Our managers have produced extraordinary results by doing rather ordinary things—but doing them exceptionally well. Our managers protect their franchises, they control costs, they search for new products and markets that build their existing strengths and they don’t get diverted. They work exceptionally hard at the details of their businesses, and it shows.1
So when I buy a business, I am usually buying the manager with them, because I don’t know how to run the business. So when someone comes along that wants to sell their business, I have to look at them in the eye and I have to decide whether they love the money or love the business. It’s okay to love the money, but they have to love the business.2
Our prototype for occupational fervor is the Catholic tailor who used his small savings of many years to finance a pilgrimage to the Vatican. When he returned, his parish held a special meeting to get his first-hand account of the pope. “Tell us,” said the eager faithful, “just what sort of fellow is he?” Our hero wasted no words: “He’s a 44 medium.”3
We intend to continue our practice of working only with people whom we like and admire. This policy not only maximizes our chances for good results, it also ensures us an extraordinarily good time. On the other hand, working with people who cause your stomach to churn seems much like marrying for money—probably a bad idea under any circumstances, but absolute ...