IHFX Sharing | Margin of Trust -- Berkshire Hathaways governance model

信任边际——伯克希尔•哈撒韦的治理模式/Margin of Trust -- Berkshire Hathaways governance model

某种程度上,伯克希尔•哈撒韦公司是复杂的,其企业文化的丰富程度不亚于让人叹为观止的土星光环。

相比而言,其与众不同的管理原则就是自治与分权。伯克希尔•哈撒韦公司中处处流露着信任。因为这种信任,才有了随之而来且不断上演的各种公司行为。基于信任的企业文化可以成为一种竞争优势,并成为伯克希尔•哈撒韦这种商业模式能够成功的主要原因。

 

分权到底

分权——在整个商业组织内自上而下推行自治、分责——在伯克希尔•哈撒韦十分盛行。这种做法从最上层——巴菲特和伯克希尔•哈撒韦的总部开始,然后一点点往下走。巴菲特让伯克希尔•哈撒韦一直都保持简单的模式,甚至都没有组织架构。假如伯克希尔•哈撒韦有组织架构,那么应该跟图中的结构十分接近。巴菲特一直引以为傲的一点是,作为一个拥有近40万名员工的大型企业集团,伯克希尔•哈撒韦的总部只有几十名员工。

巴菲特负责决定伯克希尔•哈撒韦包括收购在内的几乎所有的资本配置。在大的开支方面,他一直咨询芒格,而最近巴菲特的智囊团又迎来了新成员——阿贝尔和贾因。21世纪初,伯克希尔•哈撒韦聘请了两位投资人——托德•库姆斯和特德•韦施勒,他们负责管理公司很大一部分股票投资组合。

对伯克希尔•哈撒韦子公司财务相关事务的正式监督,主要是由奥马哈的五位执行官负责:首席财务官、财务总管、内审总监、财务主管和财务副总裁。唯一的其他类执行官就是公司的法务秘书,类似法律总顾问,但主要是由外部律师团队组成的,负责监督处理伯克希尔•哈撒韦的收购和债券工作。

伯克希尔•哈撒韦的每一个子公司都是自立门户的,有传统公司的全部职能,可以决定自己的部门安排。结果就是,伯克希尔•哈撒韦的总部每年的经费大约是100万美元,工资支出不到1000万美元。要知道,伯克希尔•哈撒韦的年营业额大约是2500亿美元。

每个子公司都有一个小型董事会——一般有五个成员,为公司提供所需的支持。而更大的对风险敏感的子公司的董事会,则由巴菲特亲自坐镇。每一个子公司的CEO都是自己董事会的主席。其他的董事来自伯克希尔•哈撒韦董事会、奥马哈的团队,或者是伯克希尔•哈撒韦其他子公司的CEO。在收购完成以后,各子公司仍旧保留所有其他的公司职能,跟从前一样,维持自己原有的组织架构。20年来,随着伯克希尔•哈撒韦发展成一个庞大的企业集团,巴菲特的注意力也随之越来越分散,公司一直在分权,不仅让收购的公司按照自治的机构保持原样,而且推行分权到底,这意味着不断把职能下放到各级子公司,推行分而治之,进一步拆分被收购的公司以及分别汇报,不断扩大高级管理层的责任范围。

分权到底在阿贝尔执掌的伯克希尔•哈撒韦能源公司体现得淋漓尽致。1998年,阿贝尔开始负责伯克希尔•哈撒韦的主要业务——中美能源公司。从那以后,他带头进行了15次大型收购,建立起一个大型企业集团,如今,公司的年营业额接近250亿美元,有五家公用事业、两条管道、无数再回收能源、成百上千的房地产经纪业务,这些都是在伯克希尔•哈撒韦能源这个品牌下经营的。

通常而言,随着公司发展壮大,集权便会潜滋暗长,总部会有很多职能,并随之产生相关的经费开支。近些年来,阿贝尔和伯克希尔•哈撒韦能源公司在积极地推行分权,把所有的企业职能下放。总部仅有几十个人,而整个公司却有23000名员工。这种分权的逻辑在地理层面和产品这两条线上同时贯穿:在特定的地区开展业务,面对不同的定价环境、监管监督环境,以及劳动力市场;每一个机构都服从当地自主经营的领导层,各地有特定的基础设施和人员。

总部有一个总法律顾问和一些公关人员来协调全球的监管问题。还有一个人力资源总监,熟知工会劳动力市场,能力过硬,负责协助每一个机构中的磋商工作。除了内部审计,其余所有职能一律下放。

分而治之经常是在伯克希尔•哈撒韦完成收购时出现的。例如,2006年,伯克希尔•哈撒韦的子公司鲜果布衣——一家内衣公司,收购了罗素运动(RussellAthletic),这是一家运动服装制造商,产品包括参赛运动衫、制服等。罗素运动还有一些其他的特色业务,包括布鲁克斯跑鞋公司。交易完成后,巴菲特问布鲁克斯跑鞋公司当时的总裁吉姆•韦伯,布鲁克斯跟鲜果布衣到底像不像?韦伯说,虽然这三家公司的主业都是在国外制造,然后把产品销往全球,但是布鲁克斯跟罗素运动和鲜果布衣几乎没有什么相同之处。他们随后就把布鲁克斯从鲜果布衣分了出去,让其成为伯克希尔•哈撒韦直属的子公司,由韦伯继续担任负责人,交由其自负盈亏。

