August 29, 2019

Alumnus Warren Buffett Celebrates 89 Years

Faculty Expand Upon Oracle of Omaha’s Wisdom
Alumnus Warren Buffett Celebrates 89 Years
Buffett spoke at the University of Nebraska with Bill Gates in 2005 and turns 89-years-old, August 30.
Warren Buffett, who graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1951, celebrates his 89th birthday today. In honor of his big day, Nebraska Business faculty and staff provide insight and their own interpretation of some of his most noteworthy quotes.
 
"Warren Buffett once said, 'Your best investment is in yourself. There is nothing that compares to it,'” said Dr. Tim Hodges, executive director of the Clifton Strengths Institute and assistant professor of practice in management. “Our students come to the College of Business with incredible potential that is just waiting to be developed. Research shows that your greatest potential is in areas where you have natural talent. We help our students identify and then stretch those strengths while they're on campus, preparing them for success in their careers and their lives."

Though an economics major, Buffett proclaimed his appreciation of accounting after his success and it became one of his most famous quotes. He said, “Everybody in business school should really know accounting. It is the language of business.”

Not surprisingly, Dr. Todd Thornack, assistant professor of accountancy, agreed with Buffett’s statement. He stressed the importance when making educated choices while also demonstrating the lack of synonyms for the word decision.

“Language is the medium by which information is communicated to another. A broad definition of accounting is the process of providing information for decision making. If accounting provides information to make decisions, then it behooves all decision-makers to understand the information provided by accounting. Otherwise, the decisions made might not reflect the information available because of accounting – a sure recipe for poor decision-making,” Thornack said.

Known as the Oracle of Omaha because others very closely follow his investment picks and comments on the market, Buffett also talks a lot about finance. College of Business students can take Security Analysis and Warren Buffett Valuation Techniques (FINA 463) where they complete projects attempting to simulate Buffett’s valuation techniques. The Snowball, a book written about Buffett by Alice Schroeder published in 2008, included the following quote.
 
“Aesop was not much of a finance major, because he said something like, ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’ But he doesn’t say when…sometimes a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, and sometimes two in the bush are better than one in the hand,” Buffett said.

When asked about the quote, Dr. Richard DeFusco, chair of the Department of Finance and professor of finance, said, “Warren Buffett has a gift for describing the essence of investments. We invest an amount today with an expectation of having a larger amount in the future. Little did we know that more than 2,000 years ago, Aesop was the Oracle of Delphi, Greece.”

Buffett also believed in keeping strong businesses in the family. He shared advice for business owners at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in October 2013.

Dr. D’vee Buss, assistant dean of undergraduate programs, poses with Clyde Davis, lecturer of supply chain management and analytics, along with life size cutouts of Buffett and his favorite active football coach Scott Frost at the Back to School Bash.
Dr. D’vee Buss, assistant dean of undergraduate programs, poses with Clyde Davis, lecturer of supply chain management and analytics, along with life-size cutouts of Buffett and his favorite active football coach and finance alumnus Scott Frost at the Back to School Bash.
“When people come to me with wonderful businesses, and they do, and they talk about selling them to me, my first advice is, don’t sell them. I mean, wonderful businesses, they’re too rare. And if you’ve got one in your family, keep it unless something forces you to sell it,” Buffett said.

Dr. Sam Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management, supported Buffett’s statement. The center, which hosted the inaugural Family Business Conference last spring, provides students with skills and connections to start their own businesses and Nelson has seen great ideas lead to great businesses while other great ideas failed.
 
“Creating a wonderful business is a rare accomplishment and the business provides many other opportunities to a family in addition to income. Of course the businesses come with challenges, but they are usually worth the sacrifices required to keep them in the family,” Nelson said.

At the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting in May 2017, Buffett said, “The big money – huge money – is in selling people the idea that you can do something magical for them.”

This quote resonated with Dr. Blake Runnalls, assistant professor of marketing. Teaching sales courses for the Nebraska Business Center for Sales Excellence, he heard the sales angle in the Buffett quote and how learning to sell people your ideas creates value for students pursuing any major. 

“By being open and honest with current and prospective clients, ‘big money’ is created by working together to co-create a bigger pie of value to share,” Runnalls said.

With an estimate net worth of 79.1 billion, Buffett definitely knows how to make “big money.” However, he also told the world he believes people should do what they enjoy when he said, “In the world of business, the people who are the most successful are those who are doing what they love.”

Jennifer Davidson, assistant professor of practice in economics, president of the Nebraska Council on Economic Education and Nebraska Bankers Association Faculty Fellow, took opportunities provided to her and found her passion along the way.

“My passion didn’t start out to be economics or teaching. At the College of Business, I was given many opportunities including tuition remission for graduate work which allowed my role to expand. I can be on a television show one day providing economic advice, teach a college class another, fly out of the nation to lead an economic study tour the next day and then be in charge of a National Personal Finance Challenge two weeks later. If you take the opportunities offered to you and stretch your strengths, you’ll find something you love. No day feels like work to me now, rather every day brings something new and exciting.”
 
Dr. D’vee Buss, assistant dean of undergraduate programs, also found her passion at Nebraska Business. She explained what it meant to her when Buffett said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

First coming to Nebraska Business as a student, Buss worked in advising and student services after graduation. Yesterday, she celebrated 44 years of service, so this quote especially resonated with her.

She shared, “Those who came before us believed in the future of higher education. They invested their time and energy to plant seeds, nurture them and watch opportunities, programs and services grow. Today, we reap the rewards of their hard work with a world-class College of Business and the incredible success of our students, faculty and staff.”

In honor of Buffett’s birthday, Buss encourages everyone to continue to plant seeds for the shade of others who are yet to follow.