Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day with Buffett

Bad Disco Ball
7am - 8:30am
It's actually 5am in California.  Running on adrenaline.  Went downstairs for a "free" hot breakfast in the Hilton Garden Inn.  Watched the tragedy in Japan unfold.  A classmate's in-laws lived in Sendai.  Hope they are okay.  After breakfast, packed up and checked out of the hotel.  Off to Nebraska Furniture Mart for the first part of the Buffett trip.

Around 200 MBA students from Perdue, Berkeley, Montana...
8:30am - 10am
Walked into the entrance and was greeted by a sea of black suits.  Very scary.  The manager (I think his name is Bob), talked about the business and selling to Buffett.  The interesting thing about the furniture business and is that it cannot be done online.  People like to touch sofas and tables before they buy it.  His company didn't lay off one person during the recession.  Time to race to Berkshire Hathaway.

13th floor is Berkshire Hathaway
10am - 12pm
Arrived a tad late due to the meter parking.  After finding out that we didn't have enough change for 2 hours, I found parking nearby a bank.  Running in a suit is not fun.  Went up to the 13th floor and up 3 more flights of stairs to the Cloud Room where only the backrow seats were available.  Sigh!  At least I sat next to Kathy and Dean Currall.  Got a diet Coke and waited for the man.  He walked in near the backrow of seats, up to the front of the room.  A briefing of what he said:

Cloud Room
- Leverage: Dangerous.  Berkshire doesn't have to depend on others for financing.
- Question about what to do with your career:  Answer: Do what you would do if you were retired.  Buffett says that he loves what he does and he makes money at it.
- He told the story about what a person, who has yet to be born, on how they would shape the world.  But the catch is that the person doesn't know what they will be born as: gender, what country, healthy or retarded.  How would you shape the world's resources and society?  How can you shape it to be fair for all?  
- Joke:  Buffett walked to the backrow to hear a soft-spoken student ask a question.  With this, Buffett tells a joke.  Buffett is concerned that his friend, Charlie Munger, who he has never had a disagreement with, is losing his hearing.  A doctor advises that he asks Munger a question from across the room in a normal voice and see if he responds.  The next day, Buffett is in a room with Charlie Munger and from across the room, asks: "Charlie, I think we should buy Microsoft at $26, what do you think?"  Munger doesn't respond.  Buffett goes halfway across the room and asks the question again.  Munger doesn't respond.  Finally, Buffett goes up close to Munger's desk and asks him the same question.  Munger replies, "For the THIRD TIME, I said YES."  (joke explanation: Buffett is the one who has a hearing problem)
- On Charity:  Buffett says that normal people who give to charity are the most generous than billionaires who give billions to charity.  Why?  Because when billionaires give money, they are not giving up anything.  By giving away a billion dollars, is the billionaire going to sacrifice seeing a movie, expensive dinner, vacation, or anything else in their daily lives?  Not really.   But for a normal person, giving $100 to a charity, might affect if they go on vacation this year or affect their choice of meals later.
- Buffett question time: "Okay, it's time for the Aggies."  A UC Davis student stands up and a Texas A&M person stands up.  "Oh, you are both the Aggies."  UC Davis sits down.
- Buffett on small town development.  Basically, it's up to person growing up in the town to give back to the town and develop it.  But in most cases, really smart people tend to leave their small towns behind.
- Buffett drank one regular red can of Coke.
- More on charity:  Buffett remarks that he has paper stock of Berkshire Hathaway in a vault 2 miles from the building.  He says that those pieces of paper can get him a huge pyramid tomb that will put the Egyptian pyramids to shame.  I say that he should do that.  That'd be awesome.

Past Noon now, it's time to go, but first, Buffett has room for 4 students to drive with him to Piccolo's.  He looks at the schools and says who traveled the farthest.  He says two guys from Montana and two ladies from UC Davis and another school.  I asked Kathy if I could go, but I not a girl :(     The Dean picked Ruchi.  I met Ruchi in the elevator and wished her good luck and to be sure to call "Shotgun" before entering the car.  She sat in the front :)

Behind the UCD Table

12:30pm - 2pm
Ah, Piccolo's, Buffett's favorite steak restaurant in America.  Me, James, and Danny walked in to a room with not that many students seated.  I asked James to feel the vibe and pick where Buffett would sit.  He decided on the table with the most wriggle room.  We sat down and waited for the other UCD students to sit at our table.  Then Buffett walked in.  Going to our table?  No, to a table behind us (see pic).  I don't blame him.

