Taylor Corporation Business Information, Profile, and History
North Mankato, Minnesota 56003
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History of Taylor Corporation
Taylor Corporation, a leading North American commercial printer, claims to hold 90 percent of the formal wedding invitation market. As a holding company, Taylor Corporation owns more than 70 businesses located in 19 states, three Canadian provinces, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Mexico. In addition to wedding invitations, subsidiaries produce items such as business cards and forms, and graduation announcements. The parent company holds a number of non-printing businesses as well. Chairman and CEO Glen A. Taylor owns 89 percent of the business and is majority stakeholder in the National Basketball Association franchise the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Humble Beginnings: 1950s to Mid-1970s
Glen Taylor, the second of seven children, grew up on a farm outside a small southern Minnesota town and took on adult responsibilities early in life. As a teenager, he worked for his father or for neighboring farmers. He married while still in high school. When his father became a feed distributor, Glen took over operation of the farm and spent his first year out of high school as a full-time farmer as well as new husband and father.
In 1959, the Taylors moved to Mankato, Minnesota, where Glen attended college and worked part-time at Carlson Wedding Service. Established after World War II by Bill Carlson, the 18-person operation started out as a mimeograph service and then moved to custom printed wedding invitations and specialty products.
Taylor's first job, the least desirable position in the company, was napkin stamping. When another student took some time off, Carlson placed Taylor in the stockroom. Taylor promptly overhauled the inventory system. Carlson rewarded his young employee's initiative by making what had been a fill-in position permanent. A go-getter in college as well, Taylor graduated a year earlier than his peers. He applied for and was offered teaching positions but decided to stay instead with Carlson, who wanted him to help manage the growing business.
Carlson's firm grew rapidly during the 1960s thanks in part to innovations in the printing industry. Furthermore, UPS broadened Midwest service and opened the door to a larger marketplace for small rural businesses. Carlson would build a new plant in North Mankato and expand the operation three times.
Taylor played a pivotal role in the growth as well. He encouraged Carlson to deviate from tradition and add colored paper and inks, updated texts, and new designs, a move which proved fruitful for the company. With an eye toward his own future as well as the company's, Taylor negotiated for a cut of the profits when he devised a way to improve efficiency of the napkin stamping operation.
Preparing for retirement, Carlson sold shares of the business to three employees, including Taylor, in 1967. Seven years later, Taylor, who had been in charge of inventories, purchasing, and marketing, bought majority interest from Carlson and part of the holdings of the other two managers. The printing business was producing $6 million in revenues at the time.
Taylor Taking Over: 1970s--80s
In January 1975, Taylor formed a holding company with Carlson Craft as its first subsidiary. He then purchased an Indiana-based wedding stationery company in August of that year. After turning the struggling operation around, Taylor proceeded to purchase other businesses and effectively establish printing companies from the ground up. As he added subsidiaries during the late 1970s, Taylor groomed future managers from the ranks of younger employees, many of them starting out as part-time student workers, just as he had done.
With a strong management team in place and business booming, Taylor turned to other challenges: he ran for the Minnesota Senate in 1980. Although he had been active in community affairs, Taylor's only previous political involvement had been as treasurer of a senator's election campaign. Taylor ran for that seat himself when the incumbent retired.
Once in office, Taylor was elected assistant minority leader in 1983 and majority leader in 1985. As assistant minority leader the Independent-Republican senator drew on his business experience to reorganize the caucus office. Later on the Senate floor he worked to find common ground between the opposing parties. Taylor concentrated on workers and employment compensation and education issues during his time in office.
Few fellow senators knew the scope of Taylor's business concerns, but via a steady stream of acquisitions, start-up operations, and new product lines, Taylor had built up a business amassing revenues of $200 million by 1985.
According to a 1987 Corporate Report Minnesota article, Taylor Corporation was the country's largest printer of wedding stationery, producing invitations, response and reception cards, thanks you notes, and church programs. The company's subsidiaries held 50 percent of the U.S. market and 80 percent of the Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa markets in these niche areas. Taylor Corporation's 20 wholly owned subsidiaries were located in 11 states as well as one in Canada. North Mankato-based Carlson Craft, the largest concern, had 1,500 employees. Overall, Taylor employed about 4,000 people.
In addition to wedding-related products, Taylor Corporation subsidiaries produced items such as personal stationery, business cards and letterhead, graduation announcements, and prom and homecoming decorations. Glen Taylor also held partial ownership in a North Mankato bank, a Post-It notes (3M) printing operation, and an engineering company.
In addition to his business and legislative accomplishments, Taylor was a committed member of community service organizations such as the Mankato area Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees, YMCA, and the United Way. He was also attuned to the well-being of people in his employ, offering higher wages and broader benefits than typical of rural Minnesota. Taylor Corporation was among the first companies in the state to establish onsite child care.
Furthermore, Taylor Corporation had produced profits each year since its inception and strove to internally fund its growth. 'We've had the seller carry us for a while a few times,' Taylor said in a January 1987 Corporate Report Minnesota article by Jay Novak, 'but we've never had to get money from a bank.' Fiscally conservative Taylor also kept a cash reserve fund of more than $5 million.
