Oracle of Omaha

What we learned from Warren Buffett
Summer 2016


What does Buffett say leads to success? Focus and passion. He suggests that mastering both oral and written communication skills are vital. He talked about the importance of honor, integrity, and energy and used his performance as interim chairman at Salomon Brothers as an example of how honesty and integrity prevented a criminal indictment of that firm in 1991. He advised professional investors to start young, build an audited record, do their work for the fun of it, and base fees on management instead of performance.

He advised us to avoid “liquor, ladies, and leverage” as he had found this to be the cause of most ethical and legal problems friends and colleagues had faced over the years. He advised avoidance of risk but also pointed out that if you are following your passion you are already minimizing risk.

Throughout our discussion with Buffett there was a common theme of gratitude for his opportunities and experiences. He spoke of his parents and the influence his father had on his life, relaying he felt the greatest job one could have was being a teacher for your child. His decision to marry his first wife Susie provided stability and direction as she put him together and kept him together. His decision to work with Bill Gates in initiating and promoting the “Giving Pledge” was what he felt would be his greatest contribution to society. It was obvious from the time he was spending with us and his open and thoughtful answers to our questions that he would achieve the goal of his desired epitaph of “Teacher”.

Headed to lunch with Buffett, we all knew we had been given invaluable advice that pertained to each of us, regardless of the career path we chose. It reinforced the values and ethics demonstrated by our instructors and practiced by our fellow students at Wake Forest. It wasn’t enough to be successful financially. Return on investment in the business world included a component of service and social commitment.

 

 


 

Chuck Harr, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and practicing Charlotte surgeon, is a student in the Charlotte Working Professionals MBA program. To read Harr’s full essay, which originally ran in the Charlotte Observer, please visit http://go.wfu.edu/harrobserver.