– by Phil Dennison, Senior Marketing Specialist
Well, the displays are all packed up, the shareholders are returning home, and the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting 2010 has come to a close. Business Wire had a wonderful experience this year, representing ourselves to nearly 40,000 visitors with our on-site presence among the Berkshire family of companies.
Our booth was staffed by Business Wire folks from across the country, including representatives from Cleveland, New York, Denver, San Francisco, and even all the way from Paris. We spoke to hundreds and hundreds of BH shareholders and their families about Business Wire and its services. It was great to see so many families on the exhibit hall floor, shopping at the exhibits of different Berkshire-owned companies. Even though we didn’t have ice cream or books or cowboy boots or jewelry or other items to sell, we still had terrific conversations about what it is we do, how good we are at it and how business has been for us.
Our penny press machine was an enormous success among visitors. Everyone from little kids to retirees wanted to take a turn creating their own elongated pennies with one of our special designs. Unfortunately, after a few hours of operation we ran into a mechanical snag. That’s when we were helped out by an amazing gentleman named Patrick Milliken. Patrick, a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder and the YN (Young Numismatists) Director of the Omaha Coin Club, was passing by our booth and, being a collector, decided to purchase several sets of our pennies. Our mechanical problems began while he was there, and it turns out that Patrick is also mechanically inclined. To the surprise and gratitude of our entire crew, Patrick came up with a fix — in fact, several fixes — that kept our penny press working long after it should have stopped. We at Business Wire owe Patrick an enormous thanks for helping us out and making sure lots of event attendees got their pennies, too!
I also got to spend some time, along with our other booth staff rotating in and out, in the Qwest Center arena watching the Q&A as Chairman, Warren Buffett and Vice-Chairman, Charlie Munger, took questions from shareholders, some via a 3-person media panel who selected pre-submitted questions, and some from shareholders who were selected in advance by lot to ask questions at the show. During the period I was there, I watched as Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger took and answered questions on global inflation, on US tax policy, on the American education system and even on BH-specific topics like the performance of individual subsidiaries. Both answered every question with good humor, intelligence, quickness and depth. Among the portion I got to see, highlights included Mr. Munger’s explanation of how McDonald’s supplies a better business education than most US business schools, and Mr. Buffett’s discussion of why he is giving his entire estate away rather than let it be taxed.
The biggest impressions I took away from the show were, first, what an amazingly diverse, fun and interesting bunch of people Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are. There were so many hundreds of people who came by our booth to talk, many of whom had no idea what Business Wire was or even what a wire service is, let alone how we were contributing to the Berkshire bottom line. So we got to learn a lot from them, and they learned a lot from us.
Second, I got a real, firsthand look at what it means to be part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies. It’s one thing to see yourself on a list of BH holdings. It’s another to be on the spot along with Fruit of the Loom, Dairy Queen, Geico, MidAmerican Energy, BNSF Railway and the dozens of other companies represented. All of them, like Business Wire, market leaders, well-known brands and respected innovators in their industries. That’s pretty good company to be in.
Oh, by the way, I got to meet, in person, not only the gecko, but the money I could be saving. How many people get to say that?