Rod Taylor (BA 73) was a jet setter. As an international business consultant with more than 100 operatives throughout Europe and the Middle East, he was always on the move. Whether he was securing overseas capital for stateside investment banks or aligning trade partners for manufacturing companies, his business, Taylor and Company, was thriving. The problem was he was rarely home. He missed his family. He missed seeing his children play sports. He was always on the road.
Then, during a business trip to San Francisco, a work colleague proposed a new type of consulting job for him — corporate recruiting. Taylor began to see patterns in the workforce, specifically in the banking industry. He detected a “lost generation” of college graduates in the banking sector, and he saw a niche.
So he retooled the company and transformed Taylor and Company into one of the biggest executive recruitment firms in the country for the banking and finance industry. It allowed him to serve a valuable role in the industry, and it allowed him to be home with his family. This ability to detect patterns and opportunities and take advantage of them has been a hallmark of Taylor’s career.
That career was sparked by a relationship with an influential professor– Dr. Goberdhan Bhagat— while he was at Ole Miss. After taking a course in international relations, Taylor dedicated his studies to international business and political science. After graduation, he continued his education by studying abroad for a year and then enrolling in the Thunderbird School for Global Management in Arizona. There he laid the foundation for the next stage of his career.
“When I was at Thunderbird, I became very interested in Middle Eastern studies and business,” Taylor said. “I had observed that Mississippi’s Economic Development Authority had been extremely successful developing trade relations in the Middle East. It intrigued me.”
So Taylor began studying Arabic as part of his curriculum. It would pay off when he was appointed to represent Mississippi in Europe and the Middle East as part of the same Economic Development Authority that had inspired him. He and his wife were stationed in Belgium.
After three years abroad developing connections and gaining experience, Taylor came back to the U.S. to work for the management consultancy firm AT Kearney in New York. There, he was assigned to work with bank holding companies in a strategic consultancy role. It was another experience that proved to be fortuitous, as Taylor was later offered a prestigious position with one of his clients.
“While I was doing the strategic plan for Union Planters, I became very close to the CEO at the time,” Taylor explained. “He subsequently asked me to be the bank’s vice-chairman, which was something that catapulted my career.”
This was in the early 1980s, a tumultuous time in the banking industry, when regulations were changing and banks were failing. During this time, Taylor says, many banks cut back on their training programs. Many of the most talented college graduates, students who might otherwise enter the banking industry, were opting instead for other industries throughout the decade, right up to the dot-com boom of the ‘90s. This, Taylor would later surmise, would constitute a lost generation of would-be bankers. Taylor would use this observation years later to fuel the reimagining of his company.
Taylor and Company was born in 1984. Union Planters became their first client, but the company grew quickly. Taylor married the two pillars of his experience thus far, targeting banking clients who wanted to gain access to foreign markets. Their client base grew to include software and technology companies like Oracle, Alltell and Hewlett-Packard, companies who were looking for distribution channels, joint-venture partners and other overseas opportunities. Before Taylor knew it, his company had swelled to almost 100 employees and another 40 or so independent agents. They were operating in more than 70 countries.
“We were operating in most parts of the world,” he said. “Then my business became all-consuming outside the United States, and I was spending very little time at home. I wanted to be more involved in my children’s lives, wanted to watch Friday night football games.”
That’s when the fateful encounter happened to prompt him to revamp the company. Today, Taylor and Company is focused primarily on the domestic executive placement market for banking professionals.
Being back home has allowed Taylor to be closer to his family, and also closer to his alma mater. When he began searching for banking professionals, he returned to Ole Miss to see who had graduated from the banking and finance program. He ended up aiding the creation of a new advisory board for the banking and finance program, and subsequently a similar board for the department of political science. He was named to the board of the alumni association last year too.
“The advisory boards are a great way to come home and give back,” he said. “We want to bring alumni back to act as advisors and contributors and it’s been a great discovery for me that there are so many incredibly successful alums out there who are so anxious to find ways to come and give back.”
Taylor clearly enjoys being able to be involved with Ole Miss more, and with his family more. Hailing originally from Goodman, Taylor married his childhood sweetheart, Susan Owen (BM 72), who grew up in nearby Pickens. Today they maintain residences in the Atlanta area and Rosemary Beach, Fla., with frequent visits to Oxford. His two daughters live in New York and Washington, D.C., and his son, Rodney, has just entered the family business as a partner, running the Dallas office of Taylor and Company.