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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Academics & Research

UH students meet Warren Buffett, take tour of Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett encouraged 20 students from the Bauer School of Business to pursue careers they are passionate about rather than those that will make them a lot of money when they met earlier this month.  |  Courtesy of Bauer College Wolff Center

Warren Buffett encouraged 20 students from the Bauer School of Business to pursue careers they are passionate about rather than those that will make them a lot of money when they met earlier this month. | Courtesy of Bauer College Wolff Center

Twenty students from the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at Bauer were given the opportunity to meet famed investor Warren Buffett on Jan. 13 in Omaha, Neb.

The students, who were chosen based on essays they had written about why they should be picked to go on the trip, met Buffett in person while touring the Berkshire Hathaway headquarters.

“I thought it would be sort of like an auditorium where he’d come in and leave but it was really an intimate setting where we were on the front row,” said Entrepreneurship senior Corinne Agrella. “It was the equivalent to a smaller classroom.

“It was nice to have such a setting that was conducive to him being there for us and wanting to be there.”

The students attended a question-and-answer in addition to lunch with Buffett and received investment advice.

“I think what was most valuable on the trip to Omaha was the fact that Warren Buffett is just like one of us,” Agrella said.  “He was just a really personable guy and really was there for the students.”

Buffett encouraged the students to do what they love rather than what will pay well.

“What Warren Buffett did is he made money by doing what he loved to do and he was just successful. He enjoys going to work every day that’s why he’s 81 years old and he still does all the stuff at his office,” entrepreneurship senior Louis McEneny said. “He’s not doing it for the money — he’s doing it for what it is and I thought that was one of the best things I learned from the trip.”

The students were accompanied by Ken Jones, the program’s director, and Melvyn Wolff, the center’s namesake and a board member for Berkshire Hathaway who personally and financially orchestrated the trip, Agrella said.

“It was a short trip but it was a fun trip,” McEneny said.

“Warren Buffett played his cards right and got lucky and we can do the same,” Agrella said.

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  • Andrew Michael

    Mike, are you a business student here at UH? I'm guessing no, because Bauer doesn't actually teach anything you just said. There's no hidden class that we're all required to take that epitomizes the enslavement of the middle class. What Bauer does give its students is access to successful faculty that are highly invested in helping their students succeed. There are just over 70 students majoring in entrepreneurship in Bauer, and somewhere between five to ten have made plans to start a non-profit when they graduate to help their community, promote literacy in Africa, save fragile ecosystems, and a wide variety of other goals. To say that we're a community of "morally retarded individuals" just shows how little you know about the people you so easily bash from the convenience of your computer.

    • Andrew Michael

      "No, they just make meeting the idol a prize for only the best and most promising students. Seems to me that he is being held up as an example regardless of what is taught."

      You know, there is a limit to how many people will physically fit in the conference room at Buffett's office. When you invite six universities and representatives from Brazil to go, you have to have a limit on how many people can go from each university. I was actually not one of the people originally selected to go, but got to go because one of my classmates felt that I would get more out of the experience than he would, so he gave me his seat. I'd call that pretty self-less, which counteracts your second point about ignorance and an undying need to promote self-interest.

      "Succeed at what? …. The standard of "success" in the business world isn't very impressive to me. "

      Success in life is a very vague concept because it means different things to different people. Just because you disagree with the "success" of Steve Jobs doesn't mean that you are right or wrong, or the people who consider him a success or right or wrong.

      "Great, they can work at a high-load non profit where 15% of actual donations go to charitable work, and the remaining 85% pay ridiculous staff salaries. "

      Or they can go make their own and use a different structure, 85/15 instead of the 15/85 you mentioned.

      "Not to let the facts get in the way of a good story, but I went out of my way to say I was referring to the *BUSINESS* COMMUNITY not *the COLLEGE OF BUSINESS.* Good reading comprehension, though. And how the hell does non-profits fit the definition of a "business?""

      I read it right the first time, and my comment stands. You're making a stereotype of the whole business world, and it's wrong. There are some cold SOBs like Wal-Mart. If you listened to the State of the Union address last night, you'll notice where Siemens is investing money in the community of Charlotte, SC to help provide people an education that can get them a job. You'll never hear about that though because the media likes to focus on negatives.

      • Andrew Michael

        "So we agree that you're worshipping ….. quarterly profits (I'm sure you'll get a healthy bonus for that, too). "

        I don't agree with your assessment. Greed is a powerful force, but properly harnessed, can give us a great many things – like the industrial revolution, railroads, etc. I would be remiss to say that those historical events were without their own drawbacks, but reality is that life is not perfect. But for the notion of just trampling over employees, I would have to argue that you've never heard of the People, Planet, Profit business model. You should look it up. I won't say that it is the norm in business by any means, but it's gaining momentum.

