BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JULY 5, 1999 ISSUE
COVER STORY

Talking to the Troops


There's no Berkshire Hathaway corporate manual. Instead, Buffett sends out folksy letters from time to time reminding his troops of Berkshire's corporate ethos. Here's an excerpt from a recent one:

The Executive Jet merger has been completed and General Re will likely be merged in the fourth quarter. Therefore, it's now a good time to set forth the few rules we have and also to again ask you about the succession situation at your operation.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

-- We can afford to lose money--even a lot of money. We cannot afford to lose reputation -- even a shred of reputation.

-- All of you do a first-class job in running your operations with your own individual styles. We are going to keep it that way. You can talk to me about what is going on as little or as much as you wish with only one caveat: If there is any significant bad news, let me know early.

-- Look at the business you run as if it were the only asset of your family, one that must be operated for the next 50 years and can never be sold.

-- If you run into any owner or managers of larger businesses that might be prospects for a merger, be sure to send them along to me.

-- One group don't send to me: People who are looking for a speaker at any kind of function.

-- Send me a letter updating your recommendations as to who should take over tomorrow if you become incapacitated tonight. Anything you send me will be confidential.



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