Toby Tatum stands patiently at the front of his classroom in the Prim Library at Sierra Nevada College as his management students filter in through the door.
Now in his first semester at SNC, Tatum is the new Management 260 instructor. Originally from Southern California, Tatum said he “fell in love with Incline Village almost immediately” when he came here.
“I’m a little nervous but mostly excited,” said Tatum about his new teaching job.
Previously, Tatum owned six Sizzler restaurants in Southern California in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“I was pretty successful in my time as the owner,” Tatum said. “The first two restaurants took a while to get some steam built up behind them, but once they did, I was able to purchase the other four locations and really make a business out of the restaurants.”
Having never taught a management class, Tatum tends to use his own experience to guide his lectures, class discussions and views of management techniques.
In a class session last week, Tatum taught about rational decision-making as a manager. He discussed the four steps laid out in the book, but then interjected with his own techniques built from experience.
“I think they leave out a step,” Tatum said. “You’ve got to be active in finding the underlying cause of the problem. I found a lot of the problems I had to take care of didn’t come down to just managing people, but also the processes and demographics of each individual restaurant.”
Tatum believes there is no “perfect” technique for managing a business.
“You’re going to make mistakes; it’s a fact,” Tatum said. “The trick is to not let it affect your work performance. Learn from the mistake and move on.”
Tatum admits that he does have one mistake that he regrets, even though he learned from it, albeit the hard way.
“My Sizzler restaurants were really taking off, and I was doing tremendously well with over 170 employees underneath me.” Tatum said. “Sizzler was a franchise, so even though I owned my six restaurants, the corporate side had an overall say in my business. They saw that I was doing incredibly well and offered me $4 million for my six stores.”
Tatum didn’t sell, and within a few years the corporate side of the company went bankrupt, essentially forcing him to close his restaurants.
“I missed out on a huge payday,” Tatum said.
Tatum responded by shifting gears from owning his own business to being a certified business appraiser. He reviews a company’s financial and business practices and evaluates the worth of the company.
“It gives me good insight into what works and what doesn’t for companies,” he said.
As an experienced businessperson, Tatum brings a lot to the classroom for his students.
“I feel I have a lot to teach and a lot of advice to give. I just hope the students take it,” Tatum said.
By Shane Elsasser