Taylor Mason on Making Connections Outside of Your Network

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CEO & Founder
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Podcast Guest

Taylor Mason

David Mason + Associates

Episode Summary

In our ninth episode, Taylor Mason, Principal for David Mason + Associates, joins host Alana Muller to share how he looks outside of his immediate network to find people that have common goals and interests. Tune in to learn how Taylor branches out and builds bridges in order to create a diverse and beneficial network. “Go outside of your bubble a little bit and meet some people that tend to have some differing thought than you do.”



Alana Muller:    Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders, one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader, whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.
    Hello, listeners. Welcome to another edition of Enterprise.ing podcast. So happy to have you here with us today. I want to welcome our special guest today, Taylor Mason. Taylor leads the overall business strategy while managing and executing the business development and marketing efforts for David Mason + Associates. His primary focus is managing personnel and market growth strategies. Taylor, welcome to Enterprise.ing.

Taylor Mason:    Thanks for having me.

Alana Muller:    Well, I'm so glad to have you on. I'd love for you just to share a little bit about the company. Tell us a little bit about David Mason + Associates, what the company does and what your role is with the organization.

Taylor Mason:    Sure, sure. Yeah, we sound like a law firm, but we don't let that misguide you. We are an infrastructure engineering firm. We work in a number of different market sectors. We do a ton of work for utility companies. We do a lot of work for healthcare and higher education and a lot of institutional projects. We do those mainly around our cities, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, but have also been branching out. Especially through COVID and doing work nationwide. So, really happy to be here and help tell our stories a bit.

Alana Muller:    That's so great. Personally speaking, as someone who's often asked how I've been able to build a career based on networking, I really appreciate it when I meet someone whose day job is fully reliant on relationship building, like yourself. Can you talk a little bit about your work and how you engage in networking to effectively execute your responsibilities?

Taylor Mason:    Yeah, I mean, we just live by the fact that most people do business with folks that they like to chat with and want to trust. Life's too short to burn bridges and for me, building new ones every single day is really what is the key to our success from a business perspective.
    I think it's really important that you continue to look outside your immediate network and look on the periphery. “Adjacently connected,” I think is a good way to look at it. Is trying to find people that have common goals for their own organizations, but just if you can just stay connected with them, whether it's directly related to your business or not, I think it's just a really great way to build the network overall.

Alana Muller:    Yeah, I think you're right. I mean, I've always thought of that, as you described, the adjacent or people in the periphery. I always think of that as entrepreneurial networking, where you're not just staying in your own closed network, but you really are branching out beyond the four walls of your day job or the various stereotypical life that we each lead. It sounds like you're doing that in a very intentional way.

Taylor Mason:    Yeah. I mean, I think, ultimately, everybody has a goal to further their business or their practice within their own organization. The sooner you can better understand how you can impact that through the relationships that you have, whether it's directly interacting. Having a transactional-type relationship with that organization or that person, or connecting them to somebody that could, the better off you're going to be. Certainly.

Alana Muller:    Well, let's build on that. I want to ask you, what are some ways that you make connections mutually beneficial? How do you give back to show that mutual appreciation?

Taylor Mason:    I think one thing that I try to do, personally, is find organizations that the individual that you're talking to are getting to know and networking with, is affiliated with. See if there's some common ground there. More times than not, if you can help impact the organizations that they see as beneficial, helpful and key to their business, then you're more times than not going to be successful.
    So, if you find out that somebody is heavily involved in this particular organization, see if there's a way for you to get involved or get engaged, or just support some of their different events or networking activities. It's just a way to stay connected and be seen, because you're only as relevant as your last conversation, I find.

Alana Muller:    Yeah, isn't that the truth? That makes so much sense. Speaking of organizations that people are involved with, I know that you share at the Diversity Awareness Partnership organization. I'd love it if you could tell us a little bit about the organization. In particular, I'm curious to get your take on how issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion factor in now and will factor into the future, related to relationship building.

Taylor Mason:    Yeah. I think here in the St. Louis market, St. Louis has historically been a very difficult place to do business for minorities, women, people of diverse backgrounds. For me, it's just really important to be in involved in an organization like DAP that sets its mission, really, on diversity training education. Bringing together the commonalities that individuals have, more so than what separates us and pulls us apart. I'm very fortunate to be engaged in DAP and have been for a number of years.
    Not only does it allow me to better understand what's important to the organizations whom I'm doing business with, but it also just opens up the eyes of those institutions. Once you start talking about how diversity is good business instead of just a thing to do, it really does open up new perspectives. It just opens up our minds a bit, so we're not so close-minded and continue to work within the walls that we put up for ourselves, intentionally or not.

Alana Muller:    Yeah. What's fascinating about this is that, of course that's always been the case. That diversity of thought, diversity of experience, diversity of perspective, diversity of approach. That has always been the secret to success for, really, every business.
    I think finally, I mean, we are going and have gone through a very challenging time to get here, but I feel like, thankfully, we're finally having this conversation, in a very open way. It seems that companies are, at long last, willing to engage in what have been difficult discussions, but I think, ultimately, will benefit their companies.

