As the saying goes, “Great minds think alike”, and as a result Troi and Kelley Taylor have created a carefully designed blueprint for success that is a guide for their business, their marriage, and especially their children. Partners in everything they do, the Taylor’s started Taylor Construction Management in 2011 and in less than four years have developed it into a multimillion dollar, award winning global project management consulting firm.
Even though Taylor Construction Management’s success seemingly happened overnight, there were many integral factors in Troi and Kelley’s lives that led up to it. Understanding the different backgrounds of Troi and Kelley helps provide insight into who they are and how they developed into such a unified force. Troi loves sharing his story, “I’m the kid who went to public school in South Park, Houston. The most successful person in my neighborhood was a mailman who owned a nice house and drove a Cadillac. I wanted to know what he did to have nice things. I was always looking for the blueprint. What is it that I’m supposed to do when I get older? My story is a testament of faith and diligence. With every success, I believe there is an unspoken responsibility to challenge and inspire others with the goal of leaving a legacy of overcoming obstacles and realizing dreams.”
Kelley’s background was somewhat different from Troi’s. From a young age, Kelley grew up with an air of fearlessness and self-confidence in the Central Arkansas town of Holly Grove. Kelley’s dad would tell her she could do anything she wanted to do and expected her to go to college. He made her believe that the sky was the limit. Later, her family moved to Dallas where she attended public school and then on to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff where she got her undergraduate degree. Kelley recalls, “Looking back, I always expected to achieve my personal and professional goals. Failure was never an option!”
Kelley and Troi met by chance at a Cotton Bowl party in Dallas. She had gone there to give a friend a ride home. Troi immediately noticed her and was trying to get up the nerve to speak to her. As he was leaving, he did speak to her and the rest is history. Troi reflected, “I never would have guessed how the timing of that encounter would change my life forever. It is amazing to think that as I was walking one way and she was walking the opposite way, that I would lay eyes on my future wife, the mother of my children, and my business partner!” People ask Troi all the time, “How is it that you can be with the same woman day in and day out?” Troi and Kelley believe that it’s one of those things that they didn’t see as a strategic positioning or a blessing then. When they were in Cincinnati, they grew closer because they didn’t know anyone. They went to the post office, the mall, and literally everywhere else together! They still do everything together. It’s as natural as breathing.
After graduating from Prairie View A&M University, Troi accepted a project engineer position for a prominent pharmaceutical company in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of the first tasks that Troi was given there was to be the project manager for the design and construction of a packaging materials sampling facility. He thought to himself, “I have a degree in chemical engineering that has absolutely nothing to do with project management!” Troi reflected, “From a career adjustment perspective, it was very, very tough but in hindsight, I wouldn’t have it any other way because I don’t think I would be anywhere close to where I am now had I not gone through that Cincinnati experience.” Now, he uses that lesson as a souvenir to remind him of the road travelled to position him for future success. “Cincinnati taught me to use each disappointment and failure as a launching pad to get better, wiser, and more resilient. The goal should be to never make the same mistake twice!”
Not knowing anything about design or construction, Troi’s company connected him with an architectural and engineering firm. He was told that he would be given an office at their office so that he could watch them design the facility. Troi would act as the eyes and ears of his company and answer any questions on behalf of the owner of the pharmaceutical company. He was told that once construction began, he would be given a senior construction manager to work hand-in-hand with to direct the construction company. The facility was about 35,000 square feet and he was there almost seven days a week because he didn’t want to fail. He knew it would be a long commute back to Houston if it didn’t work out!
It was a lot of hard work but Troi fell in love with it. He learned so much on the job and knew that he wanted to continue doing this kind of work. Everything depended upon relationships and Troi realized he had a gift at doing it. He was able to win the respect of his peers and they became his biggest advocates. His scientific mind enabled him to envision the big picture. He instinctively knew to begin with the end in mind, always looking at the end results. Just like a chess game, he was wise in choosing his battles and realized that he would have to lose some fights in order to win the war. It’s all about the strategy.
From early on, Kelley would say to Troi, “Why don’t you do it for yourself? If you are doing it for them, you know you can do this, right?” Troi had a six figure salary and being a cautious person, he didn’t want to risk not being able to properly provide for his family. Kelley respected Troi for his convictions but she believed that they would function better being in control of their own destiny. “I don’t think either of us played that corporate follower. We could never get comfortable for long and I just started to tell Troi there is a reason for that. I don’t think we are meant to be the employee; we are meant to be the employer,” expressed Kelley.
When Kelley started earning a commensurate income as Troi’s, she would tell him, “I can handle things while you do what you need to do to start the company. I can take care of the bills until the company starts to bring in money.” He continued to be cautious until one day when he called Kelley at work and told her how there had been some kind of award given by his company for a hospital that he had done the project management for and they never mentioned him. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Kelley stopped whatever she was doing and said to Troi, “What do you want to call the company? Let’s just get it started.”
