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Businesses can succeed while still being ethical—just ask Warren Buffett

Buffett always considers 6 factors before making a business decision. And none of them have to do with making money.

Warren Buffett, billionaire, wisdom, strategy, financial investments

Warren Buffett speaking at the 2015 Select USA Investment Summit.

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TD Ameritrade

Warren Buffett isn't just rich. He's known for being ethical, straightforward, and wise. And also generous. Not just with his money but with his ideas.

Buffett straight up spelled out how he makes decisions on how to invest in and acquire businesses in a public letter sent to his shareholders. To be clear: His instincts and insights are what have made him such a rich man. And that's what he's sharing so openly with the world.

These are the six factors Warren Buffett says he considers when he's making big business decisions.

Maybe they could help the rest of us think through some tough decisions in our own lives? Let's see.


Maybe you, too, are investing billions of dollars. Or, uh, maybe not. But the day-to-day choices you have to make about life could be just as tough — and important. So let's see how his lessons could apply:

1. It's gotta be a big choice and a big win.

Buffett says he prefers to acquire "large purchases (at least $75 million of pre-tax earnings unless the business will fit into one of our existing units)." Aka, go big, go bold. Not everything has to be huge, but in tough times, sometimes doing the big, scary thing is how you reap the big, amazing reward.

2. The decision has to create value for you consistently and currently.

None of this "it'll pay off in the distant future" or "it just needs some elbow grease" stuff. Whatever you're choosing, make sure it's valuable and has concrete, real-life impact. Or, as Buffett says, the acquisition must have "demonstrated consistent earning power (future projections are of no interest to us, nor are 'turnaround' situations)."

File:President Barack Obama and Warren Buffett in the Oval Office ...commons.wikimedia.org

3. The decision will benefit everyone who's invested in it, and it won't leave anyone hanging.

Buffett wants "businesses earning good returns on equity while employing little or no debt," aka no one who's put time/effort/money/love into said life choice (or business move) will come out at the end with less than what they started with. Makes sense, right? Basically, don't screw people over with the choices you make. Have some heart and fairness.

4. Everything necessary for success should already be in place.

Buffett mentions that there must be "management in place" and that his company "can't supply it." Invest time and energy in things that are solid and have demonstrated reliability. That is, "don't build the ship while you sail it." Why? According to Buffett's logic, when making huge decisions, if the part that keeps makes the end result of your decision sustainable is already there, that's a very good sign.

5. The decision may be hard, but the terms should be simple.

Buffett wants simple businesses, saying — in his awesomely straightforward way — "if there's lots of technology, we won't understand it." Life isn't always simple and there's certainly a time for complexity, but the lesson here is a good one: If you're making a huge choice, don't overcomplicate it.


man sitting on mountain cliff facing white clouds rising one hand at golden hourPhoto by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

6. The options are clear and available.

Buffett refers to this availability, basically saying that the company has to have a price on it already and that his firm doesn't "want to waste our time or that of the seller by talking, even preliminarily, about a transaction when price is unknown." I take this to mean that the choice is a clear action. No negotiations necessary.

Bingo.

Now I'm not saying that this well-to-do investor has all the answers just because he has all the money, and I know it's a little out there to think of these investment acquisition tips as something you can apply to your own, non-billionaire life. But think about it. Fearlessness? Fairness? Preparation? These are some helpful themes we could all probably take a few lessons from.

So next time you're making a big decision, think about them. In a world where financial literacy isn't exactly the norm, looking at how financial greats make their decisions could be an interesting thing to try. Who knows? It might help you.

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Do you ever feel like you could be doing more when it comes to making a positive impact on your community? The messaging around giving back is louder than ever this time of year, and for good reason; It is the season of giving, after all.

If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for bringing many of the giving-back initiatives to life, it’s probably not who you’d expect. The masterminds behind these types of campaigns are project managers.

Using their talents and skills, often proven by earning certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers are driving real change and increasing the success rate on projects that truly improve our world.

To celebrate the work that project managers are doing behind the scenes to make a difference, we spoke with two people doing more than their part to make an impact.

In his current role as a Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified project manager and environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Joshua Williard oversees the cleanup of some of America’s most contaminated and hazardous waste sites.

Courtesy of Joshua Williard

“Recently, I was part of a four-person diving team sent to collect contaminated sediment samples from the bottom of a river in Southeastern Virginia. We wanted to ensure a containment wall was successfully blocking the release of waste into an adjacent river,” Williard says.

Through his work, Josh drives restoration efforts to completion so contaminated land can again be used beneficially, and so future generations will not be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“I’ve been inspired by the natural world from a young age and always loved being outside. As I gained an understanding about Earth's trajectory, I realized that I wanted to be part of trying to save it and keep it for future generations.

“I learned the importance of using different management styles to address various project challenges. I saw the value in building meaningful relationships with key community members. I came to see that effective project management can make a real difference in getting things done and having on-the-ground impact,” Williard says.

In addition, Monica Chan’s career in project management has enabled her to work at the forefront of conservation efforts with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US). She most recently has been managing a climate change project, working with a diverse team including scientists, policy experts, data analysts, biologists, communicators, and more. The goal is to leverage grants to protect and restore mangroves, forests, and ecosystems, and drive demand in seaweed farming – all to harness nature's power to address the climate crisis.

Courtesy of Monica Chan

“As the project management lead for WWF-US, I am collaborating across the organization to build a project management framework that adapts to our diverse projects. Given that WWF's overarching objectives center on conserving nature and addressing imminent threats to the diversity of life on Earth, the stakes are exceptionally high in how we approach projects,” says Chan.

“Throughout my journey, I've discovered a deep passion for project management's ability to unite people for shared goals, contributing meaningfully to environmental conservation,” she says.

With skills learned from on-the-job experience and resources from PMI, project managers are the central point of connection for social impact campaigns, driving them forward and solving problems along the way. They are integral to bringing these projects to life, and they find support from their peers in PMI’s community.

PMI has a global network of more than 300 chapters and serves as a community for project managers – at every stage of their career. Members can share knowledge, celebrate impact, and learn together through resources, events, and other programs such as PMI’s Hours for Impact program, which encourages PMI members to volunteer their time to projects directly supporting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“By tapping into PMI's extensive network and resources, I've expanded my project management knowledge and skills, gaining insights from seasoned professionals in diverse industries, including environmental management. Exposure to different perspectives has kept me informed about industry trends, best practices, and allowed me to tailor my approach to the unique challenges of the non-profit sector,” Chan says.

“Obtaining my PMP certification has been a game-changer, propelling not only my career growth, but also reshaping my approach to daily projects, both personally and professionally,” Chan says. Research from PMI shows that a career in project management means being part of an industry on the rise, as the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030 and the median salary for project practitioners in the U.S. is $120K.

PMI’s mission is to help professionals build project management skills through online courses, networking, and other learning opportunities, help them prove their proficiency in project management through certifications, and champion the work that project professionals, like Joshua and Monica, do around the world.

For those interested in pursuing a career in project management to help make a difference, PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification could be the starting point to help get your foot in the door.

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