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By Philip Bagdade, Finance 2012

Philip Bagdade and Warren Buffet

On March 31st, 2011 twenty Eller and pre-business majors including myself, (as well as similar sized groups from roughly 9 other schools around the US, Israel, and China!) made the journey from Tucson to Omaha, Nebraska to tour two Berkshire-Hathaway companies and meet with it’s legendary CEO Warren Buffett for a Q&A session.

Eller students meet Warren Buffet

The next day we toured Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheims Jewelry Company, which both became members of the Berkshire-Hathaway family of holdings in the 1980’s. First up was Nebraska Furniture Mart, the largest furniture retailer in the United States and is still under the management of the founding family. With half a million square feet in retail space, everyone was amazed with the sea of couches, desks, recliners, and every other furniture, appliance, or electronic component of a household imaginable. In the afternoon we went and toured Borsheims Jewelry Company where Susan Jacques shared with us her unlikely ascent to Chief Executive Officer. Ms. Jacques also described the service-first approach that Borsheims uses with all of its customers.

Warren Buffet drinking a root beer float from Piccolo's on the cover of FORTUNE Magazine

Between our tours of Borsheims and Nebraska Furniture Mart was the main attraction of the trip. All the students were shuttled to the Field Club of Omaha where we would have the privilege of listening to the Oracle of Omaha himself answer questions from the audience. For about two hours I sat intently listening to every word that Mr. Buffett had to say as he gave responses to a variety of questions ranging from personal influences to business tactics to philanthropic activities. While we were sitting there I could not help but be astonished at his energy, passion, clarity, intelligence, and charming humor—for an 80 year old no less! After Q&A, Mr. Buffett treated all of the students to lunch at one of his favorite local restaurants, Piccolo’s, a charming restaurant that seemed like it could exist no where besides the heart of the Midwest. After enjoying one of Piccolo’s famous root beer floats, a personal favorite of Mr. Buffett’s that he was once pictured enjoying on the cover of fortune magazine, we were able to take pictures with Mr. Buffett, who vowed to stay as long as we liked. In this arena, Mr. Buffett’s humor and charisma were again apparent as it flowed over like the root beer floats we had just enjoyed.

I am hard pressed to find another day and a half which has both stimulated and invigorated me as much as this recent whirlwind trip to Omaha. I am so thankful to have had this unique opportunity to listen to such an icon of investing as well as make some wonderful new friendships along the way!