Designing the family business

DANIEL Taylor used to have a corporate job. In fact, he was the European managing director of a BTR subsidiary for 10 years. “I worked a lot. I missed out on the early years of my first two children.” Taylor says this as he sits in a large executive chair, looking relaxed and cheerful.

Taylor still is a managing director– only now he runs his own company. Taylor quit his job and set up Metro Design Consultants in 1997 when BTR was sold off. Metro Design is one of the UK’s leading design-and-build companies, refitting the offices of clients such as Harley Davidson, Unite and the Conservative party. The company has grown from Taylor’s spare room to a multi-million pound business employing 40 staff.

Taylor explains that quitting his corporate life was not too difficult: “I promised my wife I would take it easy. I’d get out of the rat race and start up my own business.” While some entrepreneurs have to struggle against their family to take the plunge, Taylor’s was keen for him to quit and build a new life around them. Nowadays, Taylor has dinner with his family every night.

Taylor says Metro operates “like a good, old-fashioned firm, we encourage our children to come into the business.” His wife is a director in the firm, he credits her networking skills for some of their best deals. He jokes: “If we were chatting at a party, my wife would be chatting to your boyfriend and we would all be having dinner together next week.”

Few would have predicted that Taylor would become such a slick operator. He says the community he grew up in offered him only two role models: a basketball player or a criminal.

Taylor says that his formative years in Jamaica shaped him. “It taught me to appreciate what I have, telephones -- even electricity at times -- was a luxury.”

Hard work is important to Taylor: “I focused on my education because there was nothing else to do.” His studies took him to London’s Royal College of Art. He studied product design, flipping burgers in McDonald’s to fund his course.

Taylor has a no nonsense commercial perspective. He complains about people from his university days: “The trouble with most art students is they are precious about their designs, they don’t realise that they need to sell their products.”

This enterprising streak has stuck with him and he looks for it in his staff: “I hire for attitude not for skills.” He wants to them to be shaped by the company and the company to shape them. The sales team, for example, all have a patch of London to patrol to seek out new business.

What does Taylor tell his children over dinner? Never be afraid to flip burgers and always be working on your CV.

Studied: Royal College of Art

Lives: London with his wife and children

Car you drive: BMW XS

First ambition: Pilot

Idol: Martin Luther King

Reading: Tony Blair’s “My Journey”

Fact: On JP Morgan Top 100 Powerlist, which lists the UK’s top 100 Afro-Caribbean business people