Taylor Woodbury has always known what he wanted to do — work at the Woodbury Corporation, or “Corp,” as it’s known by the Woodbury family. He is one of more than 20 members of the fourth generation of Woodburys to work at Corp, which will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2019. “I’m proud to be a member of the company,” he says. “It can be tough at times working with family, but at the same time it’s really rewarding.”
Taylor Woodbury’s great grandfather, F. Orin Woodbury, started the Woodbury Corporation when his furniture business floundered near the end of World War I. Partnering with his brother-in-law, he began with residential brokerage, then moved into industrial real estate. The next two generations of Woodburys joined the firm and moved into retail development.
Taylor Woodbury prepared himself for his role at Corp by earning a bachelor’s degree in economics, a J.D., and an M.B.A. from George Washington University. A strong believer in formal education — his mother currently runs a charter school — he says, “I’m biased, obviously, but I believe there’s no better subject to study than economics to change the way you view the world.”
One of the things Woodbury likes about working at Corp is that he does a variety of different jobs. He’s currently the company’s treasurer, responsible for all of its cash management, including a portfolio of hundreds of entities as well as the family assets. He also helped the company start a couple of private equity funds, and he enjoys doing estate planning and gifting for the family’s charitable giving. Participating in company administration, he’s had the opportunity to plan and implement improvements. He’s currently involved in two development projects as well, one for freeway frontage at Hill Air Force Base and another in Bluffdale.
Although he’s based in Salt Lake County, Woodbury is focused on Utah County. He sees it as an incubator of entrepreneurial activity. “I think one of the endearing things about Utah County is that there’s a real spirit of entrepreneurism, and I feel like the American dream is alive and well there,” he says. “To a large extent that spirit is fostered by Utah Valley University. It’s a central part of the community. It provides an opportunity to get a top-notch education no matter what your previous station in life or whether you’re 20 or 40. I think Utah County has turned into a place where anything can happen for anybody.”
As a member of the UVU Foundation Board, Woodbury says UVU spends its limited funds wisely. He feels strongly that everyone should be able to get an education and improve their lot in life, and he sees UVU as operating with that goal in a way that other schools are not. “As I look around the area, I don’t feel like there’s any institution that does that better,” he says. “UVU is the institution that’s fulfilling its mandate the best to provide education to all, and that’s really gratifying to see. I’m always amazed to see all the success stories that UVU produces. They’re doing a tremendous job.”
The University’s core values, “serious, inclusive, and engaged,” are spot on, says Woodbury, particularly “serious,” which perfectly represents where the institution is today in its growth cycle. Those who are closest to the University already know how great it is, but a lot of people in the community still don’t view it as a serious institution or a school of choice for top students. “The public perception of UVU and where it fits into the higher education system in Utah has completely changed under President Holland’s leadership, and the cool thing is that it’s not just the public perception, it’s the students’ perception as well. President Holland has created a culture where the students are proud to be at UVU. There aren’t a lot of leaders who can do that,” he says.
Being an ambassador for the University is one of Woodbury’s favorite duties as a Foundation Board member. When an acquaintance recently mentioned being disillusioned with the institutions he supported, Woodbury told him to check out UVU and all the good it’s doing. “There are a lot of opportunities to make people aware of UVU, and the Foundation is doing a good job of raising awareness. The public perception of the University is really improving,” he says.
The other members of the Foundation Board are like the “Who’s Who” of Utah County, according to Woodbury, who considers serving on the board to be an honor. “It’s amazing who they’ve been able to get to serve on the board. Without exception they are all inspiring and accomplished and are doing such cool things with their lives,” he says. As one of the youngest members of the board, he admits to feeling a little intimidated by the others at times, but says that they’re a fun group to be a part of.
Apart from his family — Woodbury and his wife, Sarah, have four kids — Woodbury’s principal passion outside of work is water polo. He’s an assistant coach for both the girls and boys teams at Olympus High School in Holladay, Utah, and he coaches a team of younger kids during the off season. He also plays in an adult league that he helped organize. He also has served as a Boy Scouts of America cub master for the past five years and has made a point of ensuring inclusiveness by inviting every boy and parent in the neighborhood to participate.
What advice would he give to the next generation? Hard work can make up for a lot of deficiencies. “In law school, there were a lot of people who were clearly brighter than me, but because they’d always gotten by on their intellectual gifts, they didn’t really know how to bear down and focus. It was always gratifying to me when I got an A,” he says. Secondly, strive to stay positive in every situation. “You have to