这样做的逻辑主要是关注商业模式的不同,同时体现了巴菲特对韦伯毫不掩饰的信任。鲜果布衣和罗素运动是为普通的客户制作商品的,这些商品跟运动没什么关系,只是由普通零售人员在一个竞价的环境中进行销售——对研发的需求很小。相比之下,布鲁克斯卖的是增强竞技水平的运动装备,是面向高端商店中的运动爱好者的,产品定价较高,因为主要的竞争点是质量而不是价格——这样一来就需要不少的研发投入。

分别汇报的推行则是通过减少高级经理人的直接汇报,同时不增设官僚层级完成的。主要是按照逻辑把各个业务单元汇总成集团的产品组合。伯克希尔•哈撒韦麾下的马蒙集团就是一个很好的例子,这是一家多元化的大型制造集团。2005年,伯克希尔•哈撒韦收购马蒙集团之前,马蒙集团的CEO弗兰克•普塔克要接受十个机构的直接汇报,他个人觉得数量太多了。因此,他把十个机构分成了四个类别,只需要接受四个类别的直接汇报。

这其中的基本原理很简单:随着一家公司逐步壮大,没有一个经理人能掌控一切事情,高级经理人必须要不断重组,授权给各层级的初级管理人员,作为一个整体,他们可以胜任这样的工作。

在企业不断发展壮大的过程中,分别汇报是一种理想的应对模式,这种模式在处理继任带来的挑战时也十分奏效。伯克希尔•哈撒韦的保险业务就是一个典型的例子,保险业务的年营业额(赚取的保费)大约是600亿美元。从公司开始收购保险业务至今,一连数十载,巴菲特始终只接受三个人的直接汇报——政府员工保险公司的奈斯利,国民赔偿保险公司(NICO)的贾因,以及通用再保险公司的富兰克林•蒙特罗斯。

2016年蒙特罗斯退休时,巴菲特并没有马上为他找接班人,而是提拔了贾因,让他同时负责国民赔偿保险公司和通用再保险公司。从此以后,蒙特罗斯的接班人不再向巴菲特汇报,而是向贾因汇报。这既扩大了贾因对伯克希尔•哈撒韦的保险业务的管理权限,也减少了巴菲特要接受的直接汇报。

但是这种改变并未波及政府员工保险公司,奈斯利还是继续向巴菲特汇报,考虑到奈斯利已经在这家公司服务了几十年,这也是可以理解的。但是随着贾因在2018年成为主管保险业务的副主席,奈斯利也随之退休,自然就该让奈斯利的接班人比尔•罗伯茨向贾因汇报,而不是向巴菲特汇报。这种形式的分权可以体现在伯克希尔•哈撒韦各个分支机构的继任工作中,但是想要行得通,所有的参与者都必须对彼此高度信任。

所有的组织结构都需要权衡。分权可以让与事情关联最紧密的经理人做出高效、有效的决定。但是其中也有风险——可能会做出错误的决定。然而,巴菲特觉得这一点无可厚非:“我们宁肯为决策失误付出一定的代价,也好过因为太过官僚迟迟不做决定或者干脆不做决定而在无形中付出很大的代价。”

集权化一个广为称道的优势就是,能避免资源的重复和浪费。但是在伯克希尔•哈撒韦却似乎恰恰相反:公司并不是只有一个法务部门,而是可能有多达60个。假如只有一个法务部门,那么这个总的法律顾问办公室的人员会比子公司现有人员的总和还多。

之所以这样做会更有效,是因为每一个经理人都受到了经济和文化的激励,让自己的人员尽可能精简。这是伯克希尔•哈撒韦分权模式一个显著的优势:每一个CEO都可以设定最适合自己的组织管理架构。董事会的职责挑选杰出的CEO

巴菲特在面对任何一位董事候选人时,首要考虑的问题就是他是否会从股东的利益出发。若想与股东建立信任,最好的方法莫过于提拔这样的人到公司董事会了。

在巴菲特看来,信任是董事会所必需的,信任意味着董事会最重要的职责就是:挑选一名杰出的CEO。其他所有任务都是次要的,因为只要董事会选择了一位杰出的CEO,那么以后公司所面临的难题就会少很多。然而,很少有董事会能这样一帆风顺,所以巴菲特就亲自为上市公司的董事提供额外的指导。而且他本就应该了解这些董事。他曾经开玩笑说,鉴于他在几十家上市公司董事会所担任的职务,可以看出他身上有一种“非常强烈的受虐基因”。在他的董事生涯中,他接触过300多位董事和几十位CEO。

巴菲特眼中非常优秀的CEO人选如下:托马斯•墨菲,他是大都会通信公司的一把手,全程参与了1985年对美国广播公司的收购;罗伯特•伊热,墨菲极力提拔之人,从2005年起开始管理华特迪士尼公司;凯瑟琳•格雷厄姆,她从1973-1991年一直负责华盛顿邮报公司,将公司打理得井井有条。

这些CEO全都通过了巴菲特十分务实的底线测试:谁都会信任他们,谁都愿意让自己的孩子跟他们结婚。巴菲特表示,对每位CEO的评估必须要根据一系列的绩效考核标准。制定这些标准的是董事会的外部董事,他们必须要依据这些标准定期评估CEO——CEO本人是不能在场的。这些标准应该是针对具体的公司和企业文化的,但是必须要强调基本的底线,例如净资产收益率,以及每股市值的增长。