People would always ask Troi, “Have you ever thought about starting your own company?” At first he had thought he was too young and that others wouldn’t respect him but then he realized how many relationships he had built over the years with CEOs, CFOs, and Board Chairmen of hospitals, schools, and major corporations. Not even a week after Troi left and started his own company, a scientist that he worked with in Kansas City called and asked,” I have a project in China. Would you be willing to go over there and run the project?” Knowing it would be a big adjustment, Troi and Kelley discussed it and agreed that they were prepared for the temporary sacrifice to establish the company and realize their dream. The Taylors realized that it was a blessing to be able to start internationally and then come back to the United States and have that on the company portfolio. During that time while Troi was in China, Kelley and he began working on their certifications. They also started to put more thought into what they wanted the company to look like. After that, they just took off from there. “We never operated in the red nor did we have any business loans,” reflected Troi. Truly, the Taylors have been blessed!
Troi stated, “You have to remember that in Cincinnati, Kelley and I just had each other – literally. The foundation for our relationship was established and we became best friends in the process.” Troi thinks Kelley is the smartest person he knows. He expressed, “She was always fearless; I wasn’t. I was always careful, cautious; she was always saying we can do and be anything.” Kelley shared, “I think Troi and I balance each other very well because he pulls me back when I’m just going 100 mph but I think that I help him to broaden his view a little bit more so that we are not missing opportunities.” Regardless of what’s going on with their company, the Taylors believe in first things first – their marriage and then their family. Other things will fall into place as it should. They don’t put the company before their marriage; they don’t put the company before their kids. It’s just a matter of keeping it in perspective. Kelley elaborated, “I think that’s why we can work together because we know where our priorities are and we have fun.”
Troi does a lot of the business development and Kelley deals directly with all company operations and making sure they have competent employees who are leaders with strong convictions. Kelley sees her role as the one who is responsible for putting the infrastructure and the people in place so that when Troi’s winning work, they are ready from a technology standpoint and are current and up-to-date. Last November in 2014, Kelley participated in the Tuck Executive Education Program at Dartmouth College, a weeklong program on how to build a high performing minority business. Kelley recently completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. The knowledge Kelley received has enabled the Taylors to refine what they are doing and provide them the ability to look down the road three to five years from now and know how to get there. As a result, Kelley was able to write the company growth plan for 2015 through 2019.
When Troi and Kelley first began in business, it was just the two of them. They had no guidance in dealing with employees but as they grew, they simply continued their blueprint for success in treating them the same way they treated their clients and each other, with respect and with appreciation of their ideas. Their employees know they are part of the team and that when they speak, they are listened to. These same principles practiced by the Taylors were taught in the Goldman Sachs Program as well which validated that they were heading in the right direction.
Presently, Taylor Construction Management has a total of nine people on their team including seven project managers, Kelley, and Troi. Kelley runs the company and as Troi explains, “I am out there nurturing healthy relationships and positioning the company for future business opportunities!” It’s important to the Taylors that their employees have two things: A healthy work/life balance and the desire to grow. Even if the Taylors observe an employee doing something wrong, they are very careful in how the employee is approached. The employee is always spoken to as a professional who understands as much as the Taylors do about their business and there is a lot more collaboration than directed conversation. One of the most important factors is that the employees are treated with respect and when any member needs help with a project, the entire team/family comes together to solve the problem.
Taylor Construction Management is on course to double in size. A lot has to do with the way they do business. They try to treat people well, always with honesty and fairness; they don’t try to price gauge; and they never try to get rich off one client. They are very appreciative of the great support they have received from the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council and the Office of Business Opportunity. Last but not least, they believe that they are blessed because so many major corporations, international and domestic, are seeking their services including Houston Independent School District, Houston Community College (HISD), and Texas A&M University System.
Soon after Taylor Construction Management began, Texas A&M University System reached out to them in August of 2011. They were on their way to the airport to fly to Canada when Troi received an email from Texas A&M saying they wanted them to respond to a project management solicitation to do project management for The System. Troi told Kelley, “There are so many companies and we don’t have a big portfolio. They wouldn’t take us serious anyway.” Troi sent back an email saying, “I appreciate you thinking about us but we are a small company and I know you are going to hire the big boys.” They replied and said, “We are not just looking for the big boys.” Troi was thinking, “Thanks, but no thanks,” because solicitation responses are time-consuming and expensive.
