Lifelong learner Bob Miles teaches the ‘genius’ of Warren Buffett

Photo courtesy of Bob Miles
Since Bob Miles began lecturing about Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, he has spoken on five continents, more than 20 countries and to 15 universities around the world.

Juli Oberlander

When Bob Miles, who grew up in Detroit, came to Omaha in 1996, he knew little about Berkshire Hathaway.

Miles, having visited Omaha only once before, wanted to learn more about Warren Buffett, the CEO whose investment strategies had fascinated him.

Miles always had an interest in business and thought investing would be the quickest method to financial independence.

After graduating business school at the University of Michigan, Miles knew he wanted to pursue small business and investing. He got his start with a small office supply store in suburban Detroit before launching his own business-to-business trade show company.

During this period, Miles tried investing on his own from buying mutual funds to individual stocks. However, he wanted to learn more about investing. Miles recognized Buffett was “the best investor” and decided to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.

Miles says he was “blown away” by the way Buffett ran his company.

“I just thought this company and the managers were so profound,” Miles says. “It has a one-of-a-kind culture that I have searched high and low and have not found a close second on any continent.”

Miles, who has been to 85 countries in his career, says he drew inspiration from Buffett’s simple investment principles, fair management style and his ability to lead by example. Miles confirmed this impression when he met Buffett in 1998. Buffett had just bought Dairy Queen, and Miles stood in a long line at the 114th and Dodge Street’s location to greet him.

Based on his experiences with Buffett, Miles started a blog about the CEO’s investment strategies. In 1998, Miles created the blog on The Motley Fool website.

“It really started as a blog before there were blogs,” Miles says. “I would come up with reasons why this was the world’s greatest investment.”

After 101 days and 101 reasons, Miles had requests from all over the world to publish his blog posts into a book. The result was “101 Reasons to Own the World’s Greatest Investment: Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway,” published in 2001.

The book was a success. After his publisher distributed 100,000 copies globally, businesses, organizations and universities from around the world invited Miles to speak.

At the time, Miles saw himself as an entrepreneur and business owner. He says the concept of writing and lecturing around the world was “not even a consideration.”

“When you publish a book, people think you’re an expert,” Miles says, “so you start getting invited to speak.”

Since Miles began lecturing about Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, he has spoken on five continents, more than 20 countries and to 15 universities around the world.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Business Administration took notice and asked him to incorporate his worldwide lectures into an elective for UNO’s Executive MBA program. Miles accepted, which led to the creation of the Genius of Warren Buffett: The Science of Investing and The Art of Managing™.

In 2011, Miles started teaching the course, which consists of 24 sessions offered during two weekends in the fall or three days in the spring. The Genius of Warren Buffett is the only course of its kind in the world and discusses the life, investments, management, culture and mistakes of the Berkshire Hathaway CEO.

Miles, now the author of three books on Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, says he never saw himself teaching an MBA course.

“I’m an accidental author and teacher because I’m not trained in writing, and I’m not trained in teaching,” Miles says. “I would be an advocate of following your passion, whatever that happens to be. I just found my passion, and then the doors started opening.”

Miles says teaching has been the most impactful part of his work.

“Teaching has probably been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career,” Miles says. “It’s endlessly fascinating. If you really want to understand something, you should write about it and teach it.”

Miles says his students have taught him more in seven years than he has taught them. He says the results of the course have been rewarding for him, as several students have become investment and business leaders around the world.

Many lifelong learners have also taken the course. These students have traveled from six continents and more than 35 countries to learn about Buffett’s business strategies. Though they do not receive the four credits from the course, many have enrolled up to four times.

“That, to me, is proof positive that we’re hitting a home run here at UNO by teaching something that is a magnet for people to visit Omaha,” Miles says.

Miles is inspired by the impact Buffett has on the lives of his students, as the CEO has played a key role in his own life.

“He’s made me a better person,” Miles says. “He’s taught me to be more charitable and to never do anything in business – or life for that matter – that you wouldn’t want published on the front page of your local newspaper.”

Miles says Buffett has instilled in him a desire to enjoy life that he has applied to his travels.

Miles has a goal to visit five new countries each year. This past summer, he traveled to Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Indonesia for a speaking engagement. He says he enjoys gaining knowledge about the world through his travels.

“I’ve learned that people are the same all over,” Miles says. “Babies cry, people laugh. People want to be loved and treated the way they deserve to be treated.”

Miles says his travels have taught him a lot about the human spirit.

“Your choices in character have nothing to do with your education level or who your parents and grandparents are,” Miles says. “It has nothing to do with skill or talent, but the choices you make.”

Miles, who resides in Tampa Bay, says he also enjoys traveling because it allows him to visit former students. In 10 years, he hopes to still be teaching, lecturing, traveling and pursuing his interests, which include tennis and running.

“My goals are, no matter what I do, to have fun and add value,” Miles says. “I want to go to bed a little bit smarter than when I woke up every day. If I can do that, then I feel that’s a successful life for me.”