Why did you start the business, what was the catalyzing event?
I was running a large, real estate publishing firm in my late 20s when my brother called me up and indicated he was going to leave an investment banking firm to start serving as a part time CFO. He conjectured that there might be something to the idea and I helped him get some of his first clients- so in that respect, I’ve always acknowledged that my brother actually founded the firm.
The catalyzing event that had me join the firm was a disagreement, shall we say, with the owner of the national real estate publishing firm that I worked for as Co-President. I left the firm with a generous payout which allowed me to join my brother to help him work on the firm. It was effectively two of us.Quite frankly, I never intended on permanently sticking with what became Tatum CFO- ultimately the rest is history as I served as Chairman and CEO for approximately 17 years.
How did you find your first customer?
The first real customer of the firm was an FBO (fixed base operator) serving private aircraft owned by a friend of mine. One of the opportunities presented to this friend was the potential of buying the fuel consignment for the commercial airport where his FBO was located. I suggested that he hire my brother John to actually build the financial forecast needed to gain the financing to execute the purchase of that fuel consignment- which ultimately was successful.
Describe your first office/location.
I would have to say the back of my brother and I’s car.We started the firm without an office and ultimately over the years built a very virtual organization.Although we ended up with offices in several cities, we strategically kept our real estate footprint extremely small for a firm of our size.
What’s the most creative thing you did to get your business started, or kept it going through a tough time?
What capitalized the firm initially (beyond my credit card) was an equity stake that I took in one of my first clients.We were able to get that company up to a certain size and sell it. The result of that equity infusion capitalized the firm at a very important inflection point when we needed outside capital to grow.
What’s something quirky or superstitious you do as a CEO?
One thing that I would suggest seems to have stuck with me over the years is that when faced with a momentous decision, I have a habit of saying to the group discussing the matter “Lets Smoke a Cigar on this”- my way of indicating we should perhaps slow down and measure three times before we cut. Apparently, it became a bit of a trademark for me- so much so that the last board where I served as Chairman, The Association for Corporate Growth,had a poster printed up from the old Hatcher Printing Press out of Nashville with that quote. One of the posters hangs out on the smoking porch in Tallahassee where I am drafting this interview for my colleague Chris.Nevertheless, I didn’t realize I said it that often.
What was your last job working for someone else? What was your favorite day job?
The last job I worked for someone directly was 20 years ago- therealestate publisher Homes &Lands Magazines and it was a lot of fun. My favorite day job beyond serving my clients is the currentfirm that I’m working with – Newport LLC – as a teaching faculty member for FSU’s Jim MoranSchool of Entrepreneurship.I report to a fabulous Dean, Dr. Susan Fiorito- she keeps it fun for all of us.
Where did you come up with the name for your company?
My brother decided that we should name the firm our last name “Tatum”.I objected briefly but didn’t have any better idea. As it turns out now, I don’t own my own last name- it’s owned by a public company that currently owns the firm.