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Carroll School of Management Graduate Programs

Meeting Warren Buffett

The Carroll School of Management's fourth consecutive trip to meet with Warren Buffett is a huge success

The Carroll School MBA students meet Warren Buffett
The Carroll School MBA students meet Warren Buffett

November 4, 2011

The Carroll School of Management’s Senior Lecturer Professor Robert F. Radin hosted his fourth consecutive trip last month to attend a two hour Q&A session with the famous investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett. Twenty MBAs from the Carroll School along with MBAs from other selected programs met with Buffett on Oct. 21 and Radin says the trip was fabulous. “Meeting Buffett never gets old. You learn something new from the man every time,” he says.

Changing lives

The Carroll School MBA students echoed this— many say their lives feel changed. Holly-Ann Paiva, ‘12 is a part-time MBA student with a concentration in Financial Reporting and Controls and was one of the two MBAs chosen to sit next to Buffett at lunch.

Paiva says she learned more about Buffett, beyond his knowledge of finance and business. "I found him fascinating, different from what you’d expect," she says. “Buffett is rare — he doesn't let his vast wealth dictate his happiness like so many others in the business world do. He chose a simple lunch of a root beer float and chicken parmesan. I felt humbled by how down to earth he is,” she says.

Greg Jones, ’12 not only sat next to Buffett at lunch, he drove with him in his famous Cadillac. Jones, who is pursuing his MSW/MBA dual program degrees through the Carroll School, says Buffett was like a caring grandfather.  "Buffett told me to pursue work I love and feel passionate about. He is excited about going to work every day; not because of the money but because he truly loves his job,” he says. “He spoke about his love for his wife and family and how important they are to him. It was an incredible insight.”

Eric Butler, ’12, whose concentration is in Marketing Informatics and Product and Brand Management, was so inspired by his time with Buffett he blogged on the event. Coming from a philanthropic background himself (Butler worked as Director of Annual Giving at Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA), he knew all about Buffett’s background.

Even still, when meeting Buffett, Butler felt overwhelmed by Buffett’s warmth, charm and breadth of knowledge. “Buffett speaks intelligently on everything from finance to baseball statistics. He’s able to use very concrete accessible examples of topics in a way where everyone gets it and relates,” Butler says.

What the students asked

Coming up with compelling, intelligent questions to ask Buffett was a prerequisite for applying to attend the trip. These are some of the questions Carroll School students asked:

•    What (if any) failures led to your later life successes?

•    Considering that Berkshire is a large organization, how do you create and sustain a strong company culture and infuse your team with common values and a shared understanding of what makes Berkshire the great company that it is today?

•    Regarding mentoring MBA students, what is it that you want us to take away from this opportunity, and, what do you think we should know about striving for our own success?

•    What can the people sitting in this room do to better improve this nation both socially and economically?

The gems offered by Buffett that day

One would think that Buffett’s insights would be primarily financial in tone and focus. But Carroll School students say Buffett was reflective on his life, his career and how to be good citizens. Here are some additional gems he offered:

•    Work for those whom you admire the most
•    On marriage: look for someone with low expectations if you want a marriage to last
•    On business: you might not remember a product but you might remember how you were treated when you bought it
•    Capitalism is all about creative destruction. We used to have 36 million farm jobs and we lost 25 million of those jobs. I guarantee there will be many more jobs in 20-30 years; we just don’t know where they’ll come from.
•    There have been 15 recessions in our history and the great depression. We’ve had a civil war, world wars, nuclear bombs and all kinds of problems. We still ended up with 25% of the worlds GDP, not because we worked harder; our system works.
•    People often focus on the glass being half full and sometimes half empty. The same things that worked over the past 100 years still work.
•    Your children will live better than you; my children on the other hand will not live better than me. My daughter came to a Berkshire shareholder meeting a few years ago. Her baby started crying during the meeting and I guess it was because she knew my views on inheritance.

Overall, the trip was a huge success and Radin and his students all hope the Carroll School is invited to future Warren Buffett gatherings. “Buffett represents the core values of Boston College: honesty and integrity,” Butler says. “It’s refreshing to see a famous and successful investor upholding values like these. If Warren Buffett can achieve this, then so can we.”