        "Thank you for making …. have made this argument).

        I'm aware of the negatives of a sweat shop in China. So are a number of the people that shop at Wal-Mart. That hasn't stopped them. Love it or hate it, the reality is that the general populous doesn't give a damn about that. They want their products for cheap and are not willing to pay a premium for quality or humane practices. You can't point the finger at just one person or ideology. When you're ready to admit that we, the general public, are largely responsible for that, then you and I have something to talk about here.

        I've reread my comment about the community of "morally retarded individuals" to located the source of confusion between what I said and what you read. I've arrived at the only logical conclusion that there was a misunderstanding of my use of the word 'we' as an antecedent in that sentence. So, with your humble permission, I would like to clarify my original statement so as to remove all confusion for the record. Hence, to say that we, the business community, are a groupy of "morally retarded individuals" just shows how little you know about the people you so easily bash from the convenience of your computer. Better?

        "Well, Siemens also manufactured Cyanide during WWII so I wouldn't go deputizing them into your argument. "

        Are you seriously going to use that as an example? That was a completely different time and place. Using that philosophy, you could demonize the SEALs that killed Bin Laden. I highly doubt that anyone who worked at Siemens during WWII is still working for them now. And the new management has seen fit to invest in the education of the people of Carlotte, SC. Doesn't sound like you're screwing them over to me.

        "But that's all tertiary ….. Business Schools turn out every year. "

        You missed the part where he started this whole legacy of his with money from his own pocket, which he earned from a job like you and me. Sounds to me like he created something.

        Also, how in the world is charity not a contribution to society? If I buy a homeless guy a meal – something I've done on a few occasions – how am I not making a contribution to his quality of life? When I dropped him off at the YMCA so he could get a shower and have a place to sleep for the night, tell me how that wasn't any better than letting him sleep behind a gas station?

        It's painfully obvious that you have a radically different opinion on reality than I do. You're welcome to it. But I'm not going to continue to have a discussion with someone who refuses to acknowledge some basic facts.

  • Andrew Michael

    I don't know how much attention you pay to the news, but Warren Buffet is one of the loudest advocates for the middle class out there right now. He's promoted higher taxes for the super wealthy and even offered to make cash donations to help pay down the national debt. Having had the chance to meet him, I can honestly say that he is just the same as you and me. To prove that point, there are students here at UH that drive more expensive cars than he does. He is super wealthy because he loves what he does, and he's really good at it. He's a role model to many of us because, many decades ago, he was just like us – a guy with a dream and a little bit of cash in his pocket.
    As for your comment about the sacrificing, hardworking small businessman in the community – the WCE already does that. Every week, we have guest lecturers come and speak to the class. These are people who live and work in Houston, create jobs in Houston, and make your life and mine better. Next time, please take a minute to research something fully before you start to bash it. It makes you look incredibly ill-informed, and destroys any credibility you might have.

    • Andrew Michael

      "At 81 years old. What has he been doing for the last 80 years? I'm unimpressed with someone who comes to the party after securing and living a life of luxury. It's easy to want to 'buy your way to heaven' on your death bed. Lead a life of modesty and charity, then we'll talk."

      He hasn't lived a life of luxury. And on top of that, he's giving away 99% of it when he dies. He's already given away billions.

      "I commend him for that. That doesn't justify the manner in which he acquired his wealth. "

      Nothing he did was illegal or unethical. Any issue you have with the method he acquired it is a matter of your own personal bias.

      "I commend him for that. That doesn't justify the manner in which he acquired his wealth. "

      Both illegal and unethical. Get a better comparison.

      "No, he's a role model to you because you aspire to his disgusting level of greed. You associate having dollars with personal value, and that's the kind of asinine value system a Business degree reinforces. How to treat human beings like a line on a balance sheet. "

      Contrary to your jaded opinion, few people actually aspire to that . I know I don't. What would I do with all that money? Being the richest man in the world doesn't make you any better of a person than a janitor. Most of us just want enough money to live comfortably and have something to pass on to our kids one day. If you have a problem with that, you have a problem with the American Dream.

      "And yet they don't make the front page of the DC. I wonder what that tells you about which you value more…"

      Go file a complaint with the Cougar. We didn't ask for a write-up in the paper. They came to us.

      • Bauer Alum

        Andrew – don't feed the trolls.

  • Jessie Lai

    Mike, I don't really see where you are getting that idea from or understand your point.
    I agree with Andrew's point on Warren Buffett, and if you do more research about him — you'd see how much he donates to the community, etc. I met Warren Buffett — he's great and it was an amazing experience. He gave many insights that make you think about your passion, goal, life, etc. He advised to the students that "always put your best foot forward and life always works out. Just try your best"
    About manipulation.. let's be real here. every one in their life manipulates people one way or another…

    Meeting "a hardworking small businessman".. We do that all the time at lunch and learn at WCE. Perhaps, you can come by and see for yourself one day.

