Warren Buffett Loves Focused Management

Warren Buffett on the cost of loss of focus on the main business at the 1996 Berkshire Hathaway Annual meeting:

I love focused management. If you read the Coca-Cola annual report, you will not get the idea that Roberto Goizueta is thinking about a whole lot of things other than Coca-Cola. And I have seen that work time after time. And when they lose that focus—as, actually, did Coke and Gillette both, at one point 20 to 30 years ago somewhat—it shows up. I mean, two great organizations were not hitting their potential 20 years ago. And then they became refocused. And what a difference it makes. It makes tens of billions of dollars’ worth of difference, in terms of market value. GEICO actually started fooling around in a number of things in the early ’80s, and they paid a price to do it. They paid a very big price. They paid a direct price, in terms of the cost of those things, because they almost all worked out badly. And then they paid an additional price in the loss of focus on the main business…. So, we like focus. We love focus.

Be As You Are

Vietnamese-born monk and writer Thich Nhat Hanh writes in The Art of Power (2017):

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.


From T. S. Eliot’s Little Gidding, the fourth and final poem of Four Quartets, a series of poems that discuss time, perspective, humanity, and salvation:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Teachers Everywhere

Fast Company’s Alan Webber summarizes nuggets of wisdom from his Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self (2009.)

Rule #52: “Stay alert! There are teachers everywhere.” I’ve learned great rules from strangers sitting next to me on a short airplane ride—they just happened to say exactly what I needed to hear to help me make sense out of a tough problem I was wrestling with. Actually, my favorite rule in the book is Rule #53: that’s the rule I invite readers to create for themselves and send me at the Rules of Thumb web site, because I think the best, and most important rules are the ones you figure out for yourself.

Signs of Lying: Inconsistent Details

Singapore’s Women’s Weekly identifies some telltale signs of lying:

Lying at work is a quick way to distract from the truth and sometimes, get out of getting into trouble.

One logical telltale sign is lying when a person lying to you is unable to give consistent details or accounts of whatever they’re lying about.

Horrid Fate of Animals and Animal Slaughter

Novelist Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle should instigate everyone who reads it to think twice about enjoying meat:

One could not stand and watch very long without being philosophical, without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog-squeal of the universe…. Each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart’s desire; each was full of self-confidence, of self-importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow hung over him, and a horrid Fate in his pathway. Now suddenly it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless, remorseless, all his protests, his screams were nothing to it. It did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life.

Displaying Many Variables at Once

from Stephen Few’s Show Me the Numbers (2012,)

Graphs can be used to tell complex stories. When designed well, graphs can combine a host of data spread across multiple variables to make a complex message accessible. When designed poorly, graphs can bury even a simple message in a cloud of visual confusion. Excellent graph design is much like excellent cooking. With a clear vision of the end result and an intimate knowledge of the ingredients, you can create something that nourishes and inspires.

Why Anyone Would Want Howard Schultz to Be President

When Howard Schultz spurred speculation of political intent when he announced that he was stepping down as Starbucks’ executive chairman and “think about … public service,” Barrons’s noted,

Many prominent executives believe “leadership in the public sector has devolved to people who are willing to go along with whatever will get them elected,” says Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit business group that focuses on public issues. And it isn’t just Trump who fails their test. “They see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as equally polarizing, driving from the other direction,” she says. “They see it as a vacuum of leadership generally.”

Trump got elected as someone who could bring business and negotiating skills to the federal government. But one skill isn’t on Trump’s resume: running a multinational public company subject to open scrutiny, with a wide range of constituencies. Schultz can tout those experiences and more.

The new wave of executive presidential hopefuls is driven in part by a desire to redeem business-school values by putting a CEO in the Oval Office who is practiced in consistency, practicality, consensus-driven leadership, and above all a clear-eyed understanding of problems.

Sit Less, Stand More

As they say, sitting is the new smoking. Singapore’s Women’s Weekly identifies exercises and stretches to prevent and alleviate lower back discomfort:

It might seem rather obvious that to counter the negative effects of sitting for too long you have to stand, but this might be harder than it seems. After all, we’re so used to being seated for most of our lives, especially at work.

What you could do instead, is to make more trips to the kitchen to get water by using a cup instead of a bottle, head to the toilet to relieve yourself and take the opportunity to do some of the stretches below.

Also, you could consider setting up a standing work desk and procuring a standing mat to make the experience less strenuous and more appealing.

Carlos Ghosn’s Arrest Emphasizes Key Man Risk

Barron’s quotes Karen Brenner, clinical professor of business at New York University Stern School of Business, in analyzing news that Carlos Ghosn, the chairman of Nissan Motor, was arrested in Tokyo for financial improprieties:

“boards have to be really alert, especially in good times.”

“It’s easy for a board to be alert when times are tough, but it’s very important for a board to maintain their vigilance when times are good,” she continues, adding that “sometimes boards can be deferential to an iconic CEO” such as Ghosn.

Brenner says she was caught off guard by the news, in part because she has used Ghosn’s tenure at Nissan as a positive case study in a class she teaches at Stern. She credits Ghosn with overseeing a “complex turnaround,” adding “he was a very strong iconic leader” who “achieved a great deal in a very difficult, complex environment” involving different cultures and countries.

Brenner says, is that “every company should have a succession plan, including an emergency succession plan.”

She adds: “A good CEO ideally leads in a way that companies can go on without them. The optimal CEO [has] institutionalized the way they are operating and doing business.”