其业绩不应基于每季度的收益或者相关指导性目标的完成情况。实际上,巴菲特认为那些不给分析师提供营收指引的公司反而发展得更好。董事可以提醒CEO这样的指导没有必要,可能并不会为股东带来什么好处。

为了推进信任的环境,巴菲特建议,董事会的行为举止,应该要像是公司背后有一个因事未出席的大股东一样,在各种情况下,都要能够确保这位虚拟大股东的长期利益不会受到损害。他们需要独立思考,压缩“长期”所赋予CEO的回旋余地:虽然公司领导应该按照年,而非季度来考虑问题,但是绝对禁止把持续的低绩效的表现合理化,一直不停地考验股东的耐心。出于这样的考虑,最好的方法莫过于让董事们大量购买并持有所在公司的股票,只有这样他们才会真的从所有者的角度行事。

如果CEO的表现一直都不能达到外部董事们所设定的标准,那么董事会就必须换掉这任CEO。这一点对于他们所监督的所有其他高级经理人也同样适用,假如英明睿智的大股东本人在场,那么肯定也会做出同样的决定。此外,董事必须是股东资本的管家,绝对禁止公司因为管理失当而让股东承担后果。这种“从股东的口袋里掏钱的扒窃行径”有多种表现形式,包括盛气凌人地胡乱进行收购,通过利益交易扩大自己的管理势力,甚至是在面对内幕丑闻或处理相关公司危机时鼠目寸光。

所有这些问题都会影响信任,在处理这些问题时,董事的行动必须要公平、迅速、决绝。在危机中,伯克希尔•哈撒韦的咒语就是“要正中要害,要速战速决”。经典的案例就是1991年的所罗门债券交易纠纷。当时所罗门的CEO约翰•古特弗罗因德在明知这种行为是违法的情况下,依然让问题持续发酵,一直没有解聘犯错之人,也没有通知董事会或者监管人员。当董事会意识到这些极其严重的问题时,立即要求古特弗罗因德辞职,然后任命当时还不情不愿的巴菲特领导这家投行走出黑暗,重振雄风。

董事在意识到公司管理存在问题,包括信任受到威胁时,应该理智地提醒其他董事注意这个问题。只要能说服足够多的人,就可以共同努力,一起协调解决难题。

信任董事会近年来,在美国的董事会,信任一直被低估,只是被当作机械的公司治理方法之外的辅助手段而已。具体的实例包括拆分董事会主席和CEO的职责,扩大董事会规模,增加独立董事的人数,采用一套新的道德规范,更新公司的合规方案,任命多个委员会管理公司等。

虽然这些举措确实可以改善机构的状况,但决定企业文化的非正式规范的作用更大。董事们都在竭尽全力,提倡、赢得并维持一种基于信任的企业文化——选拔值得信任的CEO,让股东相信他们的判断等。巴菲特表示,公司应该让董事们能接触到公司最重要的长期投资者。身为这些股东的代表,董事们应该共同讨论那些会影响到长期价值、需要股东投票批准的问题。实际上,公司应该寻求让两者相互接触的途径,让董事能了解到股东的思维方式。

当然,哪怕是再优秀的董事也可能会因为巴菲特的所谓“董事会习性”而栽跟头。“董事会习性”是指董事会内部一派和谐,在这些人看来,贸然引入某些话题就像是在餐桌前打嗝一样不雅——无论是质疑一次收购是否明智,还是CEO的继任问题。巴菲特敦促,要调整董事会的这种沟通氛围。具体要如何做,取决于企业文化和人员的个性。除了正式的会议外,董事会还可以召集大家一起聚餐、参加培训课程或者是静修。所有这些活动都为董事们的交涉创造了机会,可以让他们彼此间建立信任,促成更好的商议结果或者成果。巴菲特提出,在这种时候,股东也可以发挥作用。在一些大型机构,只要股东团结一致,就可以对一家公司的管理进行有效的改革,只需对那些放任恶行的董事投反对票就够了。

他感叹道:“这种一致行动是大幅提升公司凝聚力的唯一途径。”在伯克希尔•哈撒韦崛起的后半段,美国公司的董事会从咨询模式转向了监督模式。人们从不同的角度出发认为外部董事才是应对公司管理挑战的解决之道。董事独立性这一概念迅速崛起,取代了董事的知识和技能在企业中的重要地位。这一转变模糊了伯克希尔•哈撒韦引以为傲的董事应具有的特征,特别是所有者导向、对公司的了解,以及致力于实现伯克希尔•哈撒韦的繁荣。

这些政策的出现很大一部分是由于时不时就需要平息政治争议或应对危机造成的。大家开始一致追求董事的独立性,因此而犯下的错误让公司付出了沉重的代价。尽管董事保持独立一直都是企业管理中一个备受推崇的特色,但是人们也逐渐重新开始重视起专业知识。

2002年的《萨班斯-奥克斯利法案》只要求董事会具备金融知识,2010年的《多德-弗兰克法案》对薪酬委员会也提出了同样的要求。内部董事这种情况是存在的,哪怕这种个例要面对很多非议。

最后,当董事们开始着手准备他们自己的继任规划时,应该选择具有哪些品质的人来担任新的董事呢?答案就是能够遵守这些训诫的人。换言之,就是那些精通业务,善于根据企业具体的业务和文化,招募经理人和监督层的人;那些以所有者的利益为导向的人,他们愿意参与,热爱表达,擅长沟通而且精明。基本的习惯,例如勤奋、做好准备以及专注都是必需的。然而,最重要的是,公司要竭尽全力找到值得信任的董事,董事会要竭尽全力任命杰出的CEO,然后放手让CEO去管理公司。

