How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

How Buffett learned to buy great businesses

November 8, 2013: 1:19 PM ET

Even Warren Buffett wasn't the smartest guy when he started investing. Who taught him to hunt for quality?

When Warren Buffett began investing more than 60 years ago, he tended to buy mediocre businesses at mediocre prices.

Then someone gave the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) CEO the best advice he says he ever got. That is: Pay up for really good businesses like American Express (AXP) and See's Candies.

Buffett's adviser: Charlie Munger, who is now 89 years old and Berkshire Hathaway's vice-chairman. Munger convinced Buffett, 83, to learn to "make silk purses out of silk." And that philosophy has turned out to be a key to the two men's extraordinary investing success.

"Forget the sow's ears," says Buffett, who applies the "silk purse" credo to all his relationships in life.

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