October 24, 2012

GE CEO Jeff Immelt, Warren Buffett speak to Fisher students


Fisher students were given exclusive access to a dialogue between two of the world's most distinguished business titans, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt and Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

The two visited the Ohio State campus Oct. 23-24 for the second National Middle Market Summit, hosted by Fisher. Sponsored by GE Capital and the National Center for the Middle Market, the summit brought together approximately 1,000 CEOs, policymakers, academics, and industry experts to discuss the challenges faced by middle market companies.

The event kicked off Tuesday evening with a "fireside chat" between Buffett and Immelt at Mershon Auditorium. Fisher Dean Christine Poon kicked off the festivities hosting an outdoor evening reception with Buffett, Immelt and executives from GE Capital Michael Neal and William Cary. Ohio Gov. John Kasich also welcomed the summit attendees during the reception.

Earlier in the day, Immelt addressed Fisher MBA students in Gerlach Hall, but spent most of the hour answering student questions on the global economic climate and his advice for career success and leadership.

"You must learn to be flexible, especially during volatile times," Immelt said. "The best part of the economy right now is housing. However, there is not enough investment taking place." Immelt also indicated that he is "guardedly optimistic" about the global economy. He added that, "I'm more bullish than bearish on China." He said the continent of Africa and Brazil may be bright spots in the global economy.

Slow growth over the coming years and the need for investment were recurring themes echoed during the fireside chat between Buffett and Immelt later that evening in Mershon Auditorium.

Warren BuffettWarren Buffett kicking off the 2012 National Middle Market Summit in a fireside chat with Jeff Immelt at Mershon Auditorium

"In the U.S., our economy is starting to move up, very slowly," Buffett told Immelt during the one-on-one dialogue. "This is the world's greatest economy. America works, regardless of who gets elected to the White House. Our system works and the U.S. economy can heal itself. There is no better place in the world to do business than this country."

"It's a land of abundance. There is plenty of opportunity in the United States in terms of business. There will always be uncertainty," Buffett said.

Immelt asked Buffett directly what business advice would he give to the executives attending the National Middle Market Summit. "Delight your customers," Buffett said.

Speaking directly to Fisher students, Buffett said: "Find the job you are passionate about. Keep looking for the job you'd take if you didn't need the money." It was the second time this year that students heard firsthand from Buffett, who hosted Fisher MBAs in Omaha in March.

Along with Dean Poon, Immelt, and Buffett, other keynote speakers at the summit included: Anil Makhija, professor of finance at Fisher and director of the National Center for the Middle Market; Roger Goodell, commissioner, NFL; Sammy Hagar, Hall of Fame rocker, middle market CEO, and philanthropist; and many more thought leaders and key middle market influencers.