伯克希尔•哈撒韦的模式证明了专业知识的价值,同时证明了有必要保留一些审议机构来应对危机(例如终止与高管的雇佣协议),以便在公司转型时指导公司的发展方向(巴菲特很清楚,自己离开公司以后,公司要继续发展,必须仰仗伯克希尔•哈撒韦的董事会)。伯克希尔•哈撒韦的模式既说明了为何要有董事会,又说明了为何要反对其一手遮天。伯克希尔•哈撒韦向我们证明了,一家公司也可以凭借老式的咨询委员会发展壮大。

管控和信任

公司管控作为内部流程始于20世纪初,意在帮助公司达成其目标。这一认识导致人们对结果并没有抱太高期待。然而,从20世纪后期开始,管控成为一种主要的方针之选。一个合规产业就此崛起,在审计人员和律师的带领下,这些人在管控手段的设计、贯彻以及检验方面展现了出色的专业技能。但是这些力量通常会导致看似有效,看似可以审核,而实则不然的管控结果。因此,美国企业界通常会对这种内部管控期待过高,而实际上这种体系并没有那么富有成效。在伯克希尔•哈撒韦则是尽量少一些管控,多一些信任,这说明管控并不是促进合规或者其他预期结果所必需的。政策制定者应乐于接受更加基于信任的企业文化,不拘泥于当前盛行的支持管控的环境。公司应该要敢于尝试。但是即使是伯克希尔•哈撒韦,也维持着一套财务报告内控体系。巴菲特曾这样开玩笑说:“没道理成为一个积累问题的傻瓜。”这句话回避了一个问题:在管控和信任、规范和规则之间,到底该如何平衡才好呢?

规范和规则

尽管大多数主流员工都是值得信任的,他们都会自觉遵守公司的政策和适用的法律,但是有一些人却会浑水摸鱼。为什么大多数人都很忠心耿耿,而一小部分人却被私欲所左右?这个问题似乎难以找到一个确切的答案。有两种理论竞相对此做出解释。一种理论着眼于成本-收益分析和相关的规则,另一种则关注是非感和规范。规则导向的组织在内部管控上投入了很多,在组织内推行合规文化,而基于信任的组织则在规范上投入了很多,在组织内推行伦理文化。规则导向的模式把人看作让财富最大化的理性人,他会根据所选用的成本-收益分析来决定到底是服从规则还是破坏规则。成本-收益分析的

结果因公司而异。作弊的“收益”可能包括因为实现某些目标而获得的奖励,而付出的“成本”可能包括一旦败露以后要面临的惩罚乘以被抓的概率。公司通过采用正式的内部管控、发布并贯彻规则、定期进行审核,以及实施制裁等手段,提高了自己的经营成本。

对某些公司来说,为了鼓励合规而设计相应的框架来减少成本-收益这番计算是很难的。这个构思在具体执行时也会因情况的不同而更加复杂,包括要采取的激励措施,不同的个人面临的不同遭遇:时间的变化,一年又一年直到退休;工作的变化带来的前景变化。关键在于,一些公司因为受到激励而实行更加严格的管控。还有随之而来的成本问题,特别是会造成一种令人窒息的官僚感,抑制了公司中的创新和开拓精神。规范是指是非感。它是一种自发的行为标准,如果偏离这些标准就会觉得可耻。追求目标固然值得鼓励,但不应通过越界或者走捷径来达到目的。在公司内部,规范是由各种力量汇聚而成的,些力量包括当经理人意识到自己是代表股东行事时心中产生的信任,因无视大众的期待带来的负罪感,公司正式方针中激励的话语带给人的尊重等。

管控和信任各自的成效因公司而异,二者在不同的企业文化中有时成效更好,有时成效更差,两者轮番登场,逐渐帮助确定了企业的文化。员工相信适用的标准是公平的,任何一条具体的准则都是以合法的方式确定的,这种时候规范的成效是最好的。这就解释了为何巴菲特十分强调诚实和正直这些品性。他要求经理人必须捍卫伯克希尔•哈撒韦的声誉,期待能将这种信息传递给所有员工。管控和信任的成效与公司的规模也有关系,在相对较小的范围内,人们通常更愿意遵守规范。然而伯克希尔•哈撒韦是庞大的,它有近40万名员工,年收入多达2500亿美元。它的解决方案是,通过彻底的分权,分化为几十个规模较小的子公司,然后再将这些分化出来的子公司拆分为成千上万个更小的业务部门。跟员工有关联的是他们自己所属的部门,而不是抽象的大型企业集团的力量。

不妨想想责任。信任是一种强大的动机。责任赋予人力量,会激发出投桃报李的互惠行为被信任的人不会辜负这种信任。引用亚伯拉罕•林肯的一句话:“那些被充分信任的人,也会回赠他人以信任。”

伯克希尔•哈撒韦自主经营的实践恰恰说明了这一点。此外,企业前景也很重要。假如公司所提供的是长远(例如“长达十年的投资回报收益”)而非短暂的企业前景,是宏大而非狭隘的目标(比如“本季度的每股盈利”),此时,规范要比规则更能促进公司的合规文化。伯克希尔•哈撒韦的企业前景和永久持有公司的承诺与这一特点正好呼应。

