Narrow Web Profile: Taylor Made Labels

By Jack Kenny | July 20, 2005

An Oregon family's converting business shares the wealth with employee owners.

A friend once asked the owner of a business called Impact Label, "Everything you make is tailor-made, isn't it?" It had a nice ring to it, all the more because the owner of the label company was Robert Taylor. And so, for the past two decades the business has been known as Taylor Made Labels.

Beneath the evergreens on a side street in Lake Oswego, OR, a suburb south of Portland, is Taylor Made Labels. It's a family business — a couple of Taylors run it — but it's an extended family, because the employees have a financial stake in its operation.

Paul and Dan Taylor, sons of the founder, are president and executive vice president, respectively. They oversee a manufacturing company that is dedicated to flexographic quality, producing label products that range in colors up to eight, from blank to prime, in markets that lean toward food and promotion. The Taylors are visible in the industry, active for many years in the Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute.
Rob Wingett, production manager,
joined the company at age 13.

Humble beginning
Rob Wingett remembers the very beginnings of the company, before there were any Taylors. Wingett's step-grandfather was Jack Cleveland, who started Impact Industries in 1974 in Amboy, WA. It was a typical label converter startup: a Mark Andy 810 press in the living room. He bought an Allied slitter/rewinder, and in 1977 picked up a Mark Andy 820 press. At some point the operation moved into a Quanset hut in Yacolt, another Washington town, and finally to Vancouver, WA in 1980.

Rob Wingett remembers all of this because he started working at the business at age 13. He's still there. Today he's the production manager.

Robert L. Taylor came along in 1982. Taylor had been making his living in food brokerage sales. It was around that time that Universal Product Codes were growing in the retail and industrial marketplaces, and Taylor saw an opportunity in food labeling. He found a partner, a man who made scale labels, and they acquired Impact from Cleveland. Five years later Taylor bought out his partner and moved the company to Portland, where the name was changed to Impact Label.

When he moved the business he lost some employees, so he called up his son Paul and asked him if he'd like to help him out. Paul promptly quit his job and joined his dad.

Four years later, in 1986, Robert Taylor began a three-and-a-half year battle against leukemia. He left work to fight the disease, and by then Paul had become general manager and knew his way around every department at the company.

Dan Taylor, Paul's older brother, was off at another job, but he got the call in June 1987 and moved back to Oregon to work in the family business. By that time the firm had exceeded $2 million in annual sales.

Robert Taylor died in 1991. Joan Taylor, his wife, was the new chief executive officer. The way the sons tell it, she summoned her family and gave them this advice: "Look to the future."

"Dad was a huge believer in tomorrow," says Dan. "He made it clear to everyone that he would take some of the profits and make them work."

For a while there was a sister company, called Taylor Made Packaging, which manufactured corrugated boxes. That business was sold in the mid-1990s.

On press with an eight-color job

Pieces of the pie
Joan Taylor had a vision that she put to work six years ago. "She decided on an employee stock option plan (ESOP)," says Paul. "She sold part of her company to the employees."

Today, everyone who works at Taylor Made Labels is an owner. The employees own 30 percent of the company, and that ownership makes a difference, according to the Taylors. "We are surrounded by quality people," says Dan.

Continuing the philosophy of Robert Taylor, the children and mother (who no longer is part of the business) had invested in employees for years. "We have always been very aggressive in sharing profits," Paul says, "and that means contributing to a profit sharing plan. When we went to the ESOP, we contributed to two programs."

The company has also added a 401K plan, "which is totally self-directed," Paul adds.

Employee owners of any company share in its successes, but they also have to confront the down side if business turns in the other direction. "Many people get into ESOPs for the wrong reasons," Paul Taylor says. "It's a great transition vehicle for ownership in a company, but one problem is that people utilize it for the wrong reasons. There are some downsides and some upsides to employee stock ownership."

"We've always believed in our employees," notes Dan. "We have always shared the profits, and this is another way to do that."

An employee owner at the inspection machine

The employee ownership status has a direct effect on operations at the plant. One example is waste, both in materials and in time. The brothers say that the employee owners understand the impact that waste has upon the manufacturing process, and take steps to reduce it. The average employee at Taylor Made Labels has been with the company for seven years.

Every so often all of the owners gather together at what are known as "Piece of the Pie" meetings (at which they actually eat pie), to look over the numbers, talk over ideas, and come up with solutions to problems.

Taylor Made Labels relies on the expertise of Bill O'Brien, vice president of operations, and Barbara Terjeson, the art director. The company is proud of its prepress operation, with a talented staff that takes customer art all the way through the platemaking process.

The company also lives by its attitude statement: "Whatever your need, whatever your program, whatever the challenge if you can imagine it we can do it!"

Setting up the print job
Taylor Made Labels Inc.
17252 SW Pilkington Road
PO Box 2189
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
Phone: 503-699-5000
Fax: 800-878-8654
Web: www.taylormadelabels.com