April in Omaha: My Invitation to 2011 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

May 6, 2011
by Deb Subia, Editorial Process Development Manager, Business Wire

Deb Subia

A dozen lucky Business Wire employees from several U.S. bureaus and London joined CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz in Omaha for the 2011 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.  I was thrilled to be one of them.

Never having been, I was anxious to attend the meeting – okay, experience the EVENT – I had heard and read so much about over the years. I had heard so much of the “Berkshire Buzz” and the celebratory nature of the event!

Business Wire has long been known as a company with a family atmosphere.  I had the sense being around other Berkshire Hathaway companies that I was part of an even bigger family.

Selling show-themed passport booklets that included “smashed” pennies with images of Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, the Annual Meeting date, and Business Wire’s 50thAnniversary crest to raise money for a local youth charity, CASA for Douglas County, Nebraska, was quite an experience.  It’s not every day you hear a co-worker say, “You want to get Warren’s head smashed on a penny?” Thanks to generous attendees, Business Wire sold out of passport booklets, raising more than $5,500 for CASA, all while having a lot of laughs and meeting some great people.

Cathy Baron Tamraz, Warren Buffett and Business Wire CTO Steve Messick operating the penny press

I was surprised at the diversity of the shareholders and delighted with the young investors-to-be who came by our booth.  One told me it was his first time attending and he was “so excited and overwhelmed and wanting to take everything in at the same time.”  I think he summarized the way many first-timers felt. Certainly learning early about ethics and patience in investing will leave a lasting impression.

The piece of advice I’ll most remember came from Charlie Munger and was about not making important decisions in anger: “You can always tell a man to go to hell tomorrow.”

I was impressed with Buffett’s smile, busy schedule and ability to handle questions hour after hour.  Coupled with the fact that he’s 80 years old, it is mind-boggling.  I’m  seriously considering adding a steady stream of Coke and See’s Candies to my diet.

The Business Wire 2011 Berkshire Hathaway Meeting booth crew

Overall, what I most took away surprised me. It was more universal than investment advice: passion for what you do, the desire to learn more all the time, the importance of becoming a better communicator, patience.  Buffett, at the core, is a teacher as well as an investor.

See more photos from the 2011 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder’s Meeting at our Facebook page.

Wrapup: Berkshire Hathaway 2010, Success and Good Samaritans

May 2, 2010

– 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?

Pennies From Omaha

April 28, 2010

It’s nearly that time again:  The 2010 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting is this coming Saturday, May 1.  I will be attending this year’s meeting, along with nine other Business Wire people including our CEO, Cathy Baron Tamraz.  And once more, Business Wire is providing a fun item for other attendees to pick up and help support a good cause.

This year, visitors to Omaha can visit Business Wire and spend a dollar to smash a penny! Our specially designed penny press will allow you to create a souvenir penny with any of four fun designs, including images of Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.  Each souvenir penny, which will include a commemorative folder, will cost $1.  All proceeds will once again benefit CASA of Douglas County, Neb. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a charitable organization that provides a voice for abused and neglected children within the court system.

So come to our booth and spend $1, $2 or even $4 to smash four pennies and support a great cause.  While you’re there, say hello to our staff and find out more about how Business Wire continues to lead the industry in making the humble press release a crucial communications tool.

Read the entire press release on these fun souvenirs here.  I’ll also be tweeting from the event under Business Wire’s handle; you can follow at http://twitter.com/BusinessWire.  I, and everyone here at Business Wire, look forward to seeing you there!


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