总而言之,因为公司上层清晰的规范论调、分权、自治以及永久持有的承诺,伯克希尔•哈撒韦基于信任的企业文化才能发展得越来越好。与此同时,因为坚持要采用所有者导向,使得这一体系得以进一步巩固。

所有者意识

为了让股东相信伯克希尔•哈撒韦是合伙制的,巴菲特总是会强调所有者意识对公司来说何其重要。如何创造这种意识在不同的公司机构中做法各异,薪酬安排在其中通常会发挥一定的作用,这也是伯克希尔•哈撒韦分权的另一个原因所在:所有的薪酬都是由直接汇报人这一级别所设定的。巴菲特负责确定总部员工以及子公司负责人的薪酬,而这些子公司负责人则负责确定其团队的薪酬。一般来说,股票期权从来不在伯克希尔•哈撒韦的薪酬套餐之内。除了巴菲特,没有一个人对公司的整体表现负责,因此,用股票或者股票期权来支付除巴菲特以外的任何人的薪酬都不合适(未来董事会可能会决定用股票或者股票期权向接班人支付工资)。

相比股票期权,股权是伯克希尔•哈撒韦企业文化中很重要的一部分。例如,很多把公司卖给伯克希尔•哈撒韦的所有者都保留了公司的部分股份。具体的原因随交易而异:有时候是伯克希尔•哈撒韦要求这样安排的,有时候是股东自己要求这样安排的还有时候则是出于双方共同的意愿。对一些被收购的公司,伯克希尔•哈撒韦可能会很重视继续保留其传统,希望延续“从所有者利益出发的经理人”这种态度。伯克希尔•哈撒韦收购萧氏工业集团(ShawIndustriesGroup)时就出现了这种情况,它要求两位高管及其家人在接下来几年继续保留大量股份。到时候伯克希尔•哈撒韦再根据账面价值变动确定股票回购价格,买入剩余的部分。

伯克希尔•哈撒韦做出了类似的安排——大量入股,奠定自己的控股地位,同时在一段时间内为家族经理人暂时留一部分股份——在另外两次大型收购中就出现了这种情况:从普利兹克家族手中收购马蒙集团,以及从韦特海默家族手中收购伊斯卡金属切削集团。在每一个案例中,双方都很看重逐步推进所有权过渡——家族是出于纳税和规划等多重因素考虑,而伯克希尔•哈撒韦则是为了释放稳中求变的信号,使之成为既定事实。很多家族企业都很珍视伯克希尔•哈撒韦做出的自主经营、永久持有的承诺,而且,经常愿意以低于竞标价或者内在价值的价格将公司出售给伯克希尔•哈撒韦,对于纯粹由关系紧密的一群人掌控,而且这群人都愿意将公司出售给伯克希尔•哈撒韦的家族企业来说,哪怕现金交易意味着一定的折扣,也没什么问题。在伯克希尔•哈撒韦,很多薪酬安排都是与子公司的利润挂钩的。一些安排不言自明,直接促进了所有者意识。

许多人认为伯克希尔•哈撒韦的薪酬体系是统一的,其实不然。尤其让人震惊的是,不同的公司采用的是不同的衡量标准和相关的薪酬、奖金安排。例如,在政府员工保险公司,每一名工作年限超过一年的员工都可以分享利润。在政府员工保险公司,最重要的是成熟业务的保留率和承保利润。

与之相反,在通用再保险公司,重要的是浮存金的增长和成本。仅仅是薪酬激励并不能保证任何特定的行为。在公司中,归属感可能是最好的参照点,可以借助不同的

手段培养这种归属感。这也是分权这种方法备受推崇的原因,即可以让那些最了解情况的人来制定政策。这种方法为伯克希尔•哈撒韦带来了什么呢?所有者意识,很少有公司丑闻或劳务纠纷。

伯克希尔•哈撒韦董事会的副主席阿吉特•贾因曾经向我们透露:“伯克希尔•哈撒韦并非大超市,而只是把街角的杂货店汇集到了一起。”这种认识在很大程度上解释了公司的内部事务,包括信任为何在较小而非较大的组织单元中更具凝聚力。

接班计划

大多数董事会都在接班计划上投入了许多时间,伯克希尔•哈撒韦却因为在这方面投入太少而受到了很多批评。很多董事会都只注意到CEO接班人这一点,但实际上,伯克希尔•哈撒韦的董事会为公司未来的接班事业制订了一个多管齐下的接班计划。一直以来,伯克希尔•哈撒韦的接班计划都在呼吁把巴菲特的角色一分为二——在巴菲特任职期间,让两个角色合二为一是最好的,但是在后巴菲特时代,分开才是最好的。早些年,负责投资的主要是卢•辛普森,多年来他一直在伯克希尔•哈撒韦旗下的政府员工保险公司工作,担任投资组合经理,业务娴熟。而公司执行官的角色则是由芒格担任的。辛普和芒格都认同巴菲特的价值观,也理解伯克希尔•哈撒韦的文化。但是三人年事渐高,辛普森退休了,芒格也进入了80岁的高龄,这一接班计划随之落空。

如今,伯克希尔•哈撒韦打算安排几位投资组合经理一起负责投资这一板块,可能包括托德•库姆斯和特德•韦施勒。在执行这一层面,巴菲特的接替者主要是来自伯克希尔•哈撒韦很多子公司中的高层管理人员。2018年,伯克希尔•哈撒韦把格雷格•

