Warren Buffett has had a remarkable career. Unlike every other billionaire before him, Buffett made his fortune as an investor, not as an owner-operator. Yes, Buffett did consolidate his holdings into Berkshire Hathaway after gaining control of the company in 1965, but he remained an investor at heart. Even today, Buffett has very little input in the day-to-day operations of the companies under Berkshire’s banner. A favourite activity of investors is trying to figure out who the next Warren Buffett will be. Lately, a common choice has been Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of web behemoth Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)….
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Warren Buffett has had a remarkable career.
Unlike every other billionaire before him, Buffett made his fortune as an investor, not as an owner-operator. Yes, Buffett did consolidate his holdings into Berkshire Hathaway after gaining control of the company in 1965, but he remained an investor at heart. Even today, Buffett has very little input in the day-to-day operations of the companies under Berkshire’s banner.
A favourite activity of investors is trying to figure out who the next Warren Buffett will be. Lately, a common choice has been Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of web behemoth Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).
Upon first glance, the two men couldn’t seem any less alike. Amazon is a pure technology business, while Buffett has made it clear he doesn’t understand the sector. Bezos has made some high-profile investments in future tech–like his private spaceflight company Blue Origin–while Buffett chooses to invest in things like ketchup and fast food.
But both have a few very important qualities in common. Here are three of the most important qualities that will help you be a better investor.
Taking the long-term view
Both Buffett and Bezos understand that when making investment decisions, it’s important to take the long view. Nowhere is this clearer than when Amazon issues guidance. Recently, after releasing disappointing fourth-quarter numbers, the company predicted operating income for the next quarter would be between $100 million and $700 million.
By giving such ridiculous guidance, Amazon was sending analysts a very important message. Management couldn’t care less about what happens in the next quarter. They’re focused on growth over the next decade.
One Bezos-inspired investment right now in Canada is Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (TSX:ATD.B), which is the owner of approximately 12,000 franchised convenience stores across North America, Europe, and Asia. Couche-Tard has been a growth-by-acquisition story, making four deals in the last year alone.
There’s one big problem with the convenience store giant, and that’s valuation. Shares currently trade hands at $57.26 each, which is more than 27 times projected 2016 earnings of $2.11 per share. That kind of valuation is enough to scare off many value investors.
But it’s very easy to envision a scenario where shares do grow into the valuation. There are still plenty of convenience stores around for it to acquire, especially from cash-strapped oil companies. Perhaps long-term investors should be ignoring the valuation.
Although Bezos has the majority of his wealth wrapped up in Amazon stock, he’s been slowly selling off his largest position to put money into other investments.
He’s a heavy player in the tech sector, of course. Through his investment arm, Bezos Expeditions, the billionaire has stakes in Airbnb, Uber, and business news website Business Insider, among others. He’s also a major shareholder in Workday, a company that uses the cloud to provide human resources services. Finally, Bezos owns the Washington Post newspaper.
Notice that most of these investments have one thing in common. They’re all in things that could end up much higher at some point in the future. Airbnb or Uber could end up growing to be global powerhouses. Some of Canada’s largest blue-chip stocks don’t have obvious growth paths.
Don’t be afraid to fail
The list of Amazon’s failures is extensive. Perhaps the biggest was the company’s foray into mobile phones, but it also has shut down its travel website, its e-commerce platform, a peer-to-peer payment service, and many others. These bets were all relatively big, each totaling millions of dollars.
Investors can learn a similar lesson when it comes to opportunity costs. I know so many people who are sitting on cash, worried about how the market might collapse. It’s the investment equivalent of being too scared to fail.
Personally, I made that mistake with WestJet Airlines Ltd. (TSX:WJA), a stock I was looking to buy a few months ago. I liked the company’s low-cost business model, its expansion opportunities, and its potential to grow lucrative revenue streams. At $17 per share, I just didn’t think the company was cheap enough.
I shouldn’t have waited. Shares are currently flirting with $22, a gain of nearly 30%.
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Fool contributor Nelson Smith owns Berkshire Hathaway (B Shares). David Gardner owns shares of Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Berkshire Hathaway (B Shares). Alimentation Couche-Tard is a recommendation of Stock Advisor Canada.