Visits with Mr. Warren Buffett
Lisa Majure, professor of finance, and Matt Haertzen, lecturer of finance, accompanied twenty students to Omaha, Nebraska to meet Mr. Warren Buffett on March 28, 2014 and to tour three of his retail companies, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Borsheims, and the recently-acquired Oriental Trading Company. This was the 7th time NAU-FCB students have received an invitation from Mr. Buffett to visit him in Omaha.
Haertzen reflects, “With this being my second trip, I had an expectation of how the students would react. However, I was still surprised by how engaged they were when Warren Buffett entered the room. He is self-deprecating and has an outstanding sense of humor that immediately draws the students in. Initially, they are just excited to be in the room with him, but as he starts to talk and interact with the audience, you see their engagement move from one of being impressed by who he is to being impressed by what he has to say. …they always comment to me afterward about how down-to-earth he was, and how much they learned in just a two hour question and answer session.”
Majure relates, “In speaking with students for two hours, Mr. Buffett displayed a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor and offered students some sage advice. Mr. Buffett’s advice to students entering the work force was to do anything possible to improve their communication skills. He said that as a young adult, he was deathly afraid of speaking in public and had to work hard to become a good communicator. Mr. Buffett is now famous for his Letter to Shareholders, which he personally writes every year for their annual report.
“In response to another student question regarding what Mr. Buffett looks for in a company, he said ‘To find a manager who is passionate about his business.’”
As a seasoned professor of finance, Majure took note of Berkshire Hathaway business practices that are outside of standard methods in the corporate arena today.
“I also was impressed that Berkshire Hathaway and the companies they own are debt free, which is contrary to current finance theory which would advocate that taking on some debt would lower the firm’s cost of capital and hence increase firm value.
“Mr. Sam Taylor, CEO of the Oriental Trading Company, which was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway in 2012, said that they consummated the purchase of his company on a handshake – no contracts! Mr. Taylor also indicated that they are allowed to operate their company autonomously, with very little guidance from Berkshire Hathaway, and no micro-management of their operations. He said it was an absolute pleasure to be able to run his company autonomously without a debt load hanging over his shoulder; in stark contrast to previously being owned by a private equity firm with a huge debt load..,” she observed.
Student Kristen Boyd shared her takeaways after returning from the trip. “These companies that Mr. Warren Buffett has, you see his values and his ethics throughout the whole day,” she said. “To sit in a room with Warren Buffett and hear about his life experiences and his career is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.”
Here is Kristen’s post-trip interview:
Visiting Mr. Buffett in Spring 2013
Nita Paden, professor of marketing and Matt Haertzen, lecturer of finance, accompanied twenty students to Omaha, Nebraska to meet Mr. Warren Buffett on February 22, 2013 and to tour two of his retail companies, Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheims. This was the 6th time NAU-FCB students received an invitation from Mr. Buffett to visit him in Omaha.
“In previous trips, the students have been well-behaved, professional, and interested, and I think that gets noticed,” Paden said.
“What likely stuck with me the most was something said by Mr. Buffett, and also echoed by Mr. Scott Coor, an alumni of NAU (‘76)," Haertzen said. "The two of them both focused on the importance of building long-term relationships throughout your life and career. They both stressed how building these relationships and being willing to help others is critical to success and to being the type of person our society needs. Mr. Buffett really stressed the opportunities we are afforded simply by being born in the United States, and encouraged us to give back where we could, either time or money.”
The students were able to take a lot from the experience which they talked about it in the post-trip video interviews below. It was truly an honor to receive an invitation to visit Mr. Buffett yet again.
As covered in the FCB News HERE.
Visiting Mr. Buffett in Fall 2011
Nita Paden, professor of marketing and Chris Scherpereel, professor of management, accompanied twenty students to Omaha, Nebraska to meet Mr. Warren Buffett on November 10, 2011 and to tour two of his retail companies, Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheims. This was the 5th time NAU-FCB students received an invitation from Mr. Buffett to visit him in Omaha.
Dr. Paden shares this summary of the events. "It was an unforgettable experience. Mr. Buffett answered many questions from students relating to important issues such as the state of the economy, our educational system, and our healthcare system. However, the comments that he made regarding life skills and experiences were what our students will take with them for years to come. The students say this best, as you will hear on these post trip interviews."
"We were so fortunate to have Mr. Buffett sit with our students at lunch. Our conversations with him provided more insight into his personality. He has a great sense of humor, and entertained us with stories from his childhood as well as from his conversations with notable persons such as President Obama, Bill Gates and Nolan Ryan. He appears to have a genuine interest in our students, and I am gratified to know that a person in his position continues to take time to interact with and share his experiences with students.
"It was also inspirational to hear from the presidents of his retail stores. Particularly inspiring was Susan Jacque, president of Borsheims, who shared her path to her position at Borsheims. She advised our students to be open to opportunities that present themselves. She noted that an opportunity may not be exactly what you had in mind, but it may turn out to be the career and life that will be best in the long run.
"We were also very fortunate to have Scott Coor (1976 MKT) with us every step of the way. Scott provided our initial connection to Mr. Buffett through his own furniture business, Trendwood, Inc. At every point in the day he was there watching out for us and helping us to have the best possible experience."
Coor reflected on the trip in terms of its impact on the students: "I truly believe every student that has been on one of these trips has had a life altering experience. It is difficult to summarize the effect Mr. Buffett has on these young minds. Over the past five years, The W. A. Franke College of Business has sent 130 students to hear the wisdom and thoughts of Mr. Buffett. I know they will never forget their experience in Omaha for their entire life. I hope these trips will have an immediate effect on both our students and the College of Business, plus a true long term payback as these 'Buffett Scholars' continue their life journey."
Visiting Mr. Buffett in Fall 2010
Students gather around Mr. Warren Buffett for the November 10, 2010 commemorative photo
Here are the post-trip videos on our student's takeaways:
Visiting Mr. Buffett in Fall 2009
Students gather around Mr. Warren Buffett for the October 8, 2009 commemorative photo
Visiting Mr. Buffett in Spring 2009
Students gather around Mr. Warren Buffett for the February 24, 2009 commemorative photo
Visiting Mr. Buffett in Fall 2006
Students gather around Mr. Warren Buffett for the October 13, 2006 commemorative photo - our inaugural trip