阿贝尔和阿吉特•贾因提拔到公司董事会中,并任命两人分别担任非保险业务和保险业务的副主席。

伯克希尔•哈撒韦接班计划的最后一部分,要求把CEO和董事会主席的角色进行分割,巴菲特建议由自己的儿子霍华德担任董事会主席。虽然很容易就会把此举理解为将巴菲特的角色一分为三——董事会主席、CEO和CIO(首席信息官),但其实更像是把芒格的角色一分为二——董事会主席和CEO的二号人物。毕竟,一直以来,芒格最重要的角色之一都是说“不”,这也将是霍华德最重要的角色之一,但是说“不”的对象却不同于从前了。

芒格的否决权通常是给伯克希尔•哈撒韦的收购增加一个过滤器,过滤掉那些没有远见的交易。在打造伯克希尔•哈撒韦的过程中,这一点对于建立公司的文化至关重要。相比之下,霍华德的角色则侧重的是继续维持这种文化,而不是继续打造这种文化。霍华德不太需要在评判收购建议时说“不”,更多是提醒人们不要忘记,伯克希尔•哈撒韦之所以独特,是因为公司背后的种种价值,例如信守承诺、持久以及自主。在极端的情

况下,霍华德的角色将意味着向伯克希尔•哈撒韦的主要高层“开炮”。

因此,霍华德的主要任务就是做他父亲从来没有做过的事情,他的工作与让他父亲声名大振的各种事业毫不相干。这种方法巧妙地避开了一个传奇人物的儿子经常掉入的陷阱——对那些跟父辈饰演同样角色的人,人们评价他们时总是参照对其父亲的评价标准,而子辈通常也达不到父辈的辉煌。

一些旁观者可能会误会霍华德的角色,用衡量他父亲的标准——一个不可能企及的水准——来评估他,这是不公平的。然而,最终相关的角色分工会清清楚楚,考虑到霍华德本人亲身经历过伯克希尔•哈撒韦的文化,他对巴菲特创造的一切怀有极大的热忱,因此他是很有可能达标的。但是仅凭他一己之力是做不到这一点的,他还需要伯克希尔•哈撒韦的股东对他有持之以恒的信任,不妨想想霍华德接下来要面对什么吧。有巴菲特在伯克希尔•哈撒韦牢牢掌权,没有一个股东激进主义者敢质疑它的商业模式。但是在巴菲特离开公司以后,这种考量可能就要变了,毕竟,公司的市值接近15万亿美元,很多分析人士都同意巴菲特所说的,伯克希尔•哈撒韦不止这个价。伯克希尔•哈撒韦的文化超过了自身所有一切的总和,因为这种结构带来了大量的益处,包括最优的资本配置、最小的企业风险、不存在孤立、获取资金成本低、利用税收效率、管理费用极低等。

激进主义者援引他人对这种商业模式的批评,敦促巴菲特的接班人卖掉伯克希尔•哈撒韦那些摇摇欲坠的机构,拆分那些表现一般的机构,在一些子公司中加入新的经理人。在这个过程中,激进主义者又会要求给股东配置现金。他们会解释说这种销售和配置的净效益可以马上为股东增值。反方则会代表伯克希尔•哈撒韦的股东强调长期价值,这是对那些卖方公司做出的坚定承诺,会永远让子公司自主管理经营,在这个环境中,大量的资本可以从一家子公司转移到另一家子公司,并且不会产生税费或交易费。

这种承诺的经济价值和灵活性并不一定反映在伯克希尔•哈撒韦一路高歌猛进的股价或者单独的子公司的估值中。只有当伯克希尔•哈撒韦进行收购时,其附加值才会体现出来,而只有继续维持这家大型企业集团的形式,才能保留这些价值。要解决这样一场争论,确定孰优孰劣,还得伯克希尔•哈撒韦的股东亲自出马。巴菲特的接班人在多年以后能否取得非常好的经济效益,必须要让伯克希尔•哈撒韦的股东对一个问题做出决定,那就是到底要不要继续保留对公司管理层和伯克希尔•哈撒韦模式的信任。他们的选择正是对这种基于信任的文化所进行的一次公投。我们认为最终胜出的会是信任。

Margin of Trust - Berkshire Hathaways Governance Model

 

 

In a way, Berkshire Hathaway is complex, and its corporate culture is as rich as the breathtaking rings of Saturn.

In contrast, its distinctive management principles are autonomy and decentralization. Trust oozes throughout Berkshire Hathaway. Because of this trust, there are various corporate actions that follow and continue to be staged. A corporate culture based on trust can be a competitive advantage and a major reason why Berkshire Hathaways business model has been successful.

Decentralization to the end

Decentralization—autonomy and accountability from the top down throughout the business organization—is rife at Berkshire Hathaway. The approach starts at the top -- the headquarters of Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway -- and works its way down. Buffett has kept Berkshire Hathaway simple, without even an organizational structure. If Berkshire Hathaway had an organizational structure, it would be very close to the one in the diagram. One thing Buffett has always been proud of is that, as a large conglomerate with nearly 400,000 employees, Berkshire Hathaways headquarters has only a few dozen employees.

Buffett is responsible for deciding almost all of Berkshire Hathaways capital allocation, including acquisitions. He has been consulting with Munger on big expenses, and recently Buffetts brain trust has welcomed new members-Abel and Jain. In the early 2000s, Berkshire Hathaway hired two investors, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, to manage a large portion of the companys stock portfolio.

