Tony Tam

January 25, 2010 

His job: General manager, Hilton Columbia Center

Age: 36

Family: Wife, Kelly; two children, Abby, 6; Carter, 1

Education: Bachelor's degree in business marketing from USC Upstate

Community/professional involvement: President, Columbia Hotel & Motel Association; board member, S.C. Hospitality Association, Congaree Vista Guild, Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism, Columbia Urban League, USC Hospitality School, Richland County and city of Columbia accommodations tax advisory committees

His story: Tam grew up in the family restaurant business, where he had to bus tables and wash dishes before he could wait tables and cook. He learned all aspects of the hospitality industry that way. He started with Hilton Hotels out of college as a guest service representative and moved into sales, then into maintenance and housekeeping.

Tam became a manager a decade ago and worked around the Southeast. His Hilton Columbia Center recently topped all 294 full-service Hiltons worldwide in customer service rankings. He was named Hotel Manager of the Year by the S.C. Hospitality Association.

What saying does he live by? "Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first" -Frederick Wilcox

His life changed when ... he became a father. "When my wife and I had our children, I realized that now I was not only an example to my co-workers and employees, but also an example to my children - making good decisions professionally and personally ensured success for all those around me. ... Ultimately, the benefits of having children led me to be more involved in the community."

How did he recover after failing at something? "Growing up, I was on the wrestling team. Prior to my matches, I remember vividly 'sizing up' opponents based on their physique. On more than one occasion, I was proven wrong by a smaller opponent who turned out to be more formidable than I expected and I lost the match. ... I learned that you can't just judge an opponent by their size. This lesson has translated into my professional life - the most worthy adversaries or competitors are not always the easiest to spot."

His employees described him in his nomination as kind, compassionate and enthusiastic. What does he think it takes to be a good boss? "I have a great group of professionals that I work with daily. They have not let me down, and I will do my best not to let them down. ... Treat people the way you want to be treated. Don't ask or expect employees or co-workers to do things that you would not personally do."

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