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Warren Buffett on Business: Principles from the Sage of Omaha by Richard J. Connors

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13.10. Hiring Policies

An observer might conclude from our hiring practices that Charlie and I were traumatized early in life by an EEOC bulletin on age discrimination. The real explanation, however, is self-interest: It's difficult to teach a new dog old tricks. The many Berkshire managers who are past 70 hit home runs today at the same pace that long ago gave them reputations as young slugging sensations. Therefore, to get a job with us, just employ the tactic of the 76-year-old who persuaded a dazzling beauty of 25 to marry him. "How did you ever get her to accept?" asked his envious contemporaries. The comeback: "I told her I was 86."[]

I recall that one woman, upon being asked to describe the perfect spouse, specified an archeologist: "The older I get," she said, "the more he'll be interested in me." She would have liked my tastes: I treasure those extraordinary Berkshire managers who are working well past normal retirement age and who concomitantly are achieving results much superior to those of their younger competitors. While I understand and empathize with the decision of Verne and Gladys to retire when the calendar says it's time, theirs is not a step I wish to encourage. It's hard to teach a new dog old tricks.[]

Naturally, a business that follows a no-layoff policy must be especially careful to avoid overstaffing when times are good. Thirty years ago Tom Murphy, then CEO of Cap Cities, drove this point home to me with a hypothetical tale about an employee who asked ...

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