Formal oversight of the financial-related matters of Berkshire Hathaways subsidiaries rests primarily with five executive officers in Omaha: the chief financial officer, treasurer, director of internal audit, treasurer and vice president of finance. The only other type of executive is the companys legal secretary, a sort of general counsel but mostly a team of outside lawyers who oversee Berkshires acquisitions and debt.

Each subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway is independent, has all the functions of a traditional company, and can decide its own departmental arrangements. As a result, Berkshire Hathaways headquarters costs about $1 million a year, with payrolls of less than $10 million. You know, Berkshire Hathaways annual turnover is about $250 billion.

Each subsidiary has a small board of directors - typically five members - that provides the support the company needs. And the board of directors of the larger risk-sensitive subsidiary is chaired by Buffett himself. The CEO of each subsidiary is the chairman of its own board. Other directors come from the Berkshire Hathaway board, the team in Omaha, or the CEOs of other Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries. After the completion of the acquisition, the subsidiaries still retain all other corporate functions and maintain their original organizational structure as before. Over the past 20 years, as Berkshire Hathaway has grown into a sprawling conglomerate, Buffetts attention has been increasingly divided. The company has been decentralizing, not only keeping acquired companies as autonomous institutions, Moreover, the implementation of decentralization to the end means continuously delegating functions to subsidiaries at all levels, implementing divide and conquer, further splitting up acquired companies and reporting separately, and continuously expanding the scope of responsibility of senior management.

The separation of powers is most vividly reflected in the Berkshire Hathaway energy company under the leadership of Abel. In 1998, Abel became responsible for Berkshire Hathaways main business - Mid-American Energy Company. Since then, he has spearheaded 15 large acquisitions, building a conglomerate that today has nearly $25 billion in annual revenue, five utilities, two pipelines, countless recycled energy sources, hundreds of Thousands of real estate brokerage businesses, all operating under the Berkshire Hathaway Energy brand.

Generally speaking, as the company develops and grows, centralization will grow secretly, and the headquarters will have many functions, and related expenses will be incurred accordingly. In recent years, Abel and Berkshire Hathaway Energy have aggressively pursued decentralization, devolving all corporate functions. There are only a few dozen people in the headquarters, while the entire company has 23,000 employees. This logic of decentralization runs through both the geographical level and the product line: doing business in a specific region faces different pricing environments, regulatory oversight environments, and labor markets; each organization is subject to local autonomous management Leadership, with specific infrastructure and people everywhere.

Headquarters has a general counsel and some public relations staff to coordinate global regulatory issues. There is also a human resources director, well versed in the unionized labor market, who assists with consultations in each agency. Except for internal audit, all other functions are decentralized.

Divide and conquer often occurs when Berkshire Hathaway completes acquisitions. For example, in 2006, Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary Fruit Buyer, an underwear company, acquired Russell Athletic, a maker of athletic apparel such as jerseys, uniforms and more. Russell Sports has a few other specialty businesses, including the Brooks running shoe company. After the transaction was completed, Buffett asked Jim Weber, the then president of Brooks Running Shoes Company, if Brooks looked like Fresh Fruit Buyi? While all three companies make their products abroad and sell them globally, Brooks has little in common with Russell Sports and Fruit Buy, Weber said. They then separated Brooks from Fruit Buyi, making it a subsidiary directly under Berkshire Hathaway, with Webb continuing to be in charge and handing it over to be responsible for its own profits and losses.

The logic of doing so is mainly to focus on the difference in business models, and at the same time reflects Buffetts unabashed trust in Weber. Fruit Buyi and Russell Sports make merchandise for the average customer that has nothing to do with sports and is just sold by the average retailer in a competitive bidding environment - with little need for R&D. Brooks, by contrast, sells performance-enhancing sports gear aimed at sports enthusiasts in high-end stores, priced at a higher price because the main point of competition is quality, not price—which necessitates the need for Less investment in R&D.

The introduction of separate reporting is accomplished by reducing the direct reporting of senior managers without adding layers of bureaucracy. It is mainly to logically aggregate each business unit into the groups product portfolio. A good example is Berkshire Hathaways Marmon Group, a large and diversified manufacturing group. Before Berkshire Hathaway acquired Marmon Group in 2005, Frank Ptak, the CEO of Marmon Group, had to accept direct reports from ten organizations, which he personally felt was too many. Therefore, he divided the ten institutions into four categories, and only need to receive direct reports from four categories.

The rationale for this is simple: as a company grows, no one manager can control everything, and senior managers must constantly restructure and delegate to junior managers at all levels who, as a whole, can handle such tasks. Work.

Split reporting is an ideal coping model as a business grows and grows, and it works well when dealing with the challenges of succession. Berkshire Hathaways insurance business is a typical example. The annual turnover (premiums earned) of the insurance business is about 60 billion US dollars. From the time the company began acquiring the insurance business to the present, for decades, Buffett has only received direct reports from three people—Nicely from Government Employees Insurance Company, Jain from National Indemnity Insurance Corporation (NICO), and Franklin from General Reinsurance Company. • Montrose.

When Montrose retired in 2016, Buffett did not immediately find a successor for him. Instead, he promoted Jain and put him in charge of both National Indemnity and General Re. Since then, Montroses successors no longer report to Buffett, but to Jain. This not only expanded Jains management authority over Berkshire Hathaways insurance business, but also reduced Buffetts direct reporting.

