We’re pleased to speak with Josh Graybill, who was our first hire when we started Bristlecone Value Partners back in 2004. Keep reading to know more about Josh:
- First, where were you born and raised?
I was born in Omaha, Nebraska but my family moved to southern California when I was just a few months old. I grew up in various Los Angeles-area suburbs.
- You’re practically an LA native. How are you least like the typical Angeleno?
Probably in my attitude toward cars. Despite living most of my life in a city designed for motor vehicles, I view driving as a minor nuisance. Over the past 15 years, I’ve averaged roughly 5k miles per year on my car. During that time, my work commute has variously involved: riding the bus, walking, cycling, e-scooters, and an electric skateboard. I’m flirting with the idea of getting a folding electric bike. Basically, I think LA would be a better place to live--filled with happier, healthier people—if we allocated less of our public space and transportation infrastructure to cars.
- When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In preschool I wanted to be a fireman (the profession of two of my neighbors at the time). Later, my ambition was to become a professional baseball player (obviously, this was before I had much of an education in statistics or probability).
- What was your first exposure to investing?
My earliest exposure to “investing” came from a childhood hobby—collecting baseball cards. I came of age during the peak of that hobby’s popularity and subscribed to a monthly price guide called Beckett Baseball Card Monthly. I loved collecting for its own sake but was also fascinated by the forces of supply and demand that moved the price of a card from one month to the next. I spent countless hours building and preserving a collection which I was convinced would multiply in value several times over. In retrospect, it was a valuable first lesson in how investment bubbles work.
- When did you first contemplate investment management as a career?
As I mentioned, I was born in Omaha and growing up I spent a few weeks of each summer visiting relatives there. On one trip when I was 19, I noticed that the Omaha airport bookstore carried an unusually large inventory of books about a single person whom I had never heard of, named Warren Buffett. I picked one up and read it on my return flight. I found the logic of value investing so intuitive and convincing that I became rather obsessed with reading everything else I could find on the topic—often at the expense of my regular college coursework. I bought my first share of Berkshire Hathaway stock in 2001, and since then I have attended the annual shareholder’s meeting three times (below is a picture from 2009).
- What do you enjoy most about your work?
There are a couple aspects that I find particularly gratifying. First, that I’m always learning something new. I was a history major in college, and I love that in the course of researching an investment, I might be treated to a brief history on center pivot irrigation, or learn about the largest salt mine in the world. It’s unlikely that I would have sought out these topics on my own—they are an enriching byproduct of the work. Second, after nearly two decades of working with private clients, I’ve come to realize that even people who are extremely successful in their chosen careers may feel confused and anxious when it comes to managing their investments and planning for retirement. Helping to remove (or at least mitigate) this source of anxiety in my clients’ daily life gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.
- How do you like to spend your time outside of the office?
These days, I have my hands full keeping up with an increasingly active toddler. As a family, we try to find recreational opportunities which are easily accessible via walking or public transport. My son loves visiting our local farmer’s market (he is offered a lot of free samples) and riding the Metro to the California Science Center or Santa Monica pier. I recently took him to his first UCLA baseball game, which is only a 20-minute walk from our home.
- What has been your favorite travel destination to date?
Last year we took a family trip to Europe, spending several days in Mürren, a small village in the Swiss Alps accessible only by a combination of trains and gondolas. The scenery was amazing, but nearly as profound (for me) was the quiet afforded by the absence of auto traffic. I keep this photo on my desktop as a reminder of my “happy place.”