Innovator Article

Our Journey to Visit the Oracle of Omaha
MBA Students Meet Warren Buffett

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By Sara Lygren, Sacramento MBA 12

Editor’s note: Friday, March 30, marked the sixth time UC Davis MBA students rubbed shoulders with Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO and legendary investor Warren Buffett in his hometown of Omaha, Neb. For the 20 students invited this year, like the others before, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. This is an excerpt from student Sara Lygren’s blog about their experience.

Following in the footsteps of past UC Davis MBAs, several of us arrived early to volunteer at Girls Inc. of Omaha, an organization that helps girls succeed in school and life, which is supported by the Buffett family. We planted spring seedlings with the girls and returned Saturday to help the administrators spruce up the facility.

Friday’s fast-paced itinerary began with an early morning tour of Nebraska Furniture Mart, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary acquired in 1983, which is home to “4 food groups”: furniture, flooring, appliances and electronics. Our tour, led by Executive Vice President Bob Batt, the grandson of the late founder Rose “Mrs. B” Blumkin, gave us insight into Berkshire’s culture. Later in the day we toured Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts, also a Berkshire Hathaway–owned company.

From the Nebraska Furniture Mart, we sped off toward the Field Club of Omaha to get the best seats in the house for the Q&A session with Buffett, who was a jovial host, asking us to help ourselves to a table full of Coca-Cola products. “Berkshire makes a profit on one of every 11 Cokes, so at least open one and pour it on your neighbor,” he joked.

Buffett chimed in on issues ranging from the European Union and taxes to career advice and value investing. “I learned from Ben Graham at 19, and the value investing principles are still the same today,” he said.

Regarding corporate responsibility and accountability, Buffett said he instills in his managers that “doing something just because the other guy is doing it” is never acceptable. In a holding company with 270,000 employees, there’s undoubtedly something illegal going on at any moment, he said, so managers must watch out for those infractions and be guardians for the company’s reputation.

Buffett hosted us for lunch at Piccolo’s, his favorite local restaurant, graciously driving four students from the various business schools with him, including Bay Area MBA Vianna Quock. After lunch and photo opps, we presented him with a basket of UC Davis goods and a plaque thanking him for his dedication to entrepreneurship. Buffett thanked us, saying the pinball machine affixed to his plaque was a replica of those he leased to drugstores while in high school in the 1940s.

We left Omaha feeling inspired and lucky, armed with sage advice for how to conduct business and pursue careers. Buffett offered us this inspiration: “Find your passion and follow it. Figure out a
way to play it for all it’s worth.”

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