What do you buy the man who has everything?

How about a personalized ukulele?

To kick off their studies for the spring 2009 semester, 27 MBA students from Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to visit the headquarters of Berkshire-Hathaway and more importantly, spend a day with financial expert Warren Buffett. As the students prepared to meet Buffett, they considered the perfect thank you gift.

Investment expert Warren Buffett tries out the ukulele given to him by Mays MBA students.
Investment expert Warren Buffett tries out the ukulele given to him by Mays MBA students.

“There was really no question that we would give Mr. Buffett a ukulele,” said Mays MBA student Clayton Dean ’10, who knew Buffett to be a collector of the instrument. Dean quickly contacted a ukulele-making company, placing an order for a personalized Mays Business School souvenir, complete with Mays and Texas A&M University logos. While the ukulele was being manufactured, the students brushed up on their knowledge of Buffett with presentations about his personal life, business endeavors, and achievements, deciding on which educated questions they would ask during the question and answer session.

When they arrived in Omaha, the group found that Buffett was very different than they expected. “He’s such an Average Joe…he didn’t have a driver, a personal assistant, or anything,” said Jeff Kenner ’10, president of the Mays MBA Association. After a tour of one of the companies owned by Berkshire-Hathaway, the students ventured to the 15th floor of Kiewit Tower where they awaited a meeting with Buffett in the Cloud Room, which boasts a renowned view of the Omaha skyline.

The Mays group joined MBA students from Dartmouth, Southern Methodist University, University of California at Los Angeles, and Texas Christian University on this visit. Buffett was very appreciative of the gift presented to him by the Mays students. Texas A&M was the only school to offer a token of appreciation for the valuable time spent with the investment expert.

When the question and answer session began, each school was given the chance to ask four questions pertaining to Buffett’s personal and professional history. In response, Buffett offered the students one main piece of advice: stick to what you know. He emphasized the importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses and applying those to professional opportunities. Buffett’s sense of humor coupled with his vast business knowledge made the visit both entertaining and informational. “I’ve never laughed as hard as I did sitting in the cloud room that day,” said Dean. “Mr. Buffett is so much funnier than any comedian I’ve ever seen, he would crack jokes in between each piece of advice he offered us.”

Buffett is still investing despite the economic turmoil, putting large amounts of his earnings into firms like Goldman-Sachs. Citing his strategy, “never invest for short-term profits,” Buffett remains hopeful that things really aren’t as bad as they seem. “Buffett never focused on his money, and that’s a large contributor to his success,” said Kenner. “He clearly stated that he has achieved every goal he has ever set for himself, and is completely satisfied with where life has taken him. To be able to sit and talk with a man of this stature is just an incredible experience, and the outstanding, professional reputation of the Mays MBA program enabled us to get there.”