding complex challenges through many different viewpoints.

Now for the downside, he is very capable of making an individual feel unprepared even after weeks of preparation. He is very direct when asking questions.  He can also ask a barrage of questions that leave most people wondering what just happened to them. The people who work with him on a regular basis really enjoy interacting with him.

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say I know many leaders across the Berkshire Hathaway organization. I’ve been working with them since 1986 when Warren and Charlie bought a friend’s business; Scott & Fetzer. In 1986, this acquisition, along with Cap Cities, took Warren’s net worth to over a billion dollars.

I worked with Kirby as a door to door salesman back then. I was given a chance to work with many outstanding executives inside Berkshire Hathaway over the next 30 years, many serving at the top of their respective organizations.

Let me share why I think Charlie Munger is such a great model for entrepreneurs today.  All who know Charlie share very positive stories about what he brings to the leadership partnership with Warren Buffett. I also know many investors in their organization that go to Omaha for annual meetings of the Warren & Charlie show. They sell products from their many different divisions at their annual meeting. It’s been described as Woodstock for Capitalists.

The different division CEOs meet with investors and the press throughout the several day event. It’s unconventional to say the least.  You just never know what you will learn at these meetings.

You can also learn by reading Berkshire Hathaway’s annual reports and resources where Warren shares his and Charlie Munger’s ideas on the past year and where they see the business going in the coming year. This should be required reading for entrepreneurs who want to build an extraordinary organization. They are well written, but more importantly they cut through the BS you find in so many other annual reports.

I believe that these reports perfectly reflect these leaders’ style and temperament. It’s also why Berkshire Hathaway stock is held by many of the world’s most successful investors. Each share goes for $190,000. By the time you finish this series you may decide to go out and get several shares. There are also class B stocks you can buy. I don’t own any stock since an early mentor suggested owning shares could be a conflict of interest when providing unvarnished advice to their different leadership teams. This could be the worst advice I have ever received!

I’m out of time today, but I hope you will stick around for the next couple of blogs to see what makes this team so successful. In my job, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different CXOs over the past 30 years.  I’ve also worked at the senior level with several presidential administrations, one on each side of the aisle. I’ve worked with people who became Governors, Senators, and Congressmen.

What I learned over the past 30 years from Warren and Charlie has been applied to helping many Fortune 1000 global leaders build their organizations. Stick around as we start sharing ideas that can transform the way you work with other leaders. Over the coming year, I plan to share several stories that will help you increase your impact on others.

See you this Friday. I promise I will begin sharing what I learned from this Dynamic Duo.

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