Taylor attributed his company's success to quality products and commitment to customer service. Moreover, the structure of the company played a factor in winning business. Since subsidiary companies were quite small and frequently competed against each other, customers, in general, were unaware of the magnitude of the umbrella company, Taylor Corporation. 'There's a perception that if you're a little smaller, you care about your customers more--or your suppliers, or employees. We'd hate to have someone say, `Well, they're so big they don't need our business,' Taylor told Novak.
Taylor Corporation depended on the small order customers and the independent vendors who sold the majority of their products. Orders of $30 to $40 were Taylor's bread and butter, and the company promised rapid turnaround and a no fault reprint policy.
Something Old, Something New: 1990s
Taylor left the Senate in 1989 and set aside thoughts of running for governor. 'Part of it had to do with a divorce, another part had to do with his rejection by the right wing of the Republican party because he wasn't partisan enough. A lot of it had to do with his devotion to his companies, to the thrill of victory,' Jay Weiner reported for the Star Tribune.
By the early 1990s, Taylor had grown his enterprise to some 35 companies. The number of employees exceeded 7,000, roughly half located in Minnesota. Much of the company's new growth had come from expanded North Mankato-based businesses and new product lines.
Taylor Corporation revenues passed the half-billion-dollar mark in 1993. In its September 1994 issue, Twin Cities Business Monthly reported the company had compiled an annual compound growth rate of almost 13 percent over the past ten years and nearly 25 percent over the past 20 years, while maintaining a solid financial position and enviable profitability record.
Although printing remained the core business concern, Taylor continued to delve into other business areas. Non-printing businesses included a direct mail marketing company, an office supply retailer, and a water-temperature control and hydraulic brake part manufacturer. Taylor owned at least six community banks in Minnesota with combined assets of more than $275 million through Taylor Bancshares of Mankato.
Taylor moved into yet another new arena in 1994 and succeeded where others had failed when he executed an $88 million deal to keep the Timberwolves NBA franchise in Minnesota. Carrying over business practices from his other endeavors, Taylor and a group of limited partners put down over 50 percent of the total purchase price in order to limit borrowing. Then the veteran of business buyouts completely restructured the franchise, hired good managers, provided vision and direction for the organization, and backed it all up with the resources to achieve their goals.
Some aspects of the high profile sports/entertainment concern fell outside his realm of experience, such as the astronomical salaries demanded by star players and negotiated by agents, but as in his primary business of printing, Taylor strove to satisfy the customer. Taylor succeeded in upping the numbers of both season ticket holders and corporate sponsors.
Meanwhile, printing, like many other industries, faced the challenges of rapidly changing technologies and pricing pressures during the 1990s. Costly capital expenditures and a corresponding jump in capacity prompted a move toward increased consolidation according to a 1997 Minneapolis/St. Paul CityBusiness article by Jennifer Ehrlich. Yet rising stock prices had become a prohibitive factor. 'Because the market has risen so fast, the value being placed on companies is too high, and it doesn't make as much sense as it did in the past to buy them,' Taylor told Minnesota Business & Opportunities in 1998. Thus, the company turned its focus to internally generated growth.
Taylor did make another purchase in the professional sports segment of his businesses. He bought a Women's National Basketball Association franchise, the Minnesota Lynx, in 1998. A deal to buy the Minnesota Twins baseball team was also briefly on the table. Taylor had to set aside all his activities for a time in early 1999 when he underwent triple bypass surgery.
Even though his purchase of the Timberwolves had thrust Taylor into the public spotlight--Taylor's health concerns were covered by Minneapolis/St. Paul area sportswriters--Taylor Corporation continued to fly 'below radar.' Tina Lassen wrote in a November 1999 Northwest Airlines World Traveler article, 'Only those who live in the Mankato area or happen to run their own printing companies have heard of the Taylor Corporation--maybe. Taylor Corporation maintains an exceptionally low profile, mostly because it operates its facilities under a variety of names, many of them acquisitions. Taylor Corporation companies come with names like Web Graphics Midwest, Litho Tech, Ad Graphics, LabelWorks, Precision Press--not exactly the stuff that grabs the attention of Forbes.' Nonetheless, self-made billionaire Taylor did find a place among Forbes list of 400 most wealthy Americans.
Not unexpectedly, Taylor had over his lifetime sought victory in all he endeavored to do. The Timberwolves franchise prospects, both on the floor and in the front office, improved under his leadership. Likewise, Taylor Corporation flourished: estimated annual revenues were pushing the billion dollar mark.
Yet Taylor maintained an air of humility, according to Lassen's November 1999 article. 'Taylor is an enigma, a Wall Street mind who yearns for a weekend of farm chores. A man who explains his leadership skills as `a God-given gift. It's not one of those things you take credit for.'
Principal Competitors: Hallmark Cards, Inc.; Quebecor Inc.
- 1975: Glen A. Taylor establishes Taylor Corporation with former employer's business as first subsidiary.
- 1980: Taylor enters political arena.
- 1985: Company revenues reach $200 million, up from $6 million a decade earlier.
- 1993: Revenues exceed $500 million.
- 1994: Taylor enters professional sports market.
- 1999: Taylor Corporation nears $1 billion in sales.
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