-Warren E. Buffett, 2008 Chairman’s Letter to the Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.
- “Many commentators…are fond of saying that the small investor has no chance in a market now dominated by the erratic behavior of the big boys. This conclusion is dead wrong: Such markets are ideal for any investor—small or large—so long as he sticks to his investment knitting. Volatility caused by money managers who speculate irrationally with huge sums will offer the true investor more chances to make intelligent investing moves. He can be hurt by such volatility only if he is forced, by either financial or psychological pressures, to sell at untoward times.”
- “We continually search for large businesses with understandable, enduring and mouth-watering economics that are run by able and shareholder-oriented managements. This focus doesn’t guarantee results: We both have to buy at a sensible price and get business performance from our companies that validates our assessment. But this investment approach–searching for the superstars–offers us our only chance for real success. Charlie and I are simply not smart enough, considering the large sums we work with, to get great results by adroitly buying and selling portions of far-from-great businesses. Nor do we think many others can achieve long-term investment success by flitting from flower to flower. Indeed, we believe that according the name ‘investors’ to institutions that trade actively is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a romantic.”
- “…we have no idea—and never have had—whether the market is going to go up, down, or sideways in the near future—or the intermediate future. What we do know, however, is that occasional outbreaks of those two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur in the investment community. The timing of these epidemics will be unpredictable. And the market aberrations produced by them will be equally unpredictable, both as to duration and degree. Therefore, we never try to anticipate the arrival or departure of either disease. Our goal is more modest: we simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”
- “…Berkshire’s ownership may make even the best of managers more effective. First, we eliminate all of the ritualistic and nonproductive activities that normally go with the job of CEO. Our managers are totally in charge of their personal schedules. Second, we give each a simple mission: Just run your business as if: 1) you own 100% of it; 2) it is the only asset in the world that you and your family have or will ever have; and 3) you can’t sell or merge it for at least a century. As a corollary, we tell them they should not let any of their decisions be affected even slightly by accounting considerations. We want our managers to think about what counts, not how it will be counted.”
- “The most common cause of low prices is pessimism-some times pervasive, some times specific to a company or industry. We want to do business in such an environment, not because we like pessimism but because we like the prices it produces. It’s optimism that is the enemy of the rational buyer. None of this means, however, that a business or stock is an intelligent purchase simply because it is unpopular; a contrarian approach is just as foolish as a follow-the-crowd strategy. What’s required is thinking rather than polling.”