A Day with Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett Trip_ Group Picture

It was exciting to learn that a group of Fisher MBA students would travel to Omaha, NE for a Q&A session with Warren Buffett… just another opportunity Fisher provides. We were each asked to draft a question to ask Mr. Buffett if given the opportunity. Throughout the 2.5 hours visit, Mr. Buffett graciously answered questions from each of the participant schools. Topics of discussion were wide-ranging and very candid. My question was chosen to be Fisher’s first, specifically:

As an Orthopedic Surgeon in training, I’m very concerned about the sustainability of health care in America. The need to provide better medicine at less cost is more evident than ever. Of the many business principles you have mastered, which one is the most vital to the future of healthcare in America?

As a physician I was interested in asking Mr. Buffett about healthcare in America.

As with all of his answers, Mr. Buffett’s optimism was contagious. He was certain that we would solve the healthcare challenges given our country’s history of overcoming challenges. He mentioned that we have been focused on solving problems at any cost, but that our generation’s great minds would innovate world-class care that could be provided at a sustainable cost.

Mr. Buffett emphasized the ingenuity that has been employed in the U.S. over an impressive track record of productivity and problem solving. He was particularly encouraged by trends in the increasing involvement of women in leadership, seeing this as a largely untapped potential for even more productivity moving forward. He also elaborated on the important difference between equal opportunity (which he is a big fan of) and equal outcomes, pointing out that those who do a better job should be rewarded accordingly. He also pointed out that a society should be structured so that no single segment is “left behind” and that opportunity is distributed as widely as possible.

Mr. Buffett provided much food for thought. With his impressive philanthropic spirit he encouraged each of us to prosper our own communities and to be a force for good. I came away from the Q&A session bullish on America and personally enlightened. Thank you Fisher!

Warren Buffett Trip_ Furniture Mart_Group Picture


Special Thanks to trip sponsor:

Sander A. Flaum
Founder and Managing Partner, Flaum Idea Group (FIG)

Sander Flaum has been a long-time champion of the big idea, both in business and in his role as Adjunct Professor of Management at the Fordham Graduate School of Business, where he founded and chairs the Fordham University Leadership Forum. He was also the school’s commencement speaker in 2011. Prior to launching FIG, Sander was Chairman of Euro RSCG Life, a worldwide network of 43 healthcare agencies. In addition, Sander presided over the growth of Robert A. Becker Inc. as it became the number two healthcare agency in the US. Med Ad News named Becker “Agency of the Year” and Sander “Man of the Year” in 2002. Perhaps most importantly, Sander worked for 18 years at Lederle Laboratories where he became Marketing Director and honed his vision of the company he dreamed of finding as a client — the result of which is the Flaum Idea Group. Sander has his BA from The Ohio State University and his MBA (cum laude) from Fairleigh Dickinson University.


The 2012 Warren Buffett trip

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”

Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, has said some of the wisest things anyone has, and the quote above is just one of them. A group of Fisher students applied this first-hand when we had the enviable opportunity to hang out with Warren Buffett himself!

We arrived in Omaha and had a great time at the Upstream Brewery in the downtown area. After a good night’s sleep at the Doubletree hotel, we were up and about in our best suits, ready to get started with the day planned for us. First stop was the Nebraska Furniture Mart. This place was HUGE! We had the honor of hearing from VP Bob Batt, who shared with us the history of the firm, its family business roots and its acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway. Here, we met with students from several other business schools from around the US.

Thanking our sponsor Sander A. Flaum, with VP Bob Batt

After an enlightening tour of the furniture mart, we boarded our bus and headed to the Field Club, where we settled into our seats, sipping coke and waiting with bated breath. Right on time, Mr. Buffett walked in with that endearing smile on his face and accepted the excited applause gracefully.

After a brief speech about his passion for meeting young business professionals, he dove straight into a Q&A session with the students. Each school had their turn and students came up with some excellent questions for Mr. Buffett. His profound wisdom and encyclopedic knowledge of value investing, and even life in general, shone through in all his answers. Mr. Buffett wove in some amusing and insightful anecdotes from his life and relationships that left us the better for having had the opportunity to listen to them.

Mr. Buffett emphasized the importance of doing what you love, with the people you love, from the home you love. He truly believes that opportunity exists for those who seek it, and advised us to be proactive in our careers. He was a careful listener, and made sure to fully understand a question before answering it. Of global economy and politics, he gave his honest opinion about his concern for certain policies and behavior, but indicated that he was very positive about the future of both the developing and developed world.