    My mentor is a "hardworking small businesswoman." She is very successful and powerful in the Houston area,loves what she does, and gives back to community countlessly. The way she manages her money opened my eyes— basically, she taught me the value of money and how to manage my finance better.

    I use my mentor as an example with Warren Buffett because they are quite similar. More importantly, they don't "enslave" working class like you said for "private jet." They are really frugal to themselves but generous to community. When you can do what they do, I think then you can voice your opinion.

  • Adam Trojanowski

    Mike I think what Warren Buffet has done with his life is really impressive. I would love to have the chance to employ multitudes of people across the globe. Despite your complaints he has probably contributed more to the people of this planet than you or I ever will.

    I also have a high amount of respect for the wonderful and caring people within this program and believe it is ignorant of you to judge people you have never met. Keep in mind actions are what make people evil not stereotypes.

    • Adam Trojanowski

      >To what end? You want to employ people simply so you can say you have authority over them? How noble.

      If you read my comment you will see that I obviously did not say that. Its of my opinion that being employed can positively affect someones life.

      >Like WHAT? Borrowing money to acquire Berhshire Hathaway? Borrowing money to acquire Geico? Borrowing money to acquire stock in Goldman Sachs? Borrowing money to acquire BNSF? Yes, he's contributed loads to society. Just last week I bought some Microsoft stock. Let me know when you guys would like me to give a lecture at Bauer, I'm free on Tuesday nights.

      You should try to find some evidence for your claims before you make flawed arguments. Here is a direct quote from Buffet's 2010 letter to shareholders that will show you his feelings on debt.

      Leverage, of course, can be lethal to businesses as well. Companies with large debts often assume that these obligations can be refinanced as they mature. That assumption is usually valid. Occasionally, though, either because of company-specific problems or a worldwide shortage of credit, maturities must actually be met by payment. For that, only cash will do the job.
      Borrowers then learn that credit is like oxygen. When either is abundant, its presence goes unnoticed. When either is missing, that’s all that is noticed. Even a short absence of credit can bring a company to its knees.
      In September 2008, in fact, its overnight disappearance in many sectors of the economy came dangerously close to bringing our entire country to its knees. Charlie and I have no interest in any activity that could pose the slightest threat to Berkshire’s well being. (With our having a combined age of 167, starting over is not on our bucket list.) We are forever conscious
      of the fact that you, our partners, have entrusted us with what in many cases is a major portion of your savings. In addition, important philanthropy is dependent on our prudence. Finally, many disabled victims of accidents caused by our insureds are counting on us to deliver sums payable decades from now. It would be irresponsible for us to risk what all these constituencies need just to pursue a few points of extra return.
      A little personal history may partially explain our extreme aversion to financial adventurism. I didn’t meet Charlie until he was 35, though he grew up within 100 yards of where I have lived for 52 years and also attended the same inner-city public high school in Omaha from which my father, wife, children and two grandchildren graduated. Charlie and I did, however, both work as young boys at my grandfather’s grocery store, though our periods of employment were separated by about five years. My grandfather’s name was Ernest, and perhaps no man was more aptly named. No one worked for Ernest, even as a stock boy, without being shaped by
      the experience.
      On the facing page you can read a letter sent in 1939 by Ernest to his youngest son, my Uncle Fred. Similar letters went to his other four children. I still have the letter sent to my Aunt Alice, which I found – along with $1,000 of cash – when, as executor of her estate, I opened her safe deposit box in 1970.
      Ernest never went to business school – he never in fact finished high school – but he understood the importance of liquidity as a condition for assured survival. At Berkshire, we have taken his $1,000 solution a bit further and have pledged that we will hold at least $10 billion of cash, excluding that held at our regulated utility and railroad businesses. Because of that commitment, we customarily keep at least $20 billion on hand so that we can both withstand unprecedented insurance losses (our largest to date having been about $3 billion from Katrina,
      the insurance industry’s most expensive catastrophe) and quickly seize acquisition or investment opportunities, even during times of financial turmoil"

      Regardless of the fact that he doesn't like debt. I am ok with people using debt to finance business activities as long as they plan to pay it back. Please find me an article of some sort that shows he is spending large amounts of debt to fund his purchases and then not paying it back.

  • Jessie Lai

    You probably are right at some part.
    But you know what, Warren Buffett or many other "rich" people work hard for their money, do what they love and happen to be the best at it. Whether they are greedy or not, it's not your place to judge. Who doesn't want a luxury/comfortable life? Everyone works towards that.
    Maybe you should just be proud that our school, UH participated meeting with Warren Buffett (long waiting lists are dying to meet him), and get out of your shell to realize its magnificence.

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