What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffett: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Developing a Highly Successful Company BY Barnett C. Helzberg, Jr.

What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffett: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Developing a Highly Successful Company BY Barnett C. Helzberg, Jr.
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What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffett:

An Entrepreneur's Guide to Developing a Highly Successful Company

BY Barnett C. Helzberg, Jr.

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.


BARNETT C. HELZBERG, Jr., former president and CEO of Helzberg Diamonds, Inc. from 1962 to 1995, a period of success during which he led the expansion of the family-owned business from fewer than thirty jewelry stores to 143 stores in twenty-three states. Under Helzberg¡¯s leadership, the company defined the concept of placing jewelry stores in shopping malls and earned a national reputation for profitable, customer-focused operations. Its average per store sales of more than $2 million in 1994 were more than double the industry average. In a November 1994 industry report, Goldman Sachs said Helzberg Diamonds set the industry standard for customer service, calling the company the "Nordstrom of the jewelry business."


A Confession of Plagiarism. Selling to the World¡¯s Best Investor.

Know Thyself: What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur.



Part I: Managing.

1 Concern Yourself with Only the Controllables.

2 Making Your Business Different.

3 Highest and Best Use of Your Time.

4 Super Service: Friend to the Entrepreneur.

5 Keeping Customers.

6 Your Complaining Customers: Your Greatest Opportunity.

7 Managing Risk.

8 Should Incentives Be Based on Profit or Volume?

9 Consultants: Bane or Bargain?

10 Keeping Your Ego in Check.

11 Setting Specific Measurable Goals.

12 Believing in People.

13 Never Burn a Bridge.

14 Planning for Disaster.

15 Turnaround Time at Helzberg Diamonds.

16 Testing New Ideas: Stacking Your Deck for Success.

17 How to Avoid Overreacting to Problems.

18 Integrity: A Long-Run Profit Maker.

19 Having Fun.

20 What Are Profits For?

21 A Sense of Urgency.

22 Execution Is the Key, Not the Idea.

Part II: Decision Making.

23 Learning and Growing from Your Mistakes.

24 The Paralysis of Analysis versus Knee-Jerk Decisions.

25 Embracing Growing Markets.

26 Borrowing Wisdom and Knowledge about Your Business.

27 Gathering Information.

28 Following Your Gut: When You Should Trust Your Own Feelings.

29 Priceless Information: Focus Groups.

30 Treasure the Contrarian: Why Constructive Criticism Is Healthy.

31 Sticking by Your Overall Objective: Why a Quick Profit Can Be a Bad Detour.

32 On Not Giving Up!

33 On Giving Up!

34 Judging Your Customer¡¯s World, Not Your Own World.

35 Do You View Your Associates As Go-Getters or Slackers?

36 The Positive Fallout from Enron.

37 How to Have Uncanny Luck.

38 Prehistoric Man Looks at Going Public.

39 What Did I Learn?

40 How to Raise Your Prices.

41 An Open Letter to the Entrepreneur to Be.

42 Should You Make the Plunge?

Part III: Hiring.

43 Hiring Wisely: How to Choose Good People.

44 When to Look Outside or Stay Inside to Fill That Job.

45 Hiring the Right Lawyer, CPA, or Other Professional.

46 Building on Everyone¡¯s Strengths.

47 Selling to and Hiring Friends and Relatives.

Part IV: Inspiring.

48 Recognizing Great Work: How to Motivate Associates.

49 Encouraging High Achievers.

50 Leaving Your Campsite Better Than You Found It!

51 Ownership.

52 On Humility and Arrogance.

53 When Bad News Is Good News.

54 Expectations.

55 Unintended Consequences.

Part V: Communicating.

56 Digging Out the Answer.

57 How to Kill New Ideas and Communication.

58 Listening and Learning: Why Silence Is a Valuable Skill.

59 Mentors: Pro and Con.

60 Building and Retaining Your Credibility.

61 The Question Is Not, ¡°Are You Teaching?¡± The Question Is, ¡°What Are You Teaching?¡±

62 Dignifying Every Task: How to Win Your Associates¡¯ Commitment and Use Their Expertise.

63 Asking: The Best Communication.

64 Negotiating: Learn It or Delegate It.

65 In Marketing, Don¡¯t Say It¡ªBe It.

66 Preparing for Controversial Meetings.

67 Shortening Those Damn Meetings and Making Them More Effective!

68 Marty Ross¡¯s Magic Follow-Up System.

69 Your Struggle to Get Honest Feedback.

70 To Lunch or Not to Lunch with Your Client, Supplier, or Associate.

71 Avoid Those Buzzwords and Alphabet Soup.

72 Should You Communicate Your Success?

73 Avoiding the Use of ¡°I¡±¡ªand Using It Properly.

74 No Surprises.

75 Care and Feeding of Your Associates.

76 Care and Feeding of Your Suppliers.

77 Care and Feeding of Your Lenders.

Part VI: Focusing.

78 What Business Are You Really In?

79 Balancing Your Life . . . Work, Play, Children, Health, and Money.

80 Giving Back.

Appendix A Recommended Readings.