When I attended the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in early May, I didn’t expect much would be applicable to early stage companies, but I was wrong.
Phil Terry, the CEO of Collaborative Gain organizes a trip to Omaha every year with a group of roughly 50 CEOs and Execs from a variety of industries which included American Express, theSkimm, Cheddar, First Round Capital, Kaiser Permanente and more. I felt very fortunate to be invited, and humbled.
Three of the most applicable lessons to start ups are as follows:
“Build a company that suits you.”
“Always be asking, must I do that? Why must I do that?”
“Think for yourself and don’t follow the whims of the market.”
In the first quote, what he means is to build a company that fits your personality, your life and your vision. Don’t try to be someone or something you’re not. You’re much more likely to be successful because you will attract more people who align to your vision. But Warren has a Yin to his Yang, and that’s Charlie Munger.
Charlie is his “no” person. He regularly challenges Warren’s assumptions. So while building a company that suits you, remember to balance it with your Charlie, or your Sheryl or your Angela…..I think you get the point.
To the second quote, it’s pretty straight forward. He mentions that most companies over complicate business. For example, Berkshire Hathaway doesn’t have an HR department or a legal department, or regular staff meetings.
So run your company, department, product, objective or whatever through that lens:
Must I hire that employee? Why must I hire that employee?
Must I buy marketing CRM software? Why must I buy marketing CRM software?
Must I have a weekly staff meeting? Why must I have a weekly staff meeting?
And lastly, “thinking for yourself.” This one actually ties in nicely with building a company that suits who “you” are.
It is very common for Founders to lose sight of their “why” and their “truth” when faced with the pressures of revenue growth, a demanding Board, and market conditions.
In the face of it all, maintain your True North, constantly be challenging yourself to simplify your business and don’t follow every shiny object the market throws your way.