BYU alum, ‘Undercover Boss’ star values family, faith above all else

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Sam Taylor speaks to BYU students in the Varsity Theatre. While Taylor gave advice to students about how to have a successful career, he continually emphasized the importance of balancing life’s responsibilities. (Maddi Dayton)

Although successful businessman Sam Taylor is known as CEO of Oriental Trading Company and former Undercover Boss, his career falls third after his family and his faith.

“My family has always come first. Family and faith is number one and number two,” Taylor said. “And putting my family first hasn’t held me back in my job and career. I think it’s helped me be a more effective leader.”

Taylor graduated from BYU in 1985 with a degree in chemical engineering and later attended Harvard Business School. After marrying his wife in 1988, his family added three girls to the mix.

The family-oriented businessman found his place as the CEO of Oriental Trading Company — the nation’s largest direct retailer of value-priced party supplies, arts and crafts, toys, novelties and even school supplies — in May 2008.

The company now offers nearly 50,000 products to non-profit organizations, schools, businesses and individual consumers. Oriental Trading Company is recognized as one of the top 15 Online Retailers for Customer Satisfaction. Not to mention, it focuses on fun-filled service in the surrounding community. After a local shelter announced the need for blankets, the company collected and donated 850 blankets that same day.

While the company may be flourishing now, it went through a bankruptcy and trials during times of economic recession.

In 2008, Taylor was hit with the most “stressful time” of his life — the great economic recession of 2008. Although it wasn’t the only stressful time of his life, Taylor acknowledged the vital role his family played in helping him through the trial.

“If I didn’t have my family and my faith, I wouldn’t have been able to get through it,” he said. 

He also described an experience where he felt “stabbed in the back” and realized if he hadn’t experienced the setback, he would be on a different path. He reiterated that things “happen for a reason.”

While Taylor emphasized the essential need of placing his family and faith first, he validated the importance of having an equilibrium of responsibilities. He also attributed his upbringing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a driving force that allowed him to be a “more well-rounded leader” with balance in his life.

“You need balance in life,” Taylor said. “You need to make time for family, for faith, for recreation, for health, for learning, for service.”

During his time on CBS’ reality TV show “Undercover Boss,” Taylor realized he needed to improve the two-way communication in the company. 

“Until you roll up your sleeves and work side by side with your employees, you don’t know what it’s like to do those jobs,” he said.

One of Taylor’s favorite moments during the episode of Undercover Boss was when his family performed the well-known LDS children’s song “Families Can Be Together Forever,” which he described as “emotional” and a missionary opportunity.

Taylor spoke to BYU students on Tuesday, Jan. 26 in the Varsity Theatre where he outlined 11 principles he wished he had learned in college.

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