2010: What qualities does Buffett look for in a manager?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Dear Mr. Buffett, dear Mr. Munger, my name is Steven Roman (PH). I’m a student of engineering maschinenbau at the University of Vienna in Austria.
If I one day want to apply as a manager with one of the Berkshire companies, what qualities are you especially looking for? And what do I have to do to become your successor? (Laughter)
WARREN BUFFETT: Probably shoot me. (Laughter)
The managers of our subsidiaries hire their own people. The number of decisions I have to make about managers are really, really few.
As I mentioned earlier, they do send me a letter that if something happens to them, gives me their ideas about who should succeed them.
But I make no decisions about who gets hired at GEICO, or Burlington, or Mid-American or anything of the sort. I mean, if they need a CFO they go out and hire a CFO, or if they need somebody to run a plant they go out and hire them themselves.
They are responsible for their operations, and occasionally we have a death, we have an occasional — very occasional, I can’t even hardly think of one — resignation.
And at that point I have to make a decision about who should be put in charge of the operation. But I don’t think I’ve had more than 10 or 12 of those in 45 years.
So I’m not a very good employment agency. We have 21 people, I think it is, at headquarters, and I made a terrific hire here a few months ago. But that’ll take care of me for four or five years.
CHARLIE MUNGER: Yeah, there’s no indication we’d be particularly good at it, either. (Laughter)
WARREN BUFFETT: Yeah. I wasn’t going to mention that. (Laughter)
But I would say this: if you want — what is interesting to me is that when you find somebody outstanding, boy, do they jump out. I mean, somebody that is thinking about the place the right way, is working extra hard, whatever it may be.
There aren’t — you don’t have that much competition in this world. So, in terms of generally advancing within organizations, I think you’d be surprised at how little competition you really have if you start thinking like you would if you were an owner of the place, and working like you would if you were an owner of the place, and pretty soon you may be running something.