Sklover’s Monday Thought: “What do we all sell? Ideas.”

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Never has changed, and never will . . . The big money is in selling ideas.”

– Warren Buffett

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Warren Buffett, 92 years young, has been around a long time. Though his net worth is reportedly in excess of $100 billion, he still lives in Omaha, Nebraska, the city of his birth, and in the same Omaha, Nebraska house he purchased for $31,000 in 1958. Buffett often speaks publicly about how to invest wisely, but also about what’s right and wrong, and how to have a better life. For example, he believes that people of wealth should pay higher tax rates than should others, out of basic fairness. Now that’s surely interesting, and unusual.

Buffett’s view about the “real business of business” is also rather captivating. It is, quite simply, that business is less about selling products and services than it is about selling ideas to customers, clients and prospective customers and clients . . . ideas about how the products and services we offer will enhance and enrich their interests and lives. It is from these “ideas” that he decides which companies to buy and sell, and when to do so. He combines ideas about human nature with ideas about human interest with ideas on human motivation and human behavior. . . and then pursues financial ventures.

In matters of career and employment, we also sell ideas, frequently to customers and clients, but daily and more directly to future Employers and present Managers . . . about what we offer them in terms of our skills, knowledge, relations, expertise and cooperative spirit, that will make them and their own efforts that much more productive, effective, efficient and successful.

Thus, in the longest term and in the largest picture, we are all in the business of selling ideas . . . to customers and clients, and prospective ones, too, and Employers and Managers, and prospective ones, too, about improving and enriching their lives in a variety of ways.

I think I like Warren Buffett most of all because he and I share a favorite quote about work life, no matter who it is you sell your ideas to: “The most important investment you can make is in yourself.”

On television last week I saw Warren Buffett speak at his annual shareholder conference in Omaha, Nebraska. He was quite something to watch and listen to, second only to the wit and wisdom of his business partner of 63 years, Charlie Munger, now 99. To their credit, they both remain fully engaged in their work lives – despite their “advanced experience” – and also fully arranged in giving most of their accumulated wealth to good causes, worldwide. Hats off to them both!

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