There’s not much Carlyn Taylor hasn’t done during her career. She’s done generalist litigation consulting, restructuring, investigations, transaction strategy, business planning, investment banking and anti-trust work and launched multiple practices across 31 years in the consulting industry.
“Consulting is an extremely challenging but stimulating and rewarding career,” Taylor says. “It’s demanding and it goes up and down and it’s unpredictable.”
Taylor also infuses that high-energy mentality into her life outside of work, as she is an avid long-distance cyclist and skier.
“I’m a big work hard, play hard kind of person,” Taylor says. “I believe in exercising pretty much every day or I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace that I keep.”
Variable and energetic endeavors are a perfect fit for Taylor, who admits she “gets bored easily” but “loves learning new things.” However, for someone that has jumped from specialty to specialty, Taylor has never actually changed jobs. She got her start at Price Waterhouse in 1990, eventually rising the ranks to become the youngest partner in the firm’s history in 1998. The day she made partner was also the day Price Waterhouse merged with Coopers & Lybrand to form what we now know as PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC. Taylor worked within PwC’s restructuring practice for four years before the company sold the practice to FTI Consulting, where she still works today as global co-leader of corporate finance and restructuring.
“I just can’t imagine myself in one company. Consulting is so varied and so dynamic. I think after doing it my whole career, I’d have a really hard time at one company,” Taylor says, noting that she’s turned down plenty of job offers along the way, including a few CEO roles. “I’ve been unable to emotionally give up the variety and the learning curve and the dynamic nature of consulting.”
Taylor has controlled the variance in her career, launching multiple practices, both with PwC and FTI, including a renowned telecom, media and technology consulting unit in 1995. Taylor has continued to add new practices at FTI, expanding its reach beyond restructuring to include industry practices and revenue-growth practices, which, in turn, have opened the firm’s clientele to include companies across the business life cycle spectrum.
“I really enjoy creating new practices for the firm,” Taylor says. “What I like to do is look at where opportunities are, what are other firms doing that we’re not, what’s strategic.”
With Taylor’s leadership, FTI is continuing to expand its services as well as its geographic reach. For example, while it has been active in England and Germany for quite a while, it is currently finishing a full footprint expansion in Europe.
Restructuring Done Right
Of all the varied experiences she’s had in her career, Taylor says working in restructuring has been the one she’s enjoyed the most. She worked in that space exclusively from 1999 to 2005 and then got back to doing more after the 2008 financial crisis. Although she can’t put an exact number on it, Taylor estimates that she’s worked on roughly 140 restructurings during her career, including nearly 100 that equated to more than $200 billion in debt at the beginning of the 21st century as the telecommunications industry crashed.
In one particularly memorable assignment, Taylor almost shut down the internet in several countries in Asia. In that instance, Taylor was hired by a syndicate of banks that had lent billions of dollars to a company that owned subsea cable infrastructure in parts of Asia. When the company ran out of cash, it asked the banks to wave all covenants and payments. Taylor visited with the borrower, explaining that since the company was worth quite a bit, the banks could liquidate it, sell the assets and collect the receivables, something she told the CFO of the venture over breakfast, she recalls.
“They certainly could cough up some money if they wanted to. They had clearly chosen not to,” Taylor says. “They kind of panicked that we would shut down the internet in certain countries.”
Within 24 hours of meeting with Taylor, the borrower made a cash payment of $300 million to the banks with the company promising it could get back on track. Taylor was brought in a year later and obtained a second $300 million payment when the company was again unable to meet its debt commitments.
Although not every one of her assignments has had such high stakes, Taylor believes in a consistent approach to restructuring. To start with, she says its important to do business with people you trust. Adhering to this principle has helped her maintain a long list of recurring clients, some of whom have worked with her for more than 20 years.
Taylor also believes in being transparent and direct with clients and partners. She is not afraid to tell a company when she and her team do a great job, but she also doesn’t shy away from telling a client that FTI didn’t perform up to her standards. In those rare cases, Taylor is proactive in negotiating fees and finding other solutions to make things right.
Making an Impact
Taylor isn’t doing as much direct restructuring work these days, although she still has her finger on the pulse of the industry, noting that it’s gone from being a money-center-bank-controlled process to one more controlled by funds. This has created a more dynamic market and significantly expanded the number of stakeholders involved in these transactions.
When she isn’t monitoring the restructuring world, Taylor is mainly assisting private equity firms, giving her the opportunity to work with a variety of different portfolio companies in multiple industries. However, she is also doing transaction diligence, merger integration and carve-out work while sprinkling in some restructuring here and there.
In terms of what’s next, Taylor says as much as she’s avoided it to this point, she’d like to run a company as CEO some day and is planning on joining more boards. She’s already started on that front, serving as an independent director for Flowserve, a company that makes pumps, valves and seals for liquid control systems.
Regardless of what the future holds, Taylor already has a long career of success to look back upon, but its not her own accomplishments that fill her with pride.
“The thing I’m proudest of is the number of people for whom I’ve had a lasting major impact on their career and their happiness with their career,” Taylor says, noting that she has “lost track” of the number of people she’s promoted to senior managing director roles. “I’ve spent an enormous amount of time in my career trying to help people figure out what they enjoy and then help them get there and help them achieve their career goals.”
Taylor is also proud of the relationships she’s formed with businesses and their leadership teams over the years, whether they be one-time clients or long-term partners.
“I had one CEO tell me unsolicited that the work we did was the most valuable thing she had ever seen consultants do in her career,” Taylor says. “I’m proud of that kind of stuff that makes you feel like you really had an impact on a business.”