OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | PeopleWise: Chris Taylor
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PeopleWise: Chris Taylor

Chris Taylor’s career has spanned 17 years, seven industries, and three states. He’s explored, innovated, and established himself as a multi-dimensional leader ready and willing to mentor our founders through their journey here at OwlSpark. Founders first met Taylor in Week 2 when he took part in mentoring, and got to know him a little better during Week 5, when he came to lecture on leveraging your LinkedIn network for customer discovery. For an entrepreneur, LinkedIn can be a treasure trove of information and connectivity in the pursuit of customer discovery. Taylor’s wealth of experience makes him the right person to share this knowledge with our founders.

The biggest things are perseverance and tenacity. Tenacity is enough to get through the tough times, and perseverance for when tenacity isn’t enough.

Not only was he a collegiate athlete, Taylor also became a dad during his junior year. Juggling his degree, a heavy basketball schedule, and raising a child necessitated a flexible yet competitive and agile career path. Entrepreneurship offered independence, flexibility, and the potential for tremendous success. Taylor’s pathway to entrepreneurship officially began after completing his undergraduate degree in psychology and economics at Wabash College, joining Primerica and quickly rising to the rank of Senior Vice President.

With this experience, Taylor went on to launch his first business: LPL Financial. Throughout his life, he saw a lot of people struggle with money. His business provided the opportunity to help families get out of debt and save for the future. “LPL Financial was for the average person that was trying to get by and raise a family. I was one of those people, so I knew what that felt like,” Taylor notes.

That dedication to family and community is central to both Taylor’s business and life ideology. Taylor states, “I think I’ve always wanted to help people, and I don’t know if that’s just my Midwest upbringing, but I’ve always been the type of person who would stop on the side of a road to help someone fix a flat tire.” For Taylor, family is a huge motivating factor going forward in his career. Taylor has three kids: the oldest son is a soldier in the elite 101st Airborne, the middle son is an electrician in Indiana, and the his youngest is his 12-year-old daughter who even came to support him during the lecture.

Whenever I was building a business, I always kept a picture of my kids. Whenever people tried to tell me, you’re nuts or you’re crazy or whatever, I had to realize that this is who I’m doing it for. And you’ve gotta have those reminders during tough times as an entrepreneur.

Across the seven industries that Taylor’s worked in, he specifies one as a high point. Between 2011 and 2013, Taylor was the dean for a vocational healthcare school called MedTech. Before Taylor started there, the school was struggling and were even on the verge of losing accreditation. With dedication and direction, they turned it all around which resulted in Taylor’s wife and oldest son both receiving degrees from MedTech.

As someone with so much dedication to his community, Taylor’s best advice to founders is to focus on building relationships with people. He recognizes that it’s easy to zero in on just the data and statistics, but when it comes to building a business, make sure you understand the needs of people and strive to finding solutions to their problems. He shared some advice that he received from his own mentor, “If you help enough people get what they want, then they will help you get what you want.” It’s certainly advice our founders appreciate, and with that they’ll go a long way this summer!