Family Enterprise Club @ Berkshire Hathaway

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June 2014
Five MBA students from business families spent a Day at Berkshire Hathaway - including a meeting Warren Buffet, and visits to family businesses that BH owns on Feb 28, 2014.

Left to Right: Emma Gergen '14 (USA), Meredith Crowley '14 (USA), Ali Korijn '15 (Netherlands), Florence Frech '15 ( El Salvador), Ana Lagos '15 (Mexico)

Meredith Crowley:

"Bob Batt at Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) told a great story of Berkshire's family businesses. Bob, grandson of founder Rose Blumkin, believes his business is able to remain loyal to his grandmother's values of delivering low cost and wide assortments of furniture by being a part of the "Berkshire family". He believes the credibility the Berkshire name brings to NFM enables their expansion into new markets like Dallas and strength against ecommerce retailers, while new family members continue to be interested in the business.

Asked about the value he sees in family business, Buffett indicates it is the strength of the founder he values most but is comfortable ending family management in later generations if he feels the successors don't have the same charisma as the founder (like Borsheims, now run by an outside CEO). Nonetheless, Buffett spoke of all of his businesses using "we" and is remarkably enthusiastic about the future. He suggests that the world is ever improving and "the person best positioned to succeed in this world is being born right now". He believes that the best way for us to help society is by investing in younger generations."

Emma Gergen:

"On Cloud 9 after the day in Omaha with the oracle! It was an amazing experience.

I also greatly enjoyed bonding with the other family business students who attended and very much enjoyed the company. The Q&A session was long since Mr. Buffett provided thorough and long answers! Our question was "How do you keep family members/managers across multiple generations engaged in the business after the acquisition?" I was very surprised by how simply he deduced very complex topics and seemed straightforward in his approach. With regard to multiple generations, I was surprised that he seemed somewhat indifferent about whether the family continued in the business past the initial owner/manager from which he acquired - a response that aligned with his hands off approach.

We also had an interesting discussion with the CEO of Nebraska Furniture Mart, a 3rd generation family member. We asked him his thoughts about the transition from being a family manager owner to family manager under Berkshire. Interestingly, the family legacy still seemed very strong."