Well Done!

Had a choice of steak, veggie burger, or chicken.  Of course steak, right, can't go wrong with steak in a steak place, right?  WRONG!  I won't comment since this isn't YELP, but look at the picture of the steak and that's all you need to know about our steaks there. I'm sure Mr. Buffett got a good dry-aged steak.

Practicing our camera skills before the posing with Buffett.  We devised a strategy for taking pictures, but ended up having one person with a Canon SLR, my camera, too, as the main camera for all the pictures.  Unfortunately, a lot of our faces are shiny due to the disco ball.  Really?  A disco ball in a steak restaurant?  We were the 2nd school out of 9 to take our pictures with Buffett.  In the past, all the pictures were outdoors.  I wonder why they chose to do it indoors this time.

Went to Borsheims, a little mall.  So tired by now.  We were early since all the other schools were still taking their pictures with Buffett.  A lady, who I think is the main boss, led us outside the sales area to talk about the company and herself (a lot).  I took a little snooze by the couch.  Enough!  After an hour, she's still talking? How about pausing for questions?  Guys, we gotta go.  So we headed out and went to Starbucks before heading out to the airport.

5pm - 1:30am(pacific)
Going home.  Only drama was the flight from Minnesota to SFO was 1.5 hours late because of the plane's weight.  They offered $400 for people to get on other flights.  Then later, then needed more people, so they offered $600.  Prisoner's dilemma here.  Everyone could've gotten more if they just waited.  I think they should've wait for $1000. 

So was it worth it?  Definitely!  I'm grateful to UC Davis and the opportunity to shake hands and listen to the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett.

-Thanks for reading,

Richard Chen, 3/11/2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Day before

Been looking forward to this event since I began the program three years ago.  After an exhausting red-eye flight from San Francisco to Minnesota to Omaha, I was greeted by cold 23 degree weather at 8:30am.  Got my rental car and called the hotel. Luckily, the hotel let me check in early, so I can get more shut-eye.

Got to Omaha early for the purpose of checking out the city.  Visited the Qwest Center and Conagra.  I didn't have time to visit the business section of town.

Volunteered at one of Warren Buffett's charities, Girls Inc.  Had them do the marshmallow challenge.

Ok, big day tomorrow.  Sleep?  Nah, time to hit the town.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wait List

Everybody on the wait list has gotten into the group.  Unfortunately, my flying/hotel buddy, Aditya, won't be joining us on the trip.  Unfortunately, his new job and class schedule made him cancel this week.  Also, airfare has ballooned to about $550 roundtrip now, from $350.

A 3-hour window will be open to any student who responds in time for a special lottery to determine who will get the final spot. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Hotel and Airfare

Ruchi has set up room blocks for the Hilton Garden Inn.  Rooms are going to be cheap since I'm sharing with 3 Daytime students I met at the meetings.  

I'm bummed at the airline options.  $350 roundtrip from SFO seems to be the cheapest.  I had to book this on American Airline's site because they currently are not on Orbitz or Expedia.  I've decided to fly red-eye and not waste a whole day flying.  Rather waste a night on the airplane and have my fellow passengers hear my wonderful snoring.  At least I'll get in a good few hours of touring this "middle of nowhere" place in the world.  Rental car is $20/day.  My Warren Buffett owned insurance (GEICO) covers car rentals, yah!

So $25 (hotel) + $40 (car) + $350 (air) + 2 days of lost wages  worth it to see an icon like Warren Buffett?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Got in

"Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness." - The Architect in Matrix Reloaded

I was number #17 on the wait list.  After the first mandatory meeting, I was #7.  After the second and last mandatory meeting, I was #1.  Now I am in.  Yes!  Never give up hope.