Warren Buffett said this business manager accomplished something that virtually no one has accomplished, and why aren’t more business schools studying this business leader?
This person raised the bar for what it means to achieve business success and longevity that I’m sure Buffett and Munger are still striving to live up to. Mrs. Rose Blumkin lived to be 104, and she only retired at 103.
Buffett shares simple rules from Mrs. B’s success: delight customers and associate with people that will cause you to move in a better path, they will take you so far in life it’s hard to believe.
Mrs. B founded the Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1937 with $500 (Buffett may have somewhat adjusted for inflation in saying $2500). She saved money for 20 years until she had enough money to launch her first furniture store.
Berkshire Hathaway acquired a majority stake in Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1983. In the 1984 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letter, Buffett wrote:
“I have been asked by a number of people just what secrets the Blumkins bring to their business. These are not very esoteric. All members of the family: (1) apply themselves with an enthusiasm and energy that would make Ben Franklin and Horatio Alger look like dropouts; (2) define with extraordinary realism their area of special competence and act decisively on all matters within it; (3) ignore even the most enticing propositions failing outside of that area of special competence; and, (4) unfailingly behave in a high-grade manner with everyone they deal with. (Mrs. B boils it down to “sell cheap and tell the truth”.)”
“Our evaluation of the integrity of Mrs. B and her family was demonstrated when we purchased 90% of the business: NFM had never had an audit and we did not request one; we did not take an inventory nor verify the receivables; we did not check property titles. We gave Mrs. B a check for $55 million and she gave us her word. That made for an even exchange. You and I are fortunate to be in partnership with the Blumkin family.”
Rose Blumkin accomplished all this without initially knowing how to read or write. Rose’s daughter went to school and then taught her mother English language skills.
Mrs. B’s credo of “sell cheap, tell the truth, and don’t cheat nobody” best summarizes her incredible and enduring success and whose tenacity we can all learn from.
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