No Better Place to Be
PROVO, Utah – Dec 13, 2021 – When Tom Peterson graduated from BYU in 1981, he thought he had already come to fully appreciate the value of his BYU education. What Peterson did not know at the time, however, was how much his love for the school would continue to grow, and that he would eventually return to the university as a professor with 25 years of industry experience. Now, as an associate professor of entrepreneurship at the BYU Marriott School of Business, Peterson shares his unique life lessons with students.
Peterson’s eventual decision to return to BYU as a professor was motivated by his love for the university, which began during his time as an undergraduate studying English. “I loved studying in a gospel setting,” Peterson recalls. “Beyond that, I enjoyed being around my classmates who had highly educated and engaging personalities.” After completing his undergrad, Peterson moved on to the Harvard Business School, where he pursued an MBA.
While he loved his experience at Harvard, Peterson’s time there helped him further appreciate his BYU education. He found that he enjoyed BYU’s balance of secular and religious learning and how students are taught to focus on more than just their classes. “Harvard is a fascinating place, and I value and am grateful for the principles I learned while earning my MBA there,” says Peterson. “However, I found that my core values are more aligned with my faith in the gospel than in any knowledge I might have acquired from a degree.”
After completing his MBA in 1983, Peterson worked for 25 years in real-estate investing, startup-company management, and grassroot entrepreneurship. He was the first CFO for Wyndham Worldwide when the company was a startup with no infrastructure; the global hotel chain now has more than 9,000 properties. After his time with Wyndham, Peterson undertook a variety of financial ventures. He was a real-estate investment banker and also personally invested in several industrial real-estate properties. Additionally, he started, bought, managed, and sold a variety of startup companies.
Peterson’s work in the field taught him valuable life lessons, especially about having the end in mind when beginning a business venture. “I am the poster child for having illiquid minority-ownership interests. I have 2 percent of some companies, 5 percent of others. I wasn’t smart enough as a young person to know how to create an off ramp to arrive at liquidity, so I’m stuck with little slivers of numerous businesses,” he says.
Because Peterson learned some lessons the hard way, he now teaches his entrepreneurship students how to start companies with a plan to sell their businesses when the time is right. This strategy allows students to have more options as business owners, expand their career possibilities, and be rewarded for their efforts.
In addition to teaching his students in the classroom, Peterson tries to connect with them on a personal level. His belief in BYU’s mission of focusing on personal development in addition to educational development motivates him to mentor students who are trying to network and make other important life decisions. “I want to give back in a way that could save students from making the same common mistakes that I made. I hope my efforts can help my students make wiser decisions in their career pursuits,” he says. Peterson helps students determine what business sector to pursue and decide if a startup is a good idea. He also helps students establish connections with others in their fields, furthering their career prospects.
Since beginning his teaching career at BYU Marriott in 2008, Peterson often reflects on his journey back to Provo and knows that there is nowhere else he would rather be. “I wanted to be in a community where I could give back and teach, consult, and mentor students,” he adds. “As soon as I could unplug from my business activities and return to BYU, I did.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller