By Gino Blefari
This week, my travels took me from Denver to Omaha to St. Louis but our story begins west of the Gateway City, in Irvine, CA at the HSF Affiliates headquarters …
Each morning in Irvine, I try to follow the same routine: I wake before sunrise and walk to the hotel coffee shop near our offices for some quiet, meditative moments to prepare for the day ahead.
Three weeks ago, I was in the midst of ordering my morning coffee when the elevator doors of the hotel slid open to unexpectedly reveal my childhood friend, Jeff Pederson. I hadn’t seen Jeff in thirty five years, not since he was in high school and I was working at the Cherry Chase Golf Course in Sunnyvale, CA; his family had a membership there and Jeff would play the course almost every day. Nearly four decades later, I recognized Jeff immediately. It’s funny how time can pass, paths can diverge and you still never forget a familiar face.
We exchanged greetings, recounted a few memories from our golf course days and fell easily into the kind of nostalgic, “remember when” conversation only two longtime friends can share. Through Facebook, I knew Jeff headed up a furniture company in Washington, D.C., and it seemed he was doing well. Then, we said our goodbyes and I went on with my day, happy to have reconnected with an old pal.
And that might’ve been where this tale ends, if not for a certain coincidence that occurred at the 50th Annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting on May 2. I was in Omaha to represent our HSF Affiliates brands and connect with the hundreds of enthusiastic shareholders who stopped by the booth of our parent company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy.
Now, some background: Every year during the Shareholders Meeting, a video about the world-renowned organization is shown to the 40,000+ attendees. In classic Berkshire Hathaway fashion, the video is humorous yet intelligently crafted, and always ends with a tribute to the CEOs of the Berkshire Hathaway brands—NetJets, Heinz, Benjamin Moore, Justin’s Boots, to name a few.
OK, back to Omaha: So, here I am, standing among the throng of eager Berkshire Hathaway fans, watching the names of America’s preeminent business leaders cascade across the screen and whose smiling face do I see?
At once, everything made sense. That “furniture company in Washington, D.C.” was actually Cort Furniture, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and a premier office and home furniture operation of which Jeff serves as president and CEO.
So, here’s the message: There’s tremendous value in connection. Running into Jeff at the coffee shop and then seeing him again at the Shareholders Meeting brought this concept into illuminating focus for me. (After the video aired, Jeff and I met up in the exhibition hall and joked about it being such a small world.) But that’s just how connection works; in an instant, someone you haven’t spoken to since youth might make a sudden reappearance in your life with one slide of the elevator doors.