Taylor Mason:    No question about it. I think that being on the outside, supporting an organization like DAP, that tends to be that organization that larger institutions turn to for guidance, is really impactful. Because we're able to come in with that very unique and unabashed opinion that says, "This is what's going to work for you, based on what we've seen work for other organizations."
    To your point, Alana, I think it's important that you get it on the table. You start to have some conversations about where organizations truly are, relative to DEI and overall equity within all of their practices. Then, the conversation just starts to become that much more value added, because of exactly what you just mentioned. It's differing perspectives and diversity of thought, is extremely important.

Alana Muller:    Sure. No, I just love that. Thank you for the work you're doing with that. I think it's really critical. I think it's time that we start talking about that, especially when it comes to, not just the secret of success for our businesses, as we said before, but I think it makes us happier in business and in life. So, I think it's terrific that that organization exists.

Taylor Mason:    Absolutely.

Alana Muller:    I'd love to hear about an interaction or a relationship you have with one or more people that's resulted in a breakthrough for you, either personally and/or professionally.

Taylor Mason:    Oh man, there's so many, because every relationship is unique. Every connection that's made through those individual relationships is unique. But, I think there's a couple different scenarios, where, a lot of times, the success happens because you're in the right place at the right time. But, you're also putting yourself in a position to be seen and make a difference within a networking of event. Or, just getting to know somebody who can bring you that note.
    That's how I was raised. My father always taught me, "Get a good note. If you have a good note and you have somebody calling on your behalf or making a recommendation on your behalf, you're going to be so much better and way more successful." So, one anecdote is, we do a lot of work for utility companies and there's one gentleman in particular, his name will not be revealed here, who's in a procurement position at a large utility.
    I've gotten a chance to know him just personally over the years and supported one of his foundations. Looked at the mission that he had for his own organization, from a charitable standpoint. Being a part of that was really important to him. One of the things that he helped me do, and he didn't have to do this, before he retired, was really outline who were the key companies that are doing business with his organization.
    He actually made some introductions for me, to those institutions. If we didn't have those introductions, in a lot of ways, four or five years ago, we probably wouldn't be doing business within a couple of different sectors that we are within that large utility company.

Alana Muller:    I mean, that's remarkable. Not only were you able to forge some relationships with the folks that he made introductions to, but I suspect that those introductions have led to other introductions and other business. Would you say that?

Taylor Mason:    They absolutely have, but you also have to know your source, right?

Alana Muller:    Yeah.

Taylor Mason:    You got to go to the guy that everyone respects.

Alana Muller:    Sure.

Taylor Mason:    I think it's easy to tell, once you get to know somebody's personality. The deeper you can dive and understand people on a personal level, the better off you're going to be able to make that judgment, but also, ask. Ask the favors when you need them.

Alana Muller:    Sure. Well, I'm curious to note, did he offer up those connections? Did you ask for referrals? How did that transactional conversation take place?

Taylor Mason:    That's a great question. At that point, it became very much more transactional. It was not something that I asked for, necessarily, at all. I think it was his understanding of what our goals were, expressing those and then him looking at, "Wow, how can I be a part of that and help?". I stay in touch with this gentleman to this day and I am thankful for it, every single day. I tell him every time I talk to him, how appreciative I am of him making those different connections.

Alana Muller:    Well, one of the things that I think is important for our listeners to understand is you earned his trust, right? You earned those referrals. You didn't pay for them, you didn't ask for them. He offered them to you, because he wanted to help. I think that that's something that can be really special in relationship building. That it's not just, "What have you done for me lately?" But clearly, over a number of years, you established a trusting interaction with this particular individual. He was willing to return his admiration for you with some very tangible, result-oriented opportunities. So, that's really fabulous.

Taylor Mason:    Yeah, no question. Again, it really comes down to how trusting was he of me, also, to be able to represent him the appropriate way? I feel that we gave him zero chance or zero concern that we wouldn't be able to do that. Very thankful for that opportunity.

Alana Muller:    Yeah. You were not going to embarrass him and he knew that-

Taylor Mason:    Yeah, exactly.

Alana Muller:    So, that's fabulous. What advice would you share with someone who wants to grow or cultivate their own professional network?

Taylor Mason:    It's a little bit of a slippery slope. I think you want to definitely dive into different organizations and give yourself an opportunity to meet people within your organization. Or, dive into an organization that is tangential to your day-to-day business. But again, that loosely connected, but you don't want to dive too far in, because you can get consumed in a lot of ways. By overly committing to one specific organization and not spreading yourself out just a little bit. To give yourself more opportunity to meet more people.
    So, what I would say is, if you can find one good, very industry-specific organization, dive in and really put yourself in a position to be seen. But then, also try and find one other or two other that are outside of your typical, day-to-day industry. Same folks that you typically see all the time. Go outside of your bubble a little bit and meet some people that tend to have some differing thought than you do, but also have a different perspective as to how things are brought to market or how the building's built, in my case, right?

Alana Muller:    Right.

Taylor Mason:    I think it's good to have those relationships, because ultimately, that's how you build really, really good notes.

