Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Neopolitan Right Angle

Warren Buffett

The Right Angle Club of Philadelphia recently heard from a former member, Merrill Roth, who has moved to Naples, Florida. Such retirement places are populated by people from all over the country, all anxious to show the merits of where ever they came from. So, Merrill decided to transplant one of Philadelphia's jewels to the West Coast of Florida; he started a Right Angle Club of Naples, meeting monthly in the Vanderbilt Club. By great good luck, he discovered that one day a week was Ladies Day at the golf course, an ideal circumstance for founding a men's club. Before he knew it, he had a hundred members, filling up the dining room to capacity.

So, being Merrill, he started a second one, which has now grown to thirty members. One of the central themes of these clubs is that Naples has a great many cultural events and institutions, but newcomers have trouble locating them. So his clubs fill a local need.

Since he started the clubs, he had to arrange for the speakers, and shouldering this burden for the rest of his life now seems a little daunting. So, it was useful to remind him that the Philadelphia Right Anglers of the Mother Church assign that task for only a year since most everybody can find forty friends who can speak, but nobody wants to do that forever. Other clubs encounter the same issue, and one solution has been to hire an executive director of the club and have him get the speakers. Since nobody knows an infinite number of entertaining speakers, that soon gets to be too much; and so the executive director hires a program director. Pretty soon that gets expensive, and the club starts going to agencies. The whole thing eventually loses its character as a voluntary fraternal group, gets unaffordable, and the programs wander away from the interests of the members. The only thing worse is to own your own clubhouse. The seeds of the club's destruction are sown by failing to appreciate these realities of club dynamics. Warren Buffett tells investment advisors to eat their own cooking. The club variation of that sage advice, is, get your own speakers.

Originally published: Tuesday, August 28, 2007; most-recently modified: Friday, May 24, 2019