At Piccolo's

After more than 2 hours of this valuable interaction, we left for Piccolo’s, Mr. Buffett’s favorite restaurant! A few lucky students got to travel with Mr. Buffett in his limo, and a few more had the enviable privilege of sitting with him at his table. The rest of us enjoyed some excellent Omaha steak and the highly acclaimed root beer float! After a great lunch, Mr. Buffett humored each and every one of the 150 or so students with photographs both plain jane and goofy! Some of the guys got into arm wrestling matches with him, while a few gals actually got him to go down on one knee and “propose” to them! His humility and patience was disarming and truly inspirational.

With Warren Buffett!

I think we all left for Columbus rejuvenated by the experience and filled with a new found love for life and a motivation to strive for success. I am immensely thankful that I had the opportunity to meet such a marvelous human being.

After lunch at Piccolo's

The many faces of Warren

I’m sure most people have heard of Warren Buffett, one of  the most famed investors of all time. What people might not realize is how interesting, charismatic, and humorous he is! Mr. Buffett invites small groups of MBA students from schools around the continent to a Q&A session in Omaha, NE, as well as an amazing lunch at his favorite restaurant, Piccolo Pete’s. Approximately 130 students from seven different universities attended the event. Each school was permitted to ask several questions. I was honored to be able to ask Mr. Buffett a question on behalf of the Fisher College of Business.

Mr. Buffett is a true story-teller; he has the ability to weave decades of experience throughout answers to many different types of questions. He has obviously spent time reflecting on what he has accomplished; and it is clear that he loves to share his knowledge with anyone who is earnestly interested.

As a side note, meeting Mr. Buffett was neat for me for a personal reason – My father’s name is Warren, and his father’s name is the same as Mr. Buffett’s father’s name – Howard. My dad is also a person I look to for advice, not just about investing, but for life in general. He has done many interesting and unique things, and is a person I often go to for advice and information about many different topics.

Lunch with Warren Buffett

I recently headed to Omaha, Nebraska as part of the annual Warren Buffett trip. Every year the Fisher College MBA program gets to send a couple dozen students to meet with the Oracle of Omaha, and I was randomly selected to go on the trip. I knew the trip was going to be amazing, but Mr. Buffett exceeded all my expectations.

We flew out Thursday afternoon and spent the night in Omaha. In usual Thursday night fashion, we went out for a couple of hours, which was great since I got to meet some of the first years and working professionals that I hadn’t spent much time with yet.

Friday morning we had a tour of Nebraska Furniture Mart, the largest home furnishing store in North America. It was massive. Part of the tour was in the recliner section of the store. There were enough recliners to sit all of the students on the tour, around 200 in total! The history behind the store was also told throughout our tour.  The founder, Mrs. Blumkin, worked there until her retirement at the age of 103. Her son still works there and he’s 90. Their operations were very impressive and the core values that Mrs. Blumkin instilled in the company decades ago still drive the firm today.

After the tour we headed to The Field Club where we listened to Mr. Buffett field questions from the audience for over two hours. He was one of the most captivating speakers that I’ve ever listened to. He spoke about life, marriage, investments, public policy, dealing with adversity, emerging markets, integrity, and many other subjects in a very casual style. He mixed his words of wisdom with anecdotes from his past and punch lines that had the whole audience laughing. Sitting there listening to Mr. Buffett made me feel good about my life and good about living in this country. He said that we are in the luckiest 1% of humanity. He really helped put things in perspective for us on how good we have it here.

After Mr. Buffett’s question and answer session, we headed to Piccolo Pete’s Restaurant where we were treated to lunch. After the lunch, he stayed around to take pictures with every school, which took a couple of hours of his incredibly valuable time. He didn’t mind taking funny pictures either. Some of the poses in Mr. Buffett’s repertoire included: getting stock tips from a student, proposing on one knee, standing like a tough guy with arms crossed, letting a student wear his glasses, and joining us for an O-H-I-O. The entire time he was smiling and full of energy. Walking back to the bus, several of us said to each other, “I don’t believe that just happened.” He was so friendly and down-to-earth that it made you forget that you were standing with the richest man in the world.

It was a trip that was less than 24 hours, but it will stay with me forever. It was the perfect mix of motivation, encouragement and perspective that I’ll need to get me through the next couple of months as I figure out where my next adventure is going to take me. My interview schedule has really picked up lately, and I anticipate knowing where I’m going to be headed post-MBA by the end of March. I’m excited about leaving and a little sad at the same time. I’ve said it multiple times, but my tenure at the Fisher College has been the best time of my life. The Buffett trip was just one of the many amazing memories I’ll cherish forever.

Mike ^_^

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett