Basin Harbor Resort

A High Performing Entrepreneur Owner-Manager… or a Puzzle Maker?

August 22, 2019

56 minute listen

Basin Harbor, VT

Like many EOMs, Mark Taylor joined the family business he would ultimately lead “in the breach” to solve a business problem on what he thought was a temporary tour of duty (a year or two). Fifteen years later he successfully completed the redesign and rejuvenation of Reading Plus’ leadership team for its next chapter, and designed its majority stockholder recapitalization resulting in a great fit new owner who is energized and capable of supporting the team’s go forward plan for the next stage of growth for the company.

In this remarkable interview Mark opens up candidly and generously about his conflict and desire to be educated as an architect because of his longing to be rooted in something purposeful, yet how over time he felt the emptiness of not doing a lot of mission driven work. He went on to earn a graduate degree in Philosophy. Mark admits even he was surprised that he ended up fulfilling his mission to be a maker by evolving to be a high performing entrepreneur creating software tools enabling millions of children to read or read better. And in what he defines as the “Ultimate Maker Challenge” that of building a highly functioning group of mission driven independent thinking members of his management team, which he concludes is the best way to bring about permanent positive change in the world.

Mark openly explains what caused his “idealistic awakening” and realization that he wanted to fully own the leadership role of the business (which became a turning point for the company) before he could position it for its ultimate long term sustainable impact on the lives of millions of children—and positive impact on all the other stakeholders as well.

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What I am Reading / Listening to

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown (2012)

Contributed by Denise C. Burke

I have a lifelong love of reading.  From the time I was a little kid, I’ve never gone anywhere without a book or two to keep me company. In college, my friends thought I was a bit crazy to add literature classes into my already heavy curriculum simply to have some great novels to read (and an excuse to read them)!  And, as you may guess, I’ve always had a lengthy list of books I want to read. One of these was Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Recently, this book was staring me in the face at an airport book store…so of course, I bought the book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Brené addresses vulnerability head-on, which she defines as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” that we all face as part of life. Her research on this topic led her to conclude that “vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful experiences." She dives deep into our feelings…understanding and dealing with shame, how we naturally protect ourselves from vulnerability, the roles we believe we are expected to play, and the impact of feeling disconnected, flawed, and unworthy of belonging.  This is a powerful read that will leave you thinking how we all react to vulnerability.

Per Theodore Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship in a Republic: Who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."

In the end, to dare greatly is to have courage…enjoy!

Daring Greatly

Entrepreneur Owner-Manager Quote

“When it came to business I felt myself as an imposter for awhile, thinking 'How am I a CEO? How am I in this role?' And I think there was an insecurity in the early days, so I worked very diligently to pull things together and over time I stepped into the confidence."
-2019,  Mark Taylor, CEO, Reading Plus, LLC

Energy Creation

Contributed by Stephen R. McGee

There’s nothing like stimulating learning to provide an energy creating boost.  Having just completed the General Management Program (GMP) at Wharton I had the fun of experiencing that six times over.

The GMP course comprises six week-long programs that you take over a period of two years.  You largely curate your own learning experience from a deep program catalog that covers four different learning tracks: leadership; strategy & innovation; finance & wealth management; and marketing & sales.  Individual courses draw significantly from the acclaimed Wharton MBA program and its faculty, but as it is targeted toward senior executives the learning is largely experiential and collaborative.

High points for me were Professor G. Richard Shell’s Executive Negotiation Workshop where I had the fun of going “toe-to-toe” in a case with an Israeli Army General (how often do you get to say that!) and Corporate Valuation lead by Professor Michael Roberts who is one of the most gifted teachers I’ve ever come across.

It had been 25 years since I had set foot on a university campus with learning intent–and every time I arrived in Philadelphia and made my way to the Steinberg Conference Center I could feel my energy rising.  Being around experienced senior executives from corporations large and small, for profit and not-for-profit, both domestic and international, was extremely stimulating.  I would highly recommend this program to anyone looking for some high-quality executive education.

Since I graduated the program I’ve been experiencing a little bit of “post big event let down,” and I’ll certainly miss my walks down Locust walk, and early morning runs along the Schuylkill.  I won’t be waiting 25 years for my next course I can tell you that. #learningandgrowing.

Jagmohan Raju Wharton
Locust Walk