Joe Taylor talks about global travel, keeping up with classmates, and the value of the MBA.

Though his diverse background, from television news to public relations, was a natural fit for the transition into his current career (media monitoring), Joe Taylor recognized early on he was missing the key pieces to becoming the industry expert and businessman he desired. Through this realization, and encouragement from a mentor, Taylor set out to gain the practical knowledge he needed with the Carlson Executive MBA Program (CEMBA).


In a recent interview with the Carlson School, Taylor talks about his career journey, global travel, keeping up with his CEMBA classmates, and the value of the MBA.


Tell us a bit about your work history. Where did you start and how did you end up where you are now?

My first job out of college was as a radio news reporter in Tulsa, OK. I moved from there to television news reporting and then to public relations. It was while I was working as a media liaison for a PR agency that I stumbled upon the idea of monitoring the local news media for my clients. This eventually led me to start Oklahoma's first media monitoring firm in 1991. Since then, I have worked in the media monitoring industry almost exclusively.


A few years after CEMBA, I was recruited by the country's dominant media monitoring firm to serve as director of content. Last year I left the company to start my own consulting practice. My first project took me to Tanzania in East Africa. Over the next 12 months I have additional projects in the Middle East and South America.


What responsibilities do you have in your current role? Do you feel the CEMBA program prepped you for your current role?

As a media monitoring consultant, I help monitoring firms around the world improve their operational processes and business practices. My direct experience in the media monitoring business helped develop my practical expertise, but CEMBA helped me become a well rounded business executive, especially in the critical areas of accounting, finance, and negotiation.


Not only did it fill the rather large holes in my understanding of the finance side of business, it gave me the confidence to present myself as an expert in the media monitoring industry.


Was there a defining moment in your life that prompted you to pursue further education?

I sold my first start up to a New York City firm in 1997. In the process of negotiating that sale, I became aware of how naïve I had been as an entrepreneur and business owner. A few years after that, I was lucky enough to develop a mentor/mentee relationship with a new boss who encouraged me to pursue an MBA. I was living in Minnesota when I was finally able to start an MBA program--my research indicated Carlson was the best program in the state.


What did you find to be the most challenging part of the CEMBA program?

For me, the most challenging part of CEMBA was trying to keep up with the rest of my team. Not only were they great people on a personal level, but each was intellectually exceptional and were already distinguished in their professions. I had to work hard to try to match their contributions.


There's been quite a bit of media surrounding the value of higher ed, specifically the MBA. What are your thoughts?

A year or so after I graduated from CEMBA, my mentor asked if the degree had been worthwhile. This is the same guy who once complained that he knew people who gained nothing from their MBAs. He was really asking me "was that master's degree wasted on you?" The answer is CEMBA changed my life. Without the education and team projects provided by the program, I would not be qualified to do what I do now.


What books would you recommend to our future Carlson School leaders?

I've been reading about decision-making lately, including Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass R. Sunstein and Richard H. Thaler, and Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz.


Any motto, words, or themes you live by?

For business endeavors, my favorite quote comes from Teddy Roosevelt: "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."


Life isn't all about work! What do you do for fun?

History is my hobby. I am much more likely to be reading the biography of a historical political figure than to be reading just about anything else. I also buy and sell antiques on the side.