Have you ever reflected on what distinguishes Warren Buffett from many other investors and entrepreneurs? We often hear so much about his amazing success and achievements.
As a relatively new entrepreneur, I often listen to his talks as he provides the most transparent, straightforward and wise advice — his humble and approachable manner together with a combination of personality traits expedites greatness.
On February 13, 2018, Warren Buffett gave a presentation at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Summit. His speech was so interesting that I decided to expand a bit more about the two stories he shared and the lessons he learned.
POWERFUL ADVICE FROM MR BUFFETT
- Surround yourself with better people than you are
- Learn to multiply yourself through other people.
- You are going to move in the direction of the people you associate with
- Put time and energy to better yourself
- Learn more skills to prove yourself what you are capable of doing
- As a small business owner, and as you grow, you have to not only be able to project your interest in people’s well-being, in delighting them, but you have to do it through other people.
Mr Buffett opened his presentation with a couple of short stories and the lessons he learned from Rose Blumkin and Jack Taylor.
Who Was Rose Blumkin
Mrs Blumkin, known as Mrs B, was born near Minsk, Belarus to a Jewish family as Rose Gorelick. She immigrated to the US in her early 20s from Russia in 1917. In 1919 moved to Omaha, Nebraska.
Mr and Mrs Blumkin scraped together enough money to have her family flee Russia and join them in America. They had four children. She spent 20 years saving $2,500 and in 1937 opened her dream, a furniture store, the Nebraska Furniture Mart.
Mrs B knew early in life that honesty and integrity would serve her well. She sold her products at prices much lower than her competitors. In the early ’80s, Nebraska Furniture Mart was the most prominent furniture retailer in the US.
Mrs Blumkin sold her business to Warren Buffett in 1983 for approximately 60 million dollars, and by 2017 it did a billion and a half dollars worth of business. The fourth generation is working on that business. She worked for Warren Buffett until she was 103 and died at the age of 104.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM MRS BLUMKIN
- She had no formal education and knew no English
- She learnt the language from her elder daughter who taught her, every evening, the words she learned in school during the day
- She had the determination to succeed
- She cared about her customers
- She worked at a very low gross margins
Who Was Jack C. Taylor?
Jack Crawford Taylor was born on April 14, 1922 in St. Louis, Missouri. He left school to join the US Navy. During World War II, he piloted an F6F Hellcat fighter from the decks of the USS Essex (DV-9) and the USS Enterprise (CV-6) earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Navy Air Medal.
After the war, he returned to St. Louis and started a delivery service company. In 1948, he took a job at the Lindberg Cadillac dealership and became a sales manager.
In 1957 he began a car leasing business in a partnership with his employer. His boss, Arthur R. Lindburg, required him to take a 50 per cent pay cut and put up $25,000 interest in the business. Mr Taylor began operating with a total of seven cars.
At age 40, Taylor decided to go into the rental car business with only 17 vehicles. He is taking companies that operate with hundreds of thousands of cars, like Hertz, Avis and National but with his determination to provide his customers friendlier service, his company grew from a 17-car venture in a dealership basement to a multinational company with more than 3,300 branches.
In 1969, Mr Taylor expanded outside St Louis and changed the name of the company to Enterprise (named after the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier upon which he had served in World War II. He concentrated on the hometown market offering home pickup
By 1980, the rental fleet had grown to 6,000 cars. In 1989, the fleet had increased to 50,000, and he changed the name to Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Each year, Enterprise recruits more than 5,000 college students to begin management careers with the company. The Taylors have created new recruiting positions in the company and continue to help their local markets find the best ways to reach local colleges.
He turned down Warren Buffett offer to buy his business. He died on July 2, 2016. When he died, his rental car company was worth more than Hertz and Avis and all the rest of the rental cars put together.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM JACK TAYLOR
- He was determined to offer a friendlier service, better than anyone had ever offered.
- Taylor’s business credo was: “Take care of your customers and employees first, and profits will follow.”
- Mr Taylor learned how to project himself, his attitude towards his fellow man and his desire to make a friend out of every customer.
- He managed to take very ordinary cars and turn them into this extraordinary business from virtually nothing.
These two amazing people were ordinary people who lived by the creed, basically delighting his customers and working with people, establishing the relationship with them.
ADDITIONAL ADVICE FROM MR BUFFETT
- You might not necessarily get it right the first time. Henry Ford failed twice before he started Ford Motor Company in 1903. Keep going.
- Don’t worry about whether the Federal Reserve is going to tighten or ease
- Don’t worry about whether the stock market is up or down
- Focus on what you can change, not what you cannot.
- Have a genuine desire, day in and day out, to delight your customer.
- Keep learning as you go along
- Focus on your strengths
Mr Buffett says that every business that delights the customer succeeds. When a customer has a need to rent-a-car or buys furniture, what it runs in their mind is the place where they had a great experience.
We all go through experiences and remember how we were treated when we make a purchase, you long forget about the price but you never forget whether you had a good experience.
I had the opportunity to witness the excellent customer service Enterprise provides.
Last year, my husband and I were in England and my son and his wife, who live in Seattle, organised a holiday from Milton Keynes to Cornwall. They hired a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
The next day they arrived in England, we went to collect the car at Enterprise, and we were so pleased for the customer service we received and the attention to detail the staff provided. From that point Enterprise became my favourite company.
My husband and I are in Australia at the moment, and we rent cars, but sadly, Enterprise is not as accessible as it is in the US or England. We have been trying different rental companies, but even though they offer nice cars, the customer services are their major downfall.
As Warren Buffett said in his speech, every person who has a delightful experience will continue using them. Similarly, if the memory is of rudeness, indifference or whatever it may be, they are never going to go back.
The key is to move in the direction of the people you associate with. Have enough sense to learn from these people. Look for people who are examples to you, it will cause you to move in a better path.
Warren Buffett – Advice For Entrepreneurs
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To Your Success!