Twenty years ago, Shawn Taylor left his job at General Motors (GM) to
pursue his vision of becoming a business owner and motivational speaker. Now an author, real estate advisor, and business coach, Taylor says he's never looked back. The Sterling Heights resident shares with Metromode his interactions with celebrities through his work, what it's like to break down barriers in his community, and what he hopes for his city.
Shawn TaylorMetromode: What inspired your career change?
All I had was a hope and a dream, with no guarantee. All I knew is that I wanted to help people and empower leaders. I left my job, and I took action, even with the challenges that came up for me, and I feel pretty blessed that I did. Life has never been the same since.
What happened after you left your role as a specification analyst at GM?
My first business was a janitorial service. As I knew this was not where my heart was, I knew I would learn the most valuable life lessons to set me up and springboard my real success later in life. What this business has taught me was how to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I learned about leadership and how to get people motivated to get the job done; I learned about business processes and creating systems. I grew this from a one-person business with one truck to multiple trucks and multiple employees throughout Southeast Michigan. I then sold that business off and started to invest in my real passion. Now I was feeling very comfortable in business and had sufficient capital to do what I wanted, investing in real estate.
What was it like diving into the real estate world?
I bought my first investment property for $1,000. It was a burnt-up three-bedroom house in a not-so-good part of Detroit. I ended up putting about $15,000 into the property and, within a year, sold it for like $45,000. I did a few houses like this and realized I could not capture all my profits because I didn’t know as much as I should about a house's condition. This led me to look at what training I can enroll in to learn more about a house.
You describe becoming a home inspector as "the best investment ever," but it's more than a financial investment for you.
After about five years, the business was very successful and dear to my heart. I put everything into it. I worked for [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] as an inspector during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I still work in disasters currently, but not as an inspector but as a FEMA Inspector trainer. I train and motivate the inspectors, and somehow FEMA and the inspectors love me and my energy.
How did this branch into coaching and motivational speaking?
I found myself constantly consulting people on the real estate business and business in general. So I kept studying entrepreneurship but from a mental development perspective. And when I consult people, very rarely was it about the process of business but always on the mental side of the business. Your outcome will always be based on the way you think. So I noticed that I was changing people's thoughts.
What have been some highlights for you in this business?
As my name grew and stage presence grew, this landed me on stage with my mentor, Les Brown. It was like a dream come true to meet him and have my five minutes of fame on stage with him.
You also introduced President Joe Biden, when he was U.S. vice president, at an event in 2012. How did that come about?
I answered phones [for the Obama campaign], making phone calls, and then started going to small events and being asked to speak to individuals to get them to volunteer. This led to me being on the payroll and speaking at larger events. Then I get a phone call from headquarters stating that I was selected to do a quick motivational speech and introduce the vice president of the United States. I just cried! Unbelievable. Once again, being able to do what I love, speak in front of thousands of people at home, downtown Detroit.
You're a member of Sterling Heights' Ethnic Community Committee. How do you see the city changing?
When I moved to Sterling Heights about 20 years ago, there was a lot of negative stigma attached to this city. All the negativity is based on your color or ethnicity. It was always called "Sterling White" instead of Sterling Heights in the urban city, and I didn’t like that. So after living in Sterling Heights, then about five years in, I ran for a spot on the city council. And after speaking to the residents, they clearly let me know they were not ready for a black council member, which really angered me because my neighbors seem to really like me.
I volunteered at my daughter's schools regularly. Still, in that moment of going door-to-door, it brought me right back to that “Sterling Whites” mentality. So I didn’t get a seat at the city council, but I took another route to let my voice be heard, and it started with the Ethnic Committee. It wasn’t what I was expecting as an ethnic committee, but it was clearly a start and one that I’m glad to be a part of. I have since joined a few other committees, such as Sterling Heights Housing Committee and Council Committee.
What's one motivation you like to leave your audience with?
I want to leave people with a quote from Dexter Yager: "When the dream is big enough, the odds don’t matter."
Shawn Taylor describes his training as a home inspector as one of his best business investments.