Despite that internal turmoil, Taylor remains a loyal patriarch and plans to appoint Jean to the Star Tribune’s board of directors as his family’s representative.
Most CEOs in Taylor’s league — Forbes estimates his worth at $1.7 billion — are surrounded by advisers and image handlers. Taylor is surprisingly down-home.
He has had the same secretary, Linda Danielson, for more than 35 years. She runs his schedule from a simple cubicle. Taylor’s brother Larry, a Taylor Corp. vice president, has an office next door to his.
Power lunches? Nope. Taylor said he seldom bothers to eat lunch. He prefers dinner at home in his kitchen.
Taylor’s oldest brother, Roger, once asked him why he doesn’t have a more sumptuous office.
“He said, ‘Everything you need is here, why make it fancy? This is practical.’ ”
A ‘pretty simple’ youth
As the second of seven kids, five of them boys, Taylor helped raise corn, soybeans, flax, oats, chickens, pigs and dairy cows on the family’s 150 acres near Comfrey.
“It was a pretty simple life,” Taylor said. “You collected eggs and took them to town on Saturday. The milkman picked up the milk, and that was your income.”
His mother would buy sugar, salt and spices with the money the eggs, milk and butchered livestock fetched.
“Everything else you raised on the farm,” he said. Taylor loved keeping records of when pigeons were born and when cows were slated to calve.
Teachers urged him to give up farming for math and physics classes at what was then Mankato State University. Taylor took their advice and graduated with a math degree in 1962. He planned to become a teacher like his big brother, Roger. “We were very close,” Taylor said. “I always wanted to do what he could do.”
Working 40 hours a week in college as a part-timer at Bill Carlson’s Wedding Service printing business in Mankato, Taylor used the $1 an hour he earned to augment his $300 college scholarship. “I’d go to the bank and cash my check and get all $1 bills and come home and do the budget,” he said.
That meant depositing the bills in envelopes for rent, food, clothing, etc. If he went over budget on food, he’d write a note that he borrowed it from the rent envelope.
“I didn’t have Post-it notes then,” he said, flashing his wry humor. Taylor Corp. is now among the leading printers of customized Post-it notes.
The math geek from Mankato State was quickly morphing into a businessman. A frugal, tightfisted, bottom-line watcher.
“Budgets are what I’m good at,” Taylor said. “People ask how in the world do you manage so many companies? And it’s all about managing to a budget.”
When Carlson, his first boss, retired in 1975, Taylor had been working there for years. He purchased the company and was on his way. By acquiring competitors and growing its printing operations, Taylor Corp. mushroomed in size. From there, he took calculated chances, buying into professional basketball, egg production, hearing implants and financial services.