The two giants of Industry should have their own adjective ‘Buffetted’ and ‘Bransoned’linked to their charisma of doing business.Buffett is known to be frugal despite having a net worth of over $55 billion dollars. He started investing at a tender age of 11 years and even before he graduated, he had a few successful business ventures to his name.
Warren earned a Masters degree in Economics at Columbia University at the age of 21 years.His study under Benjamin Graham greatly influenced his investment style as he matured into one of the world’s greatest investment strategists.He was so impressed with Benjamin’s investment strategies that he wanted to desperately work for his Graham-Newman investment firm and finally got through after a long three year wait. Warren left the firm when Graham retired, two years later.
He returned back to Omaha and set up Buffett Associates Ltd when he was just 26 years old with a hundred dollars from his savings and one hundred thousand dollars from his friends and relatives.Within six years he began purchasing shares in Berkshire Hathaway, a textile manufacturing company that was floundering in an industry that was declining, and was selling really cheap for less than its working capital. Warren used the excess cash to invest in other private and public enterprises where the return on capital employed was higher. The other approach he also took was to invest in companies that had a niche position in the market and that could not be impacted by commodity driven business environments where price as the major determinant to the companies earning potential.This has been the core fundamentals of his investment strategy and has resulted in the world’s largest holding company ‘Berkshire Hathaway’.
Warren Buffett continues to impress the investment world with his key focus drivers and rules for investment still in play. His companies hurdle rate for return on capital employed should be above 15% otherwise funds are redirected to more profitable ventures. In return the ‘Sage of Omaha’offers never to interfere in the running operations of the companies he invests in as long as they are performing over the hurdle rate.
Richard Branson, on the other hand is a flamboyant businessman with a marketing savvy approach to business and great public relations skills. However, he has had many failures when it came to investments in new ventures. It is well known that Richard needs to be directly running the business in order for it to succeed.He has had limited successes primarily because trying to run multiple businesses without focusing on some, clearly is not working when these ventures need his personal touch.In his defense, I would add, that he is a gutsy businessman who uses his personal marketing skills effectively in gaining global media coverage at little or no cost, but that does not make a better investor.