Alana Muller:    Have you ever been surprised at the opportunities that come from something that seems so tangential that it would have nothing to actually do with your industry, yet, here was an opportunity that presented itself?

Taylor Mason:    Absolutely. One of which is, we do a lot of work for utilities, as I mentioned. One of them is water/wastewater utilities and talking to some very specific companies about doing water/wastewater design for them is something that we're going to naturally do. However, they also have a solar practice. So, about three, four years ago, we started having this dialogue about what their needs were on that side of their business. It just evolved from there.
    Now, we're doing solar projects all around the country, from Nevada to Michigan, to Texas, all over. But, it's just one of those things that came from that discussion. They liked what they were hearing, they liked the professionalism that we brought as a company. The fact that we were going to be there as a trusted partner and then some other things fall out of the conversations.

Alana Muller:    Well, what's really remarkable about that is that, not only were you providing this initial expertise related to wastewater, but you almost became a consultant, a trusted advisor. Sure, you have other services that would benefit them and there's a revenue opportunity embedded there, but the fact that you did become a trusted partner, I'm sure that was beneficial both to you and to your client. Probably to other clients as a result. That's great.
    Then, you had mentioned earlier that, during COVID, your organization really has had the opportunity to branch out. Even beyond the geography that you originally focused on. Has that level of expertise or new areas of expertise, has that helped to penetrate new markets? Or, how have you done that?

Taylor Mason:    Yeah, it's been interesting. I think, early on in COVID, we saw that getting meetings with people was actually a little easier than we would've thought. We were able to have back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings, as many of us have come to realize.

Alana Muller:    Yeah, There's no drive time between the Zoom meetings, I came to realize.

Taylor Mason:    There's no drive time. So, I'm trying to finish with five minutes left and five minutes at the top of the hour. But, I think that what we've learned is that the dialogue can happen more frequently than we would've expected. I think through those natural conversations that we're having, whether it be through a screen or via phone, the more conversations you have, the more you really get to know some people.
    I think that, yeah, it has allowed us to open up some doors, maybe, that we wouldn't have otherwise opened. Just because we're able to get to people a little faster. However, I do yearn for that in-person connection, which is really where I think a lot of business happens. Is just getting to know somebody, sitting down and chatting with them and learning who they are as a person versus what they do for a job.

Alana Muller:    Well, and I have to tell you, when I'm not engaging in coffee, lunch, coffee, as I like to say, I do love a red wine. I understand that you too are a connoisseur, so can you recommend a favorite red to enjoy while networking?

Taylor Mason:    Yeah. I jumped on the Pinot bandwagon a number of years ago, but my family enjoys EnRoute. That's one of our favorites, if you've had it. It's a Russian River Valley pinot noir and it's really spectacular. It's not super expensive, but it's not cheap. So, it's one of those that you drink on the holidays with your family. I would certainly recommend EnRoute, which is a pretty good one.

Alana Muller:    I'm going to check it out, I appreciate that. Listeners, you heard it here first, so that's great. That's great. Taylor, I want to conclude our time together by asking you just a fun question that I love to ask guests about. If you could meet with one person for a cup of coffee, it could be anyone living, not living, fictional, non-fictional, who would it be and why?

Taylor Mason:    That's such an interesting question, because I think there's so many people. But, one person that I didn't get a chance to spend as much time with that I would've liked to was my grandfather, Ted Mason. Because he has a whole different perspective on life than I do, just based on our age difference. But, he has a really cool story.
    He was a Tuskegee Airman. He was a black dentist from Cleveland, Ohio, who overcame a lot. He happens to be a good golfer, so I enjoy that as well. I think we could just have some really good conversations about what his world was when he was my age and what our world is today. What's different, what's the same. I just think that that would be one heck of a dialogue to be a part of, that I wouldn't have otherwise have had.

Alana Muller:    Ah, that's amazing. What a life, what an incredible life. I mean, gosh, the obstacles that he must have had to overcome and address and still persevere. It's just remarkable. That's a very cool one. Very cool.

Taylor Mason:    Yeah. It would've been pretty neat to hear his literal war stories, but also how things were then and where we are now. Just look in the mirror a little bit and realize what we're really grateful for. I think that's the stories and tradition.

Alana Muller:    Did you get to know him? Were you able to meet him? [crosstalk 00:16:43]

Taylor Mason:    Absolutely. But, he passed when I was a teenager.

Alana Muller:    Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But, what a great memory. That's really nice. Really nice. I appreciate that. Well, it has been such a delight to visit with you today. You've given us so much to think about and so many great tips, tricks and tools. So, I appreciate that very much. Tell us where, if people want to learn more about David Mason + Associates, where would they go?

Taylor Mason:    You can go to www.davidmason.com. You can learn a lot about DMA on our website, but please call us. We're a hands-on company, we're a family-owned business that likes to welcome people in with open arms and we have client relationship managers in all of our offices. So, please don't hesitate to reach out. We'd be happy to have a conversation.

Alana Muller:    Terrific. Taylor Mason, thank you so much for joining us on Enterprise.ing podcast.

Taylor Mason:    Thank you very much, Alana.

Alana Muller:    Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website, enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe, so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders, one conversation at a time.
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