Book Review Corner - The Snowball, Warren Buffet and the Business of Life By Alice Schroeder
The Snowball, Warren Buffet and the Business of Life
Random House Inc. Publisher
Warren Buffet is a mid-West America success story. His father and grandfather were business survivors at a time when survival was challenging. Example: Warren Buffet’s father, Howard, lost his job at the local bank in 1932. He went to his father, Warren’s grandfather, and asked him for a job in his dry goods store. His grandfather turned his own son down. With little money, two kids and a mortgage, Howard Buffet started his own stock brokerage company in 1932. He went door to door selling stocks to farmers and neighbors in the area around Omaha. By 1938, Howard had made enough money to buy a new home and run for Congress. Needless to say, Warren Buffet is from good, solid mid-West stock.
This is a book reflecting as much the events of Warren Buffet’s life as his investing and business philosophy. After reading about his young years delivering newspapers and saving money, one can easily see how his commitment to buying and holding investments forever developed. Being from the mid-West, there is no glamour only reality. There is neither show business nor pretenses. There is only hard work and frugality.
His long time investment in Ben Bridge Jewelers and See’s Candies is reflective of this invest and hold philosophy. Find fundamental companies that are well run and invest in them. Find good people to manage the companies and let them have their freedom to succeed.
His commitment to the basic industries of America is without deviation. Railroads, airlines, newspapers, banking, insurance, foods are all unglamorous. The book in particular discusses his long time involvement in GEICO Insurance Company. The author does a credible job of recounting the history of GEICO. From a startup insurance company in 1936 in Texas, it was a sound insurance investment model from the beginning. As a young and eager investor, Warren Buffet went down to the headquarters of GEIC and interviewed the officers of the company. Impressed, he began buying the stock in the 1950s only to later buy the entire company.
He was a focused and determined young man. He went to Columbia University in the early 1950s to get his MBA. He worked briefly at a small investment shop but eventually moved back to Omaha where his roots and people were. Like a lot of investors, Buffet could see that his thinking was a lot clearer in Omaha than in New York. Broadway and Wall Street may be glamorous but when it comes to investing it is distractive.
The author touches on his relationship with his wife which might explain his philosophical difference from his father, Howard. Whereas Howard was a conservative Republican who opposed FDR, communism, liberalism and socialism, Warren has at times flirted with the liberal social issues touted by the Democratic Party. When his wife went to San Francisco to live on her own and become involved in the art and music scene in the 1980s, one can see the influences she had on his political thinking.
Notwithstanding his flirtation with liberal issues, his business and investment philosophy was never compromised. His long-time partner, Charlie Munger, is a personality that allows Buffet the latitude to be him. Reading the book, one can easily imagine Munger the tough guy and Buffet the affable guy. A one-two punch that has brought Berkshire-Hathaway to be one of the best investment companies in America.
This is a book you will want to keep on your bookshelf for years to come. I have gone back many times and re-read a chapter or two. I hope you enjoy the book and that it enriches your business life.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and comments. Enjoy.