About six months later, Texas A&M University System called Troi and asked, “Are you still too busy?” Troi responded that he would respond to the solicitation even though he believed that they would never take a small company when he was competing against such heavyweight, mature, portfolio companies. Two weeks later, Troi took his son Joshua with him to College Station and spent two days there. Wanting Joshua to experience what Troi does in business, Troi likes to include his little protégé. Troi and Joshua went around the campus speaking to different people within the A&M System to understand how they do business and what they expected from an ideal project management firm. About two weeks after that, Troi received a voicemail that said, “Aren’t you the guy that was just here with the little kid, your son? We have a project and would you be interested?” Sure enough, they had beat out those big companies and ended up getting two projects! From that time on, Taylor Construction Management has been working at Texas A&M University System on a daily basis and have a great relationship.
What separates Taylor Construction Management from similar companies is the level of customer service they provide. Their goal is to always be accessible, responsive, flexible, and knowledgeable so that their customers expect an elevated level of value when working with their team. Even when they pursue new clients, they don’t forget about their current clients. They try to stay pliable, malleable, and take great effort in understanding their clients’ needs.
Troi teaches his team that it is important to look at the big picture. “To build the environment for sustainable success on our projects, it is always important to get involved with the communities we are working in. For the HISD projects, we even have tents for tailgating events at the school athletic events. It’s all about building trust and having a rapport,” stated Troi. TCM is currently working on two schools in Bellaire, Bellaire High School and Condit Elementary and Troi has the same project manager working on both.
One of the proudest moments Troi has experienced happened about two months ago when they did the groundbreaking at Condit. Even though it was extremely cold outside, Troi observed his project manager standing next to the Mayor of Bellaire and the Condit Elementary School Principal in a true team building moment. They were all holding their shovels and having an intimate conversation as though they had been friends for 30 years. Troi believes it is all because of the connection his project manager has made with that city, understanding what the city council wants and balancing those wants with those of HISD and the Bellaire community. “They look at our project manager as just an extension of that community even though he doesn’t live in Bellaire,” said Troi with delight.
Taylor Construction Management has received a lot of recognition including being selected as the Emerging 10 Award recipient by the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council in 2012, Emerging Minority Firm of the Year by the Greater Houston Business Procurement Forum in 2014, and the International Rising Star by the Houston International Trade Development Council in 2014.
Troi and Kelley are all about giving back to the community and they like to include their children in their philanthropy. Some of the programs that they support include Dads for Education (DADS), Scholar Athletes, and Star of Hope. In June 2014, their daughter, Laila, raised $1,500.00 to help feed and clothe the homeless. Kelley committed to contribute an additional $1,000 to bring the total to $2,500.00. They also have a standing commitment to donate and volunteer at the shelter. Kelley is active in service sorority Delta Sigma Theta (North Harris County Alumni Chapter).
The Taylor’s also donate time and money to sponsor and enrich this inner city youth basketball team in order for them to attend national tournaments with the goal of obtaining college scholarships. Last but not least, Troi is the Golf Scholarship Committee Chair for the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council. In May 2014, the committee raised $90,000 for minority businesses to attend trainings and seminars to better their companies. Another one of the Taylors’ passions is their desire to start a non-profit that would allow them to go back into the inner city schools and help mentor the children.
The Taylors’ most precious commodities are their children, 10-year-old son Joshua and 8-year-old daughter Laila. Their business is their legacy to their children and they are grooming them to one day take it over if they so choose. Joshua has built every hospital with Troi and Laila has raised money online in “Go Fund Me” for the Star of Hope. Both of the children are little miniature replicas of their parents. They want to be just like them and even dress like them. When Laila was making a thank you video for the recipients of her donation, she said to her parents, “I have to do my hair and hands just like mommy. Don’t I need a business jacket?” The children observe everything their parents do so it is important to the Taylors that they are stellar role models. They teach the children that there is a lot in their name and it’s not just about Taylor Construction Management; it’s about them. Joshua loves to go with Troi to Texas A&M University acting as the lead. He picks up bid documents and exchanges business cards. He will put on a suit, a blazer, and tie and he shakes hands. He looks at them in their eyes and sits up straight. When Laila is older, she will start going with her parents as well.
When the Taylor family lets their hair down, they spend a lot of time watching movies together. The children participate in a lot of extracurricular activities. Troi and Kelley try to have a date night once a week or twice a month. The family also does a lot of traveling. They are getting ready to go to Colorado and next year they have China and Italy on the agenda.
Troi and Kelley know that it would be wonderful for their children to choose to follow in their footsteps. Even so, they are quick to remind them that whatever they do, just work at it with all of their heart. On a daily basis, the Taylors tell their children that it is all about faith and hard work and whatever they do, just do their best. They tell them that their story isn’t over yet; it’s just beginning. They tell them that all they need to do is follow the blueprints they have designed and it will lead them on the right pathway to success.