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Space to Think is the Most Important Asset Mike Gundy Has Going Into 2017

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Warren Buffett and Mike Gundy. I feel confident those two have never been grouped together as a lede into an article on the internet. Or maybe they have, who knows. But I got to thinking about one similarity they share after Gundy spoke on Saturday in Stillwater to preview the season.

Why? What Gundy said (we’ll get to that in a minute) reminded me of something brilliant I once saw Buffett say about growing his businesses and becoming a billionaire (many times over).

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think,” said Buffett. “That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”

“That’s what created [one of the] world’s most successful business records in history. He has a lot of time to think,” Charlie Munger, Buffett’s long-time business partner added.

So why in the world did I think of this when Gundy talked on Saturday? Because he said his sons have been making fun of him lately.

“Believe it or not, a lot of what I do is thinking,” said Gundy on Saturday. “My 12-year-old tells me, ‘all you do is sit at your desk. Every time I walk in you’re just sitting there. You don’t do anything.’ I said, ‘well I’m thinking. I’m thinking about what to do.’ He said, ‘well you don’t do anything at practice either. You just go up in that tower. You don’t talk to anybody either.'”

This was a humorous exchange, but it highlights the point I’m making here. The best possible thing CEOs can do with their time is think and plan. But you can only do that if you have a great organization. If you have great executives (coaches) and employees (players). Gundy has built that over the past decade in Stillwater which means he now has the time and space to think and plan for the future.

This might seem like a small thing, but it’s really not. When you don’t have players and coaches you can trust, you get too caught up in the minutia of the day to day. Drawing up plays or disciplining players — stuff that you would never pay somebody $4 million to do.

I’ve maintained for the past few years that Gundy doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to properly manage and run a top-notch organization. His embodiment of an ideal Warren Buffett has posited as the most important thing CEOs can do is proof of that. And it has paid off in Ws and top-10 rankings.

“We finally started to build some tradition here,” said Gundy. “But if you’ve been around here a long time you can have a vision and some thoughts about what can happen, but it’s hard to really think it’s going to happen until you start the ball rolling.

“I don’t think anybody could literally say they would have said you could potentially be in the top 10 in eight out of 10 years. I’d like to know who that person is.”

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