Many businesses seek to find a niche and own it, narrowing their focus to specialize in The Thing that they can do better, cheaper, or faster than their competition.
But a design-build firm like Taylor Studios is fundamentally different. We promote and prides ourselves on our ability to dream up anything – and to make everything we dream up. From museums, parks, and nature centers to corporations, universities, and cities, our clientele is broad, diverse, and ever-growing.
And there are no widgets to be found around here! Every project—every product—is, to some degree, custom and unique.
We do streamline processes and standardize fabrication methods so as to not re-invent the wheel for each project (figuratively speaking, of course—we make literal new wheels all the time). But even so, it’s far from a “rinse and repeat” venture.
Maintaining such a comprehensive creative capacity requires a diversely skilled staff—from graphic designers to welders to accountants, and everything in between.
Talk about a tough business model!
How does one captain such a ship? Or lead such a requisitely motley crew?
TSI president and founder Betty Brennan has been doing it for decades—and her secret’s no secret at all.
In fact, she’s made it a point of utmost clarity and transparency:
Taylor Studios has five Core Values that drive every process, procedure, directive, and decision. They are front and center on our website for all the world to see, and displayed ubiquitously throughout the office and shop as an ever-present reminder (and inspiration!) to the staff.
Not coincidentally, these same core values underlie all the business advice and insights that Betty has imparted over the past two and a half decades, in outlets from the local economic development council newsletter to national media like Women’s Health magazine.
Here is a roundup of some of Betty’s most timeless and universal entrepreneurial wisdom: practical applications of uncompromising values for every industry and enterprise.
Honesty and Integrity
Forever an Illinois farm girl at heart, Betty has told the local Rantoul Press that “Midwestern values” are the cornerstone of Taylor Studios’ business culture, including honesty, hard work, and humility.
To maintain that such a culture, she advocates hiring for attitude more than a certain skill set.
“Hire first and foremost for attitude, character, and cultural fit,” Betty writes. “Skills can be taught; personality is much harder to change.”
Betty started Taylor Studios “in a renovated chicken coop, a garage, and a kitchen table in rural central Illinois.” She advocates bootstrapping it when times are tough to maintain profitability.
She shared this financial advice with Women’s Health Magazine readers earlier this year:
“You may have to give up an hour or two of TV every weekend to analyze your financial situation, and may have to find time to reach out to other experts to help you in your journey. But the key to success is spending time knowing your numbers.” (Read more here.)
An emphasis on personal accountability and excellent customer service has earned Taylor Studios many repeat customers—70% of our clientele, in fact!
Prioritizing people pays off in other ways, too. When working relationships are built on mutual respect, even the most potentially contentious issues can be resolved. Betty described her difficult but amicable breakup with her business partner and ex-husband Joe Taylor on Success.com: “The key was that we both wanted to end the partnership as well as preserve the friendship.” (Read more here.)
As Betty told Central Illinois Business magazine, Taylor Studios’ work “is very engaging in the sense we’re teaching people about nature and culture and history and science, or creating beautiful artworks that enhance the visitor experience.” (Read more here.)
She believes in what she does every day, and makes a point of letting it show. Not only does purposeful work motivate the staff, but as an added bonus, “It’s not work if you love it, right?”
Be open-minded enough to continually seek internal and external perspective, expertise, and constructive criticism. It will make your company more productive, and make you a better leader.
Betty holds that open and candid internal communication is key to any successful company or venture. Taylor Studios’ employees are trained on crucial conversation skills and personal accountability. “Withholding information and not sharing information makes the manager feel more powerful, yet is very inefficient,” Betty writes. (Read more here.)