“Don’t wait until everything is perfect! My main advice is to get started. You have to jump in.”- Craig Taylor advises budding entrepreneurs. Craig Taylor, the founder of seven companies (with the alternative investments business), established a foundation to give mentorship, scholarships, and exposure to the energy and financial industries in a performance-based atmosphere to motivated students in Houston. In this interview, Craig Taylor shares his thoughts on marketing methods for businesses promotion, tips on generating realistic ideas, hiring employees, and success in business with Business Upside. Edited Excerpts from the Interview: Business Upside : How did you get your idea or concept for the business? Craig Taylor : My first business was a boutique energy trading brokerage firm, Atlas Commodities. I went into the military, then into law, then into trading out of college. Prior to my career in commodities, I worked on the legal side of the finance sector for White & Case, LLP in New York City. I began working for a law firm and then worked on Wall Street. I gained over 20 years of experience in finance and energy as a commodities broker. I got the idea to start my trading operation when the New York Mercantile Exchange was going electronic; therefore, there weren’t a lot of barriers to starting that business. It went from all major firms on the trading floor doing open outcry to brokering on-screen, which leveled the playing field to start a business. It was a true opportunity to jump in and play at the same level as the big firms. Managing contacts and creating relationships with multi-national banks, energy companies, and legal experts gave me the foundation I needed to build my ventures. A fellow Navy veteran friend introduced me to another line of business services related to a completely unrelated energy vertical, primarily for utility companies, called vegetation management field services. Identifying the opportunity to expand and grow new business ventures, I leveraged my connections from across the energy value chain with the formation of Atlas Retail Energy and Atlas Field Services, intentionally diversifying the business’ service offerings. Although I didn’t know much about those lines of business, I did bring important risk management expertise and skills I could apply as a consultant. Once I partnered with our COO, Tejpal Singh, and the rest of our experts, we had a winning combination to service clients with a different approach: a much more cohesive and strategic one. We bring a much more comprehensive view to business than most of the competitors in our space, who typically only are specialists in one aspect of their business line. Business Upside : What was your mission at the outset? Craig Taylor : My mission at the outset of all the four business lines I have started—ranging from energy brokerage to field services, energy procurement, and tech-enabled infrastructure inspections—has been to build long-term legacy-based businesses. I never planned to start businesses to just sell them. I’ve always aimed to provide services to clients from a boutique perspective that focuses on excellence in performance with strong company culture. That’s how we’ve been able to break the mold in providing highly sought-after services. Today, the suite of businesses is a multimillion-dollar portfolio with more than four hundred employees across seven U.S. offices. I did always have lofty expectations of building an enterprise, and I believe an entrepreneur, in that sense, is remarkably similar to an artist. First, you must develop a sharp vision in your mind’s eye. Then, you go after it and make it a reality. Business Upside : How do you market your business, and which method has been most successful? Craig Taylor : Our business is primarily marketed by word of mouth and client referrals. We have built a reputation in the industries we serve by understanding our clients and our relentless commitment to excellence. Our sales cycles are long; therefore, we foster relationships through direct connections, bidding processes, participation in industry events, thought leadership content creation, website/SEO (search engine optimization), PR, social media, and lead sourcing. We leverage a CRM (customer relationship management system) to manage and nurture our sales pipeline and existing client base. However, our strongest marketing tool is each of the individuals who work for our company. The way they represent our values, what they say about our organization, and what is said of them speaks much louder than any marketing asset can. Business Upside : What is unique about your business? Craig Taylor : What’s unique about our business in our approach toward issues that have been around for over a century is that we have a team of diverse professionals who are the best in their field and bring unique perspectives to risk mitigation and management (legal, finance, human resources, operations, technology, communications). We are agile in our approach, and we’re constantly reengineering how to deliver our services smarter, more efficiently, more sustainably. We aim to positively impact the communities we serve and leave a legacy of professionals who are proud of the work we do and how they go about it. What distinguishes are the cultural values that guide our T.E.A.M.S.: transparency, excellence, agility, meritocracy, and safety. Business Upside : How do you generate new ideas? Craig Taylor : We generate new ideas as a team. We are big fans of whiteboards! Typically, the COO and I bounce ideas off each other and receive input from our teams. We are big believers in transparency, which is the first of our values… all team members contribute their ideas to the bigger picture. They are not afraid to speak up or come up with innovations or more agile suggestions to get the work done efficiently and safely, all our expected level of excellence. They are also safe to come forward with feedback on what isn’t working well and improve it. We also generate new ideas by being keenly plugged in. It’s important to listen and know what’s going on, and that’s the best way to figure out pain points and new opportunities