Lessons from My Meeting with The Oracle Of Omaha, Warren Buffett

Posted in: News

In the world of financial services and investing, no one stands taller than Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway.  I recently had the chance to meet the legend himself on his home turf of Omaha, NE.

The invitation came from Tom Nerney, CEO of USLI, a carrier we’ve been working with for about a year and a member of the Berkshire Hathaway family. Tom was hosting a business dinner with several of USLI’s partners.  The highlight of the evening would be an informal Q&A with Warren.

Dinner was at the Omaha Country Club. Very nice, but not fancy; just like Omaha itself. Before the reception, Tom Nerney said Warren would be right along. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a 1995 Cadillac (he bought it used a couple years ago) pulled into the parking lot and out stepped Warren. No chauffeur and no VIP space for one of the world’s richest men, who parked in the main lot like everyone else.

In person, Warren is one of the friendliest guys you’ll ever meet. He greeted and chatted with everyone, putting us all at ease—the ultimate business development pro in action.

After dinner, Warren stood up with the microphone and let it roll. He said his two favorite things to do were to speak candidly with groups such as ours and to retreat to his study and read through a pile of newspapers until his hands were covered in ink.

His incredible breadth of knowledge was immediately obvious. His answers to the audience’s questions included references to politics, finance, Greek and Roman history, sports, music, and just about everything under the sun. Every response was thoughtful and detailed. Warren certainly knows how to engage an audience. One thing no one got was investment advice. Warren is very deft at avoiding those questions.

All in all, it was a fascinating evening, which ended on a high note as Warren did a photo-op with everyone.

There was still more to come. No Buffet-hosted meeting is complete without a shopping trip to Furniture Mart and Borsheim’s jewelry store—two other successful Berkshire Hathaway companies. Warren never misses a chance to promote his companies or to practice a little real-time capitalism.

Our trip to Omaha was extremely valuable for me, and for our clients, too, as I got to know and understand USLI better.   This is a first-class operation that treats its policy-holders as well as I was treated throughout my trip.

It was also a chance for me to reflect on our growth.  As many of you know, we started small…really small. My first year, I actually worked out of the trunk of my car. Today, PSA is the largest, independent, multi-disciplined firm of our kind in the mid-Atlantic, and we’re among the top 100 companies in several of our practice areas. Our size brings clout which allows us to form relationships with the top people at the companies we deal with. These relationships allow us to work together to benefit our clients with creative and flexible solutions.

On a personal level the trip to Omaha was a great development and leadership experience. I had an amazing opportunity to observe one of the world’s most successful investors close up, and to see how he deals with people and how he communicates.  The insights I gained can help me be a better executive, husband, father and community leader.

Our trip to Omaha definitely made a memory for my wife Terry and me. Warren makes it a point to engage with as many people as possible – I wonder if any of you have had a chance to meet him, hear him speak or have been influenced by his wisdom or leadership – if so, please share your story in our comments section.