Listening to the needs and desires of others can point to new opportunities. Entrepreneurs need to understand their target markets, and by listening, many potential solutions are revealed.
Michael L. Taylor is a man with a broad range of experiences and talents, covering the spectrum from international security assessments to counter terrorism, military operations, and sports hydration. He is the founder of Vitamin 1, a prominent manufacturer of all-natural sports hydration products for athletes and military operators. Mr. Taylor is a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets; his experiences in Middle Eastern conflicts helped shape his career path following his service to the United States. Michael is also the President and CEO of International Security Assistance Group, a security firm based in the Boston metro area of Massachusetts.
Mike Taylor has over 30 years of high-level experience in the security industry. In addition to providing vulnerability and security assessments for a global clientele, particularly for the oil and gas production industry, he has also served as a security consultant in operational environments around the world. He served as the senior security consultant for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey immediately after the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist bombing. His work for the Port Authority covered security assessments for a wide range of structures, including airports, telecommunications facilities, public transit lines, and the tunnel network of the city of New York. Because of his expertise in the field of counterterrorism, he is a frequent lecturer at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia as well as at the West Virginia headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). Mr. Taylor has also worked as a guest lecturer at the Harvard University JFK School of Government’s Institute of Politics, where he provides insights into contemporary terrorism and its security considerations.
Based on his experiences in the military and in working with U.S. fighting forces, he recognized the need for advanced hydration. The idea for Vitamin 1 was formed, and he quickly developed a business venture to support this endeavor. Mike’s passion for entrepreneurship is backed by his many years of leadership, both in military and in civilian applications. Vitamin 1 is one of the fastest-growing sports products companies in the United States. To learn more about Vitamin 1 and its products, visit .
Where did the idea for Vitamin 1 come from?
The idea for Vitamin 1 came from my experiences in the war in Iraq where I was working at the time. Our fighting forces only had water and sports/energy drinks to consume. While I won’t name names, most of the products available to soldiers were filled with sugar, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. These drinks were causing us to cramp and lose our appetites which is why I came up with the idea of creating a hydration drink that did not have the sugar or artificial colorings and flavorings, yet still provided critical electrolytes to help replace lost fluids.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I don’t have a typical day. My days range from working with international customers to handling inquiries from domestic customers within the United States. I may conduct board meetings, work with product developers, meet with vendors, and forge partnerships with collegiate and professional sports organizations. Every day is different, which is why I enjoy what I do so much.
To remain productive, I keep careful track of my time and utilize each day to its fullest. Managing my time has helped me cover all aspects of business growth, and I look forward to continued growth in the sports hydration market.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Our ideas are based on what the population needs and is healthy for them. I have spoken to countless athletes and members of the military. Most are concerned with the ingredients that go into their bodies, pointing to the need for healthy alternatives to sugar-filled sports drinks. By listening to their concerns, and then working with a talented development team, we can bring ideas to the market rapidly. Our products are a testament to this thoughtful interaction with people, listening to their needs and developing solutions as a response to those needs. With no preservatives or artificial colors and flavorings, our Vitamin 1 drink stands head and shoulders above the competition.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
One of the best trends in recent years is consumer awareness of the foods and drinks they buy. In general, consumers have much more information available to them, and many wish to lead healthier, more productive lifestyles. Key to those lifestyles are products that are free from artificial ingredients and those that don’t come with a caloric penalty from high sugar levels.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I do a very good job of listening to people. I’m a much better listener than I am a talker. Listening to the needs and desires of others can point to new opportunities. Entrepreneurs need to understand their target markets, and by listening, many potential solutions are revealed.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it was the worst job but I worked construction during my summer in high school building houses. And I learned that the men building these houses — although look like the average Joe — really had incredible knowledge on building some very impressive structures. I also learned the value of teamwork; building houses is not the place for individuals but for teams to come together to tackle complex tasks.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Knowing what I know today, I would do everything different. The main thing I would do different is to avoid the mistakes I made in the past. The popular saying “hindsight is 20/20” comes into play here; while I value the range of experiences I had, I’d love to go back and make more careful decisions about my work and my future careers.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I exercise to maintain my own fitness and mental acuity, and I listen to what people of experience have to say. It doesn’t matter what walk of life a person comes from – each has their own unique experiences and insights to learn from.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
It may sound strange, but the concept of guerilla warfare is a powerful teaching tool. In such warfare, we do what is called “force multiplication”, combining factors to give a small team greater ability to conduct operations. In the business world, the same principles apply. We get 10 people to know our product and understand the benefits and get them to sell another 10 people, and so forth. This organic method constantly grows so more people have more knowledge and are aware of Vitamin 1.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I failed several times in marketing with the wrong message such as marketing in areas where people could not readily purchase vitamin 1. Although it’s available on Amazon and other major e-commerce sites now, that was not always the case. To overcome this limitation, my goal was to focus on market sectors so that Vitamin 1 is readily available to anyone looking for advanced hydration beverages.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
To get our product known, we use the force multiplier that helps us with grassroots marketing. That is educate 1 person about our drink and have them educate 2 people. Those 2 people educate another 4 people, and so on. Ultimately, this grassroots effort works to grow product awareness by word of mouth, and that can be more cost-effective than an expensive marketing campaign.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I made a donation for kids traveling to Costa Rica to build schools for needy children. I believe in giving back to those in need, and by supporting this effort, I made a contribution to the future of underprivileged children in other parts of the world.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
E-mail. It’s a fast and convenient form of communication that can reach a global audience without too much expense. My day depends on access to email, giving me connections with vendors, customers, and retailers.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Art of War” by Sun Tsu because it applies to so many facets of life. Each chapter is devoted to a specific aspect of warfare, but the same principles apply to business leadership, entrepreneurial efforts, or organizational guidance. Leaders have drawn inspiration from this book for centuries.
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Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.