Each year, on the first Saturday in May, tens of thousands of shareholders descend on Omaha, Neb., to attend the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting and hear pearls of investing wisdom from Warren Buffett, (a.k.a. the “Oracle of Omaha”) and his partner Charlie Munger. As part of the meeting, Berkshire companies host exhibit booths where shareholders can purchase such items as T-shirts and undergarments from Fruit of the Loom; get insurance quotes from GEICO; buy sets of GINZU knives or purchase kitchen utensils from Papered Chef.
Throughout the day at the Dairy Queen® booth, shareholders come to us to purchase Dilly® Bars, DQ® Fudge Bars and DQ Vanilla Orange Bars for $1 with proceeds from the sale going to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Our team of more than 40 employees, including our executive officers, provides hungry, but smiling customers with satisfying and delicious DQ treats. Typically we sell more than 16,000 individual treats in a little more than nine hours and this year was no exception. We often hear, “I can’t leave the meeting without getting my Dilly Bar” which always puts a smile on our faces.
The day is long, but we couldn’t have a better time greeting and interacting with the shareholders. And oh yeah, Warren stops by the booth before the meeting begins to purchase his favorite DQ Vanilla Orange Bar, which we have ready and waiting for him. At DQ, our investment philosophy is, “Always make sure the boss is happy.” And when you’re Warren Buffett and own the entire Dairy Queen system, how could you not be?
Valuable advice from financier Warren Buffett, during a visit to his local Dairy Queen® store for the launch of the Girl Scouts® Thin Mint Blizzard® Flavor Treat.
Surrounded by a group of Girl Scouts in his hometown of Omaha, Neb., Buffett offered this tip for college students:
“The biggest suggestion I have is to avoid credit cards. Interest rates are very high on credit cards. Sometimes they are 18 percent. Sometimes they are 20 percent. If I borrowed money at 18 or 20 percent, I’d be broke… So if I had one piece of advice for young people generally it would be to just avoid credit cards.”
And what advice does Buffett have for a new investor?
“I would do a lot of reading before I invested. In other words I would prepare for it. I wouldn’t jump in the water until I know how to swim… I read every book the Omaha Public Library had about investing by the time I was 11.
On qualities Buffett looks for in employees?
“The biggest thing I look for is if they have a passion for whatever they are going to do.”
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the hottest event in Omaha, Neb.—the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders annual meeting. Depending on who you are, you may think one of two things: You might be very jealous of me, or you might think that I drew the short straw at the Dairy Queen® office. But truth be told, it is an awesome event, especially since I actually got to meet and talk to the legendary investor Warren Buffett, who also happens to be the second richest personople in the world. But more on that later.
First, let me give you a little bit of background on the annual meeting. It occurs every year on the first weekend in May in Omaha. This year, the one-day event drew an estimated 35,000 people from around the world to the Qwest Center. That’s a lot of people to hear one man talk. But Mr. Buffett’s not your ordinary Joe.
He is the Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company that oversees and manages a number of subsidiary companies, one of those being International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ). Other companies include Geico, Fruit of the Loom, See’s Candies, The Pampered Chef and the Nebraska Furniture Mart, among many others. IDQ was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 1998, and we have been going to the annual meeting ever since.
Now, IDQ employees don’t actually go to the meeting to hear “The Oracle of Omaha” give advice or answer questions; we go there to work. For six hours, Mr. Buffett and his friend, partner and Vice Chairman of Berkshire, Charlie Munger, field questions from shareholders in the audience. During that time, the convention hall is buzzing with those who weren’t lucky enough to get a seat in the arena. They can watch the meeting on large video screens that are projected high on the wall, or they can walk around the adjacent convention hall and look at various exhibit booths and displays set up by many of the companies Berkshire owns.
The Dairy Queen booth is one of the few that actually sells any kind of food, so we stay busy all day until product sells out. This year we brought chocolate Dilly® Bars, DQ® Vanilla Orange Bars and DQ® Fudge Bars—more than 13,000 of them. Proceeds from those sales go to Children’s Miracle Network the DQ® system’s charity of choice. And lucky for us, Mr. Buffett is a fan of DQ® Vanilla Orange Bars. Every year he stops to buy one for $1.
This was my second year attending the annual meeting, so I knew that Mr. Buffett would stop by our booth around 7:30 a.m. to get a DQ® Vanilla Orange Bar, and he would be surrounded by a horde of reporters, cameramen and body guards. This year, he walked in our booth and went right past the freezers where the treats are kept. Since I knew what he wanted, I grabbed a Vanilla Orange Bar and pushed my way through the crowd. I actually got to give him the treat, and he even asked me a couple of questions! Luckily I knew the answers, and I even got on TV!
I’m not sure if anything can top that, but maybe next year I can track down Bill Gates, who is on the board of directors and attends the annual meeting. I wonder if he likes Dilly Bars? Check out photos from the 2009 shareholder’s meeting.
Warren Buffet getting second DQ Vanilla Orange Bar of the day from DQ employee Jim Weida (His FAV!).
Media Circus around Mr. Buffet as he approaches our booth!
John Gainor, President and CEO of International Dairy Queen on Fox News Channel with Liz Claman, anchor of Bulls & Bears.