But the change didnt spill over to GEICO, and Nicely continued to report to Buffett, which is understandable considering Nicely has been with the company for decades. But as Jain became the vice chairman in charge of the insurance business in 2018, Nisley also retired. Naturally, Nisleys successor, Bill Roberts, should report to Jain instead of Buffett. This form of decentralization can be reflected in the succession of Berkshires various branches, but to work, all participants must have a high degree of trust in each other.

All organizational structures involve trade-offs. Decentralization allows efficient and effective decisions to be made by the managers most involved in the matter. But there is also a risk - the possibility of making the wrong decision. However, Buffett thinks this is understandable: "We would rather pay a certain price for a decision-making error than pay a high price invisibly because it is too bureaucratic to delay making a decision or not make a decision at all."

A well-known advantage of centralization is that it can avoid duplication and waste of resources. But at Berkshire Hathaway, it seems the opposite is true: Instead of just one legal department, the company may have as many as 60. If there is only one legal department, then the general counsels office will have more staff than the total number of existing staff in the subsidiaries.

This is more effective because each manager has an economic and cultural incentive to keep his staff as small as possible. This is a significant advantage of Berkshire Hathaways decentralization model: each CEO can set the organizational management structure that suits him best. The Boards Responsibilities to Pick a Great CEO

When Buffett faces any director candidate, the first question he considers is whether he will proceed from the interests of shareholders. There is no better way to build trust with shareholders than by promoting such a person to the companys board of directors.

In Buffetts view, trust is necessary for the board of directors, and trust means that the most important duty of the board of directors is to choose an outstanding CEO. All other tasks are secondary, because as long as the board chooses a great CEO, the company will have far fewer problems going forward. Few boards, however, have such smooth sailing, so Buffett himself provides additional guidance to directors of public companies. And he should have known the directors. He once joked that he had a "very strong masochistic gene" in him, given his board positions at dozens of public companies. During his director career, he has contacted more than 300 directors and dozens of CEOs.

In Buffetts eyes, the very good CEO candidates are as follows: Thomas Murphy, he was the head of Metropolitan Communications, and participated in the acquisition of ABC in 1985; began to manage the Walt Disney Company; Katherine Graham, who was in charge of The Washington Post Company from 1973 to 1991, managed the company well.

These CEOs all passed Buffetts very pragmatic bottom-line test: Everyone would trust them, and everyone would want their children to marry them. Buffett said each CEO must be evaluated against a set of performance criteria. Those standards are set by the boards outside directors, who must periodically evaluate the CEO against them—without the CEO himself present. These criteria should be specific to the company and corporate culture, but must emphasize the bottom line, such as return on equity, and growth in market value per share.

Its performance should not be based on quarterly earnings or the completion of related guidance targets. In fact, Buffett thinks that companies that dont provide analysts with revenue guidance do better. Directors can remind the CEO that such guidance is unnecessary and may not serve shareholders well.

In order to promote an environment of trust, Buffett suggested that the behavior of the board of directors should be as if there is a major shareholder behind the company who is not present for some reason. In all cases, it must be able to ensure that the long-term interests of this virtual major will be damaged. They need to think for themselves, reducing the leeway given to the CEO by the "long term": while company leaders should think in terms of the year, not the quarter, it is absolutely forbidden to rationalize persistent low performance performance, which is constantly testing the patience of shareholders . For this reason, the best way is to let the directors buy and hold a large amount of stock in the company, only then can they really act from the perspective of owners.

If the CEO consistently fails to meet the standards set by outside directors, the board must replace the CEO. The same holds true for all the other senior managers they oversee, and would surely have made the same decision had the wise major shareholder been present in person. In addition, directors must be stewards of shareholders capital, and it is absolutely forbidden for companies to hold shareholders accountable for mismanagement. This "pocketing of shareholders pockets" can take many forms, including domineering and haphazard acquisitions, trading interests to expand ones management power, and even short-sightedness in the face of insider scandals or related corporate crises .

All of these issues affect trust and directors must act fairly, promptly and decisively in addressing them. In a crisis, Berkshire Hathaways mantra is "to hit the nail on the head, to hit the nail on the head." The classic case is the 1991 Solomon bond transaction dispute. At the time, Salomons CEO John Gutfreund, knowing that such behavior was illegal, still allowed the problem to continue to simmer, and he never fired the person who made the mistake, nor did he notify the board of directors or regulators. When the board of directors realized these extremely serious problems, it immediately asked Gutfreund to resign, and then appointed Buffett, who was still reluctant at the time, to lead the investment out of the dark and regain its glory.

When a director realizes that there is a problem with the companys management, including a threat to trust, he should rationally alert other directors to this problem. As long as you can convince enough people, you can work together to coordinate and solve difficult problems together.

Trust in Boards Trust has been underestimated in American boardrooms in recent years as an adjunct to mechanical approaches to corporate governance. Specific examples include splitting the responsibilities of the chairman of the board and the CEO, expanding the size of the board of directors, increasing the number of independent directors, adopting a new code of ethics, updating the companys compliance program, and appointing multiple committees to manage the company.

While these initiatives can certainly improve institutions, the informal norms that define corporate culture do more. Directors are doing all they can to promote, win and sustain a corporate culture based on trust—pick a trustworthy CEO, have shareholders trust their judgment, and so on. Buffett said companies should give directors access to the companys most important long-term investors. As representatives of these shareholders, directors should discuss issues that affect long-term value and require shareholder approval. Instead, companies should look for ways to bring the two into contact so that directors can see how shareholders think.

Of course, even the best directors may fall under Buffetts so-called "board habit".

 

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