Warren Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha because his timely and sage advice has led many people to believe that he is among the greatest investors of all time. I have been reading his annual reports for many years and listening to this famous annual conferences. Through my decades of studying his behavior, investments, and financial philosophy I have learned valuable lessons. While Buffett intended his thoughts to provide value in the domains of finance and, perhaps, life, I now see his incredible insights helping me work more effectively from home.
First, some context about Warren Buffett’s investment thesis is in order. He values companies that have, as he calls them, long-term durable competitive advantages. Basically he likes firms that have staying power because what they do or make will be with us for a long time. One example he often cites is that of Coca-Cola. Even as society changes, many millions of people still like to drink soda. What does that have to do with working from home? And working from home effectively? As it turns out, a lot. A compelling way to do good work with limited oversight or from a home office is to have long-term staying power. You are the product, the business, the bottom line. You are the CEO of yourself. If you want to build a winning business – if you want to be great at what you do – you need to engage in behaviors that will sustain themselves for decades. You have to avoid distractions and noise; just like a firm must keep its North Star over many business cycles you too need to know where you are headed and have the patience and conviction to get there.
Secondly, Buffett loves firms that make long term investments that provide returns greater than the cost of borrowing. In simple terms, he wants to invest in or own firms that make profits above and beyond the cost of capital. When working from home you will face many opportunities to borrow: you can borrow time from yourself, from your family, from your peers and colleagues. But in the end of the day you will need to produce returns greater than amounts borrowed. In other words, you need to know your costs and you need to know your outputs. If your outputs are equal to your costs you will break-even. If you are only able to produce slightly more, you will be just barely profitable. You want to take your time and skills and create leverage to add even more value for yourself and your firm.
Warren Buffett has taught so many of us about money and how to invest. One of the best investments is in yourself: your education, your values, how you spend and allocate your time. When I listen to Buffett describe how a firm should a firm should operate I think about myself. If I want to be great – like the companies he owns or backs – I need to have staying power and I need to add value. I can do this from anywhere as long as I know the rules of the game. Working from home forces me to be the CEO of my own ship – team me – and do what I can to stay focused and create long-term durable advantages. If you extrapolate Buffett’s wisdom to your own life and work environment you will likely learn a few things – as I did.