Steak, Coke and Candor with Warren Buffett

The sage of Omaha, the steak lover, the cherry-coke addict, the noted philanthropist, the 77 year old Investment genius, the relentless conversationalist and the effortless entertainer – this uncomplicated man from Nebraska defies everything you would expect from the third richest man in the world. Yes, it’s true – Buffett is something else!

Humble, hilarious, warm, boisterous and sincere, Buffett relished the two hour tirade of questions during the HBS Q&A at the Field Club of Omaha in February, 2008. Led by HBS students, Steve Gangwish, Jason Kreuziger, Al Bui and Steve Mykijewycz, the Annual Warren Buffett Trek exceeded all pent-up EC expectations breitling superocean replica. A crowd of 100 voracious and captivated HBS students absorbed every word as Buffett emphasized the importance of a support network, his distaste for leverage, his undying passion for playing online bridge, his astonishingly unpretentious lifestyle and his uncluttered approach to investing.

Coke is the ‘Juice of the Gods’, promised Buffett as he encouraged us all to down at least a couple of aerated drinks a day. Punctuating his investment mantras with vivid anecdotes, visual metaphors and witty analogies, he managed to strike the right balance between story and advice.

Despite his dedicated friendship with Bill and Melinda Gates (that has fortified enough to merit lengthy daily phone conversations), he pledges not to invest in Microsoft simply because he does not understand the business. Buffett believes in staples that create endless demand ‘The internet will not change how we chew gum. I understand Coke, I understand Wal-Mart, I understand chewing gum but I will never understand IT well enough’.

Careful not to use jargon, Buffett innovatively explained his take on the role of global over-exposure to the USD in the current economic environment but he largely concentrated on his simple philosophies of living, sharing, giving and investing!

Buffett says he ‘tap dances’ to work everyday and we believe him! ‘I bought my first stock at age 11 and regret that I started too late,’ he revealed. He encouraged MBAs to follow their passion aggressively. Don’t look at jobs that look good on the resume. Going for ‘Management Consulting or taking another job just to build the resume’ after the MBA is ‘like saving sex for old age’, he quipped jokingly as the room guffawed with laughter. There comes a time when you just ‘ought to start doing what you love’ and you ‘Harvard grads are ready’.

Although many of his quotes and anecdotes can be found in “Warren Buffett Speaks” by Janet Lowe, and countless YouTube videos, books and websites, interacting with the man makes his competence and boyish enthusiasm infectiously palpable! Not surprisingly, during the ride back to the hotel, at least half the bus declared that meeting him was one of the most humbling experiences of their MBA journey.

As delightful added bonuses to the trip, HBS students got to meet James Young (CEO, Union Pacific), got a lavish tour of Borsheim’s, struck candid (and sometimes shocking) picture poses with Buffett and a few were even fortunate enough to enjoy an exclusive steak dinner with him at Gorat’s, his favorite Steak House. When we thanked Buffett for joining us for the relatively unplanned dinner, he wise-cracked that ‘he would do anything for a free meal.’ Maybe not entirely true but definitely characteristic of a man who is comfortable in his skin and can laugh at himself!