“Dear Mr. Pabrai, Thank you so much for having me as a guest at your partnership meeting. I learned a lot about life and investing, and I also met some great people. Warm regards Guy Spier.”Guy Spier – The Education of a Value Investor
This is the message Guy Spier penned after attending Mohnish Pabria’s annual meeting in 2003. It was one of the thousands of letters Spier wrote over the years but this one changed his life. Mohnish would later inform Guy that he was the only person who wrote to him after the meeting.
Guy first discovered Mohnish Pabrai from a Wharton student Aaron Byrd who mentioned he was going to attend Pabrai’s annual meeting in Chicago. At this meeting, Guy was stunned by the simplicity of the meeting. He had attended many extravagant meetings in New York where the host’s sole intention was to get you to buy into their stock or fund. Pabrai wasn’t there to impress he was there to teach. Guy was inspired by Pabrai’s honesty and authenticity.
Six months later Mohnish sent Guy an email inviting him to dinner. Mohnish would become one of Guy’s closest friends and mentors. Guy and Mohnish would later team up to buy themselves a lunch with the “Grand Master” of investing Warren Buffett, and it only cost them a $650,100 donation to the GLIDE Foundation.
Spier had been writing handwritten notes for years. Thanking people for speeches, dinners, or to wish them happy birthday. Spier picked up this habit from the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Cialdini talks about a car salesman, Joe Girard who would write holiday cards to thousands of his former customers saying “I like you” along with his name. Girard earnt himself a place in the Guinness World records by selling 13,001 cards in 15 years.
What can we learn from this story?
The act of sending handwritten letters is a lot like value investing.
“In a sense, this is a value investing approach to life: pick up something cheap that may one day prove to be precious.” – Guy Spier
It costs almost nothing and very little time to write someone a short letter however the rewards can be tremendous.
“I couldn’t win the lottery without a ticket, and these tickets were almost free.” – Guy Spier
Majority of the time these notes would likely go unrewarded it has a compounding effect just like dollars in the bank. Those first few cents of interest may not seem like much at first but after 10 years you will see that snowball grow.
“This habit of writing letters is an incredibly effective way of compounding good-will and relationships instead of merely compounding money”. – Guy Spier
Writing these letters every day wasn’t easy.
“My view now is that it can take as long as five years to have a significant effect, so most people give up long before they reap the benefits.” – Guy Spier
It wasn’t luck, it was hard work.
“It’s not about luck. It’s about working harder to get these things right so that it becomes more likely that something good will happen.” – Guy Spier
“Some businesses succeed because they got one thing right, but most succeed because they get a lot of small things right.” – Guy Spier
Guy Spier manages the Aquamarine Fund. Launched in 1997 with $15 million in assets, It now has over $250 million in assets under management. Guy launched the fund with the intention of replicating the approach of the original 1950s Buffett partnerships.
To learn more about Guy Spier and his investing journey check out The Education Of A Value Investor