What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffett: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Developing a Highly Successful Company

What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffett: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Developing a Highly Successful Company

With 12 ratings

By: Barnett C. Helzberg Jr. and Barnett Helzberg

Purchased At:

Expert advice for those who want to create a solid company
Through hard work and determination Barnett Helzberg built his small family owned business-Helzberg Diamonds-into a successful company that caught the attention of Warren Buffett. Buffett was so impressed with the business that in 1995 he decided to purchase Helzberg Diamonds through his holding company Berkshire Hathaway. Helzberg shares his thirty years of experience in running a successful business and outlines the steps needed to prosper within a challenging business environment. Through "helpful hints" and words of wisdom, Helzberg offers a proven road map for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to build a solid company that will stand the test of time. What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffett is a comprehensive guide that will help readers get their businesses on the right track.
Barnett C. Helzberg Jr. (Kansas City, MO) was President of Helzberg Diamonds, Inc. from 1962 to 1995, a period during which he expanded his family-owned business to 143 stores in twenty-three states. His business practices have been a key ingredient to the success of Helzberg Diamonds.
This book has two major flaws.

First, Helzberg's "tips" are hardly insightful. That doesn't mean they are wrong, or flawed, though reasonable people would disagree about some of them. Instead, most suffer from being obvious. This would be acceptable, in my opinion, if this were a narrative of how he and his family and team built the company, which leads me to the second flaw: its structure. The book is structured as 80 "helpful hints," each roughly 3 to 5 pages long, making it extremely disjointed.

If you're a college student studying business, or somebody embarking on an entrepreneurial venture without any experience, this book could prove useful. If you have any experience, however, you are unlikely to find it illuminating.

- ronin_martin

I buy used copies to keep this book in the hands of my entrepreneurs attending a course I teach in Kansas City called Business Edge. It's always a favorite because of the quick-read, practical advice from one of our hometown entrepreneur success stories.

- alfredo_wood

If you're an entrepreneur-at any stage of the development of your business(es), you're hungry for the secrets of the successful trail blazers who have gone before you. The opportunity to learn from someone who built a strong enough business to sell to the legendary Warren Buffett would be particularly valuable. This book offers that coveted opportunity.
The author did not build his business all by himself. His father and grandfather preceded him in building the three-generation family business of 143 retail jewelry stores in 23 states. A well-led executive team made it all work beautifully. Helzberg Diamonds set the standard for customer service, earning the loyalty of thousands of customers who contributed to the success of the enterprise.
Helzberg starts his book by telling us that he's a plagiarist. He's collected ideas from many other people, used them to grow his business, and shares them in page after page of philosophy and advice. The book is organized into six sections: Managing, Decision Making, Hiring, Inspiring, Communicating, and Focusing. Each section is a collection of short chapters that deliver this effective CEO's secrets, illustrated with examples from what he and his company accomplished. Each chapter's advice is complemented by a sidebar entitled "Mining for Diamonds"-pithy statements that provide powerful guidance for any business leader. Quotes from a wide range of gurus, mentors, and leaders, offer an additional dose of thought-provoking and inspiring words.
The book is easy for busy entrepreneurs to read. The chapters are short enough to absorb during a break-coffee, bathroom, or deep breath-and tightly written enough so you can glean the concepts quickly. A list of recommended readings and an index add value to the volume. The only feature that might have improved this treasure would be a complete listing in one place of all Helzberg's "Mining for Diamonds" advice. Too bad, you'll have to go through the book chapter by chapter to mine those gems for yourself. The experience will be worthwhile...and probably repeated a few times to gain the full impact of this down-to-earth, almost homespun, recipe book for entrepreneurial success.

- miya_long

Over 300 helpful quotes, concepts and tidbits of information that the author has accumulated throughout his 33 + years running and growing a business.

It seems like the last few books I reviewed mentioned the importance of understanding "opportunity costs". On page 9, "Every activity you undertake exacts the price of not being able to pursue alternative activities... Thus the cost of putting out fires where fires exist and putting fingers in dikes where leaks exist is extremely high in the sense of decreased progress or missed opportunities." Peter Drucker calls that "feeding the problems and starving the opportunities"

Barnett also touches on the importance of being able to execute.

On page 115 there is great advise about the importance of raising prices and the importance of doing so on a gradual scale, whether needed or not because when it is needed you may not be able to play catch up.

A few cool quotes:

"Surrounding yourself with dwarfs does not make you a giant" - Yiddish Folk Saying

Meaning always hire up.


To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children:

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better;

To help in leaving a better social condition;

To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is success.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

"In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you.

- Warren Buffett

Chapter 63 is on "asking - not telling" It contains some great advise and a few notable quotes:

"I had six honest men-they tought me all I know: Their names were Where and What and When-and Why and How and Who.

- Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

By Kevin Kingston author of A 20,000% Gain in Real Estate: A True Story About the Ups and Downs From Wall Street to Real Estate Leading up to Phenomenal Returns

My Blog: bloglines.com/blog/KevinKingston

- arya_wright

I strongly recommend to all- not only for businessmen. It shows why businesses are different and what makes them successful

- sage_rodriguez

Customers Also Bought