in the marketplace. My formal MBA education has helped shape my lens for business opportunities. Hence, I’m always interested in investing in new businesses, always applying the scientific and financial rigor approach. At the end of the day, trial and error lead to some of my best ideas. Business Upside : If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be? Craig Taylor : My top advice for someone new to business is: don’t wait until everything is perfect! My main advice is to get started. You have to jump in. You can’t try to create the most perfect, manufactured situation. No matter how much preparation you have, you’ll run into hurdles. You have to start, and then you cannot give up. You’re not going to know it all when you begin, but it’s particularly important to show up and give it your all. After that, the second most important piece of advice is to have grit. Don’t give up. You will have obstacles and will make some mistakes along the way. You should learn from these opportunities and allow them to make you stronger. Never be a victim. This is the advice I provide all the scholars of the non-profit program I cofounded, called Atlas Scholars. My entrepreneurial spirit and personal path inspired cofounder, Tej Singh, and me to give back to the next generation of business leaders through this program to offer motivated high school students a series of three paid summer internships that equip them with the hard and soft skills needed for college preparedness and career readiness. Business Upside : What do you look for in an employee? Craig Taylor : Cultural fit comes first and foremost. If we get along and share similar approaches and values, we will deal with conflict and accomplish our goals. I want people to work here who want to be doing what they’re doing in this kind of organization. The cultural mindset is fundamental. Our organization is truly unique because we work hard, and we also play hard. We are all reliable and relied upon. The second characteristic I look for in an employee is motivation. It’s important to be passionate and dedicated and to make an impact as part of the team. I look for strong qualifications and experience because I depend on having an A-team for our business formula to work. I am also very tuned into assessing soft skills and integrity because we do deeply depend on each employee working well whether they’re on their own or not. Each employee is expected to self-audit themselves and always bring their best foot in our culture. Business Upside : Do you believe there is some sort of formula or pattern to become a successful Businessman? Craig Taylor : Yes… without a doubt, I’m convinced the most important attribute to be good at business is to be open-minded. You can’t see opportunities if you’re dogmatic. You have to remain open-minded to be able to see opportunities come across… The best examples are in the textbooks: think of Jeff Bezos… what would have happened if he only thought of Amazon as a bookstore? The most important attribute is to see opportunities that may require you to shift business entirely. Blockbusters and Barnes & Noble did not see the shift. In that sense, you’re required to have a sense of humility. Do you want to be successful, or do you want to be right? You don’t have to keep using the same tool if it's not working. Further, never give up. The challenges that arise cannot be anticipated, nor will you need the skills to succeed. What is critical is the ability to shake off the punches. I always quote Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” You will get punched in the face many times. Successful business people must be determined to make the business work, no matter what. The other formula that is crucial is to have a solid financial plan. That requires being extremely disciplined in managing expenses and reinvesting in the business, even after the company has turned a profit. Many new entrepreneurs make the big mistake of spending on themselves too early in the new company's life instead of looking at the long-term financial viability of the business. Business Upside : What has been your most satisfying moment in business? Craig Taylor : For me, the most satisfying moment in business was when I felt that we had a collaborative and positive organization. To have a hardworking team that works cohesively—that has a collaborative approach to solve all problems—is truly priceless. Otherwise, one of my gratifying moments in business was having supported one of our most important clients through bankruptcy and being a dedicated supporter for fellow contractors struggling with the situation. It was extremely rewarding to help see them through such critical challenges and be a valuable resource for the entire ecosystem. Also, it’s been satisfying to hit our important benchmarks, such as doubling our headcount, exponentially growing our office space, launching a new tech-enabled innovation company leveraging drones (cleaner, safer, and more efficient than traditional methods), expanding our overall operations to seven companies. Business Upside : What motivates you to become an Entrepreneur? Craig Taylor : What motivates me to be an entrepreneur is that I can work with the people I work with to go after challenges and industries we want to go after, as opposed to being stuck in a small box. The world is our oyster; we go after anything that makes sense for us. That is freedom, and it’s very attractive. It is our choice what we do every day. It’s rewarding to contribute to our economy by providing significant value to the companies we serve. I am convinced we accomplish this by approaching traditional businesses with a fresh perspective, hiring top employees, and providing rewarding careers and growth opportunities, both on a personal level, because their work is impactful, as well as on a professional and economic level because I believe in offering competitive pay and benefits to get the best of the best. Further Reading \t Why Healthcare Administration Is A Growing And Necessary Field? \t Biden’s $3.5 Billion Bet Related to Carbon Capture is an Easy Part \t How to Set Up iCloud on All Your Apple Devices in A Few Easy Steps?