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It’s all about me

March 28, 2009

I attended the University of British Columbia’s Commerce Undergraduate Society’s 2009 “Me Inc.” conference as a speaker this past Friday and, wow, what an impressive group of students and what a well run program.

The Me Inc. conference is organized by UBC’s commerce students for UBC’s commerce students (www.sauder.ubc.ca) and helps them to think about and research various career options available to them. Over the course of one day students can participate in various tracks including banking, finance, non-profit, entrepreneurship (my topic), real estate and others. Visit www.meinc2009.com to learn more.

They also organized a neat “power networking” session where speakers like me move from table to table over the course of lunch. It gave me an opportunity to meet and talk to far more students that I would have had otherwise. Hopefully the students found some value in it too!

By this post I send a hearty “congratulations” out to the organizers. They put together a topical, well run and effective conference. I only wish they were around when I was doing my degree at UBC!

The Vancouver Sun is Vancouver’s daily newspaper and in its March 10th edition the paper ran an article titled, “Company says it will get you to a medical specialist faster—for a fee.” Essentially, an entrepreneur is charging clients a $95 fee to find a specialist who will see patients more quickly than the one referred by their family physician.

See the article here: http://tinyurl.com/cer5cc

While Timely Medical’s $95 fee might be well intentioned, it is not going to solve any problems. First off, specialists’ wait lists are already published on the web for all to see (go to http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/waitlist/# and search by procedure, pick a health authority or hospital and, voila, specialists’ names with their wait lists are published), so what value added service can Timely actually provide for its $95 fee? Second, the challenge in our system isn’t one of demand, which Timely’s business model would have us believe, but it is a problem of supply. Not that we don’t have enough specialists (necessarily), but that we don’t have enough operating time for them to do what they’re trained to do.

I’m interested in your thoughts on Canada’s (and BC’s) health care challenges and, most importantly, your ideas for solutions.

I am not a regular watcher of Jon Stewart’s show. In fact, I don’t think I have ever watched more than five minutes at a time. However, the following vignette was sent to me last night by a friend who is an investment advisor with a major firm. I enjoyed it and thought you might too.

http://tinyurl.com/bd5soh

Using his own dry humour and some clips from business media over the last eighteen months (including notables like Kramer and Bartiromo) he illustrates the folly of taking business talking heads as being experts with their fingers on the pulse of all investment matters.

About eight years ago I decided to take on responsibility for management of my investment portfolio. This doesn’t necessarily mean managing an account and executing trades, as I do. But it does mean not acceding an understanding of what one owns and why.

There are lots of suspect investment managers and brokers who, frankly, don’t know anything more than how to sell. But there are also lots of investment advisors who know what they are talking about and always work toward their clients’ best interests.

This topic of understanding one’s portfolio and choosing their advisors is of some interest to me. I will write more on it in the future.

BRK.B

March 1, 2009

There is not much good news being published in the stock and bond markets these days.  While I have no idea when the current economic malaise will subside, I do have hope that we are closer to the bottom than the top (although I don’t believe I am able to time the market, so I don’t try).  

As a class B shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway stock I haven’t been been totally insulated from market meltdown.  I was pleased, though, to see that while the S&P 500 was down 37% in 2008, Berkshire was down “only” 9.6% for a difference of 27.4%.  

Since 1966 there are only five years where the S&P has come out ahead of Mr. Buffett.  Let’s hope Berkshire keeps up this trend even when the Oracle retires.