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Would Warren Buffet Admire Your Moat?

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Personally, I’d jump at the opportunity to learn about business at the right hand of Bill Gates, Chairman and co-founder of Microsoft. That would be an insightful brain-picking session. It would be on par with talking about business with Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffet.

But can you imagine a meeting between two of America’s most successful business magnates, investors and philanthropists?  It turns out that you can learn something from Bill Gates who learned something from Warren Buffet.

“Why can’t IBM do what Microsoft does? 

Recently Bill Gates talked about his first meeting with Warren Buffet in a LinkedIn article. A take-home business principle for all of us is about having a strong competitive advantage. Warren Buffet refers to it as a company’s “moat.” It’s what makes your business unique among others in the marketplace, and “why IBM can’t do what Microsoft does.”

You don’t have to be the world’s largest personal computer software company to use this lesson. It’s sound guidance about investing and it’s practical business and marketing advice for operating a company of any size.

Consider your own business plan. Every well-considered business plan will detail the “competitive advantage.” Without something that’s unique, differentiating or special about your enterprise, there is little reason to launch, no opportunity to grow, and virtually no path to success.

A solid advantage is your platform for attracting new business—delivering a branded solution to the consumer’s problem or need. Plus it is a defense (in some instances an offense) with the competition and a barrier to others.

And in marketing and advertising, without a well-articulated competitive advantage the business is simply a plain vanilla and unremarkable entity…and there’s no future in being bland.

The bottom line advice—what Bill Gates learned from Warren Buffett—is that you need to be thinking about your “moat.” We would recommend that if you haven’t inspected the barrier around your castle recently, you are likely to find that things have changed and your competitive advantage is shrinking.

For one thing, the competition has shifted. For doctors, hospitals and nearly all healthcare providers, the dynamics of healthcare reform have reshaped the competitive landscape. And what’s more, competition has greatly intensified. More than ever, your business moat is under siege.

Bill Gates has more to offer in his post, Three Things I’ve Learned From Warren Buffett. And for related reading, see our previous post: The Purple Cows and White Coats of Medical Advertising.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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