Robert Hagstrom, chief investment strategist at Legg Mason Investment Counsel, has always exhibited a keen interest in understanding what lies behind the scenes. His first book, The Warren Buffett Way, spent 21 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and sold over 1 million copies. Outside the United States, The Warren Buffett Way still continues to be the book most commonly mentioned by young investors as the source from which they initially learnt about Buffett’s methodology. Hagstrom’s latest book, his eighth, is titled Investing: The Last Liberal Art.
In the spring of 1998, Carol Loomis wrote an article for Fortune, titled “The Inside Story of Warren Buffett”. It was the first full profile of Buffett and Loomis was the perfect writer for the story. Up until then, the only inside look of Buffett came from his Chairman’s Letters and his once-a-year appearance at Berkshire’s annual meeting at Omaha. But those who were aware that Loomis was a close friend of Buffett and had been editing the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Reports since 1977 knew if anyone could write an “inside” story on Buffett, it would be she.
Loomis said she wanted to write a different story, one that emphasised Buffett not just as an investor but also as an “extraordinary businessman”. She did not disappoint. It was a beautifully written 7,000-word article that indeed gave the Buffett faithful a more intimate look at the man now dubbed the Wizard of Omaha. Loomis gave us many insights, but none were more ground-shaking for me than three little sentences tucked neatly inside the article. “What we do is not beyond anybody else’s competence,” said Buffett. “I feel the same way about managing that I do about investing: It’s just not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.”
Now, I am sure many who read this chalked it up to Buffett’s Midwestern humility. Buffett is not a braggart. But nor does he mislead. I was sure he would have not made this statement if he did not believe it to be true. And if it were true, as I believed it was, it meant there was the possibility of uncovering a roadmap, or better yet, a treasure map, which would describe how Buffett thinks about investing in general and stock s