Do you know what the “Woodstock of Capitalism” is?
It has nothing to do with the music business and everything to do with legendary investor Warren Buffett’s opinions on the future of the U.S. and global economy, capitalism and his company, Berkshire Hathaway.
The so-called “Woodstock of Capitalism” is the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, where 40,000 plus people descend on Omaha, Nebraska, to hear from Buffett himself. This year’s event took place at the beginning of May.
Berkshire owns 61 companies, including well-known names such as GEICO Auto Insurance, See’s Candies and Dairy Queen. The company also holds significant investments in Coca-Cola, American Express and Wells Fargo. Buffett is worth $74.7 billion.
Each year at Berkshire’s shareholder meeting, Buffett and his long-time business partner Charlie Munger hold court, including a five-hour (yes, five hour) Q&A session with attendees. For the first time this year, the Q&A was live-streamed on Yahoo Finance.
I’m a huge Buffett fan and think entrepreneurs would be smart to know what Buffett and Munger have on their minds. Buffet is 86. Munger is 93, and both are going strong. They are eternal optimists about our country’s future.
A few comments from this year’s event caught my attention:
Health care costs
“Medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness. Health care costs are the real issue.” – Buffett
Small business owners should hope that Buffett’s megaphone on this issue is heard loud and clear in Washington, D.C. and all the state capitols.
Buffet is smart to frame the issue this way. He believes tax reform is necessary, but not at the expense of reining in health care costs. Future job growth depends on fixing our crazy, expensive and complicated health care insurance system.
Small businesses are feeling the impact far worse than corporate America with unaffordable premiums, which impacts the ability to hire and retain quality employees. It also creates challenges building a company with healthy employees.
Artificial intelligence and automation
“Productivity is better, society is better and it’s not like all of these changes are coming overnight.” – Munger
Munger and Buffett seemed a bit cavalier on the subject of automation and its impact on jobs. Munger is right about these changes not happening overnight.
Small business owners should keep an eye on advances on automation technologies that can take the routine and repetitive tasks off your plate and provide more time to operate your business.
“A lot of people are trying to be brilliant, and we are trying to stay rational.” — Munger
“Just learn, learn, learn all the time. If we had not kept learning, we wouldn’t even be here.” — Munger
Munger is spot on that constantly learning should be an important focus. Also, most of the time just plain old common sense wins the day with moving your business forward.
So, Google “Woodstock of Capitalism 2017.”
Keep the older sages Buffett and Munger on your radar screen. They have much to teach us about capitalism, business and life.
Pat Sisneros is the Vice President of College Services at Everett Community College and former small business owner. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org