How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett: A book review by Bob Morris

How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett: Lessons from the World’s Greatest Dealmaker
Tom Searcy and Henry DeVries
McGraw-Hill (2013)

Anyone can try but only Warren Buffett can close a deal like Warren Buffett

As the title of this review suggests, I take issue with the title of this book because makes an implied promise with misleading implications. That said, this book offers material that can of substantial value to decision makers, not only to investors. Consider this list provided by Tom Searcy and Henry DeVries in their Introduction: great leaders such as Warren Buffett “love” their customers, what they sell, what they do, and their people. They identify four investments that illustrate how thoroughly Buffett does his homework and then cite some important statistics concerning demographic market segments they view as their targeted readers. For example, “The 22.6 self-employed professionals, consultants, and business owners who make deals to land clients and contracts.”

These are among the dozens of passages in the book I found of greatest interest and value. By listing them, I hope to provide least some indication of what Searcy and DeVries cover in their narrative.

o “Warren Way #31,” Learn from Others (Pages 4-6)
o How to Know What the Right Deal Looks Like (16-17)
o Try This Approach (22-23)
o Start with Your Dream Deal List (26-29)
o The Name of the Game Is to Find That Dealmaker (33-35)
o How Rocky Will Your Deal Path Be? (50-52)
o On Hunting Elephants (69-70)
o Finishing Off the Elephant (77-79)
o Look Inside Your Company (85-87)
o Murder Boards and Hot Washes (92-96)
o Fight for Your Way (108-109)
o How to Prepare for Unpredictable Problems (115-116)
o Don’t Delay, Because Time Kills Deals (133-135)
o Run the Race to the Finish (142-151)
o Fear Shows Up (155-157)

Throughout the book, Searcy and DeVries briefly identify the “what” of deal making but devote most of their time and attention to explain the “how” of doing it successfully. Readers will also appreciate their provision of “Buffet Bonus” sections at the conclusion of chapters; also “Warren Way” quotations throughout the book, many of them selected from Buffett’s remarks at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meetings.

Here is a brief excerpt from Lawrence A. Cunningham’s Introduction to The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America (Second Edition). The business philosophy it delineates and the values it affirms reveal a great deal about the reasons for Buffett’s success:

“The CEOs of Berkshire’s various operating companies enjoy a unique position in corporate America. They are given a simple set of commands: to run their business as if (1) they are its sole owner, (2) it is the only asset they hold, and (3) they can never sell or merge it for a hundred years.” With regard to investment thinking, “one must guard against what Buffett calls the `institutional imperative.’ It is a pervasive force in which institutional dynamics produce resistance to change, absorption of available corporate funds, and reflexive approval of suboptimal CEO strategies by subordinates. Contrary to what is often taught in business and law schools, this powerful force often interferes with rational business decision-making. The ultimate result of the institutional imperative is a follow-the-pack mentality producing industry imitators, rather than industry leaders – what Buffett calls a lemming-like approach to business.”

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the aforementioned Essays volume as well as Alice Schroeder’s The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life and Ronald Chan’s Behind the Berkshire Hathaway Curtain: Lessons from Warren Buffett’s Top Business Leaders.

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