BYU grad-turned-CEO offers business and life advice

Ari Davis
CEO of Oriental Trading Company and BYU graduate Sam Taylor has appeared on the TV show “Undercover Boss.” He gave students advice based on his work experience with Warren Buffett. (Ari Davis)

Oriental Trading Company CEO Sam Taylor spoke to BYU students on Tuesday, Oct. 5, about life lessons he learned from working under Warren Buffet, the owner of the company.

He presented “The 7 Habits I Learned from Working for Warren Buffett or How to Enrich Your Professional, Financial, and Personal Life” to an engaged audience.

Taylor said he learned a new set of skills and lessons when he became president and CEO of the company in 2008. He spoke fondly of Buffett, whose company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. acquired Oriental Trading in 2012, as a man who valued integrity over almost anything else.

The first habit Taylor talked about was to invest in self. He said it is important for people to develop and know a “circle of competence,” or what they know.

“Figure out what you are really good at and that’s what you focus on,” Taylor said.

But Taylor said it is equally important to pursue life experiences that increase someone’s knowledge of the world.

The second habit Taylor discussed was doing what is right no matter what. He said though many companies go against this principle, recruiters are looking for employees who have integrity. He said BYU can be a hot spot for such workers because of its values.

“Recruiters may not be LDS, but they know BYU has the Honor Code,” he said. “They want integrity.”

Taylor then talked about being passionate and encouraging people to do what they love. Ideally someone should be “tap dancing on their way to work,” Taylor said.

“You will spend a lot of hours at work,” he said. “If you love what you do, it won’t feel like work.”

The fourth habit Taylor learned from working for Buffett was to invest in the stock market. He said it is crucial to do research and find what sort of investments work personally, but starting early is the real key. He said there are many different ways to invest, and it will pay off in the long run.

Taylor said the next two habits go hand in hand: being humble and showering praise, while also giving back to society. Taylor said Buffett lives frugally even though he is incredibly wealthy. Taylor also said praise is an important factor in success, mentioning a simple note from Buffett now taped to Taylor’s refrigerator.

“Little acts of praise go a long way,” Taylor said.

He also talked about the importance of giving back to society when able. He said there are countless ways to give back and it’s vital to staying humble.

The last habit Taylor discussed was having fun. He said no one should take themselves too seriously.

During a Q&A session following the presentation, one question Taylor answered dealt with the topic of investing as a college student. Taylor suggested looking at all expenses as an investment and budgeting as much as possible. Students should figure out where they can save, he said, and put that money aside to start investing.

Taylor also stressed being flexible and open to opportunities. He said his life didn’t turn out exactly how he planned it, but ultimately that was for the best.

“Where one door closes, another one opens,” Taylor said. “There’s always something better that will come along.”

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