Gates and Buffett GoBack to School
Kim: Hello…my name’s Kim Martin. I’m a senior finance major here at the university. My question is how do you instill ethical leadership throughout your
organization? And to begin with, how do you know that the management one level below you is making decisions that would parallel your own?
Buffett: We have all the money we need, you know, we’d like to have more, but we can afford to lose money, but we can’t afford to lose reputation—not a shred of
reputation—and therefore I ask the managers I ask them to judge every action they take not just by legal standards although obviously that’s the first test, but also by the test—what I call the newspaper test—how would they feel about any given action if
they knew it was to be written up the next day in their local paper to be read by their family, by their friends. by their neighbours written by a smart but kind of unfriendly reporter? And if it passes that test, it’s okay. And I tell them if anything is close to the lines it’s out. And they can always call me if they wanted to check something, but if they call me there’s something wrong with it probably anyway, so…and that’s about it.
Nicole: Hi, my name is Nicole Baracroft and I am a senior business administration
major here at the university, and I was just wondering what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and how has it impacted your personal or professional lives?
Buffett: (To Gates) What did I tell you that impressed you the most?
Gates: Actually I can answer that. When first I met Warren we were talking about getting together and doing something again. He pulled out his calendar and the pages were so blank, and I said, “Wow, you know, you’ve managed to avoid getting tied in to a lot of kind of meaningless activity” and, you know, Warren said, “Yeah, you have to be good at saying no and picking the things that really make the difference”. And that’s one of many things I’ve learned from Warren, but that’s one of my favorites
and so I can blame it on him whenever I’m turning things down.
Buffett: Yeah, well, actually I told him that was...the truth is I don’t get invited any place. I think that, you know, I got an awful lot of good advice from my dad, and he
didn’t, he didn’t lay it on me, I mean he just, you know, you picked it up from him but
there was never any of this you know, “do this, do that” type of thing at all. But, but I
think he really taught me that it’s more important in terms of what’s on your inner scorecard than your outer scorecard, I mean some people get in a position where they…they’re thinking all of the time of what…what the world’s gonna think of this or that instead of what they themselves think about it. If your inner scorecard, if you’re comfortable with that, I think you’re gonna have…gonna have a pretty happy life. And I think the people that strive too much for the outer scorecard sometimes
find that it’s a little hollow when they get all through ’em.
Dan: Hello, I’m Dan O’Deloreno from Reno, Nevada. My question is our society
or our generation, generation Y, we face a lot of issues. What do you think are some of the most important or most challenging societal issues that we face, and what can we do as future leaders to ensure that we create a better society in the future?
Gates: I think the issues of equity that we have, whether it’s between countries or
even within our country, are pretty serious issues and if you get too far out of whack
on that, then you get a divide and you don’t get the fluidity and the sense of
opportunity that this country has stood for, so I think, you know, we’ve really gotta renew our commitment to the ideals around equality, and I think there are, there’s a lot of actions that suggests we should be taking to invest in the long term that certainly, at this stage, we’re not taking right now.
Paul: Hello, my name is Paul Ternis. I’m a senior business administration and music major, from North Dakota originally. I was wondering what is your definition
of success and what has been your largest non-business success in life?
Gates: I’ll tell you my case. My…my goal for success out…outside of work is…is definitely raising a family—just getting started with that—and I think there’s
some unique challenges of when a parent is very visible and has money and things like that. It’s not easy in any case to raise kids the right way, but I’d say, you know, I hope, hope to be successful at that. So far I haven’t caused…caused them any damage.
They seem to be doing okay.
Buffettt: We get a lot of people that want us to adopt them. I mean…he’s
working on his children, I’m working on my great grandchildren, but otherwise we got the same approach. I would say this in terms of success—this will surprise you—
but I would say I’ve never known anybody, that got to my age or close to my age, that
had lots of people that loved them that felt anything other than a success. I mean you have lived a successful life if, as you get older, the people that you hope love you do. And that includes your family, your business associates all kinds of people. And I…and the converse of that is that I know people, enormously wealthy, you know, they get schools named after them, and they get…they get, you know, they get dinners in their honour, all that sort of thing, and the truth is that nobody thinks a thing of them. And I gotta…I have to believe they know that and that everything gets quite hollow in their life at that point, and they’ve got all these markers—and there’s people on the Forbes 400, you know, that are in that category, and I won’t name
names but it’s… I really…I can’t think of anyone I’ve known, and I’ve known some…, you know, a lot of people by this point in my life, I’ve seen them in very ordinary jobs all kinds of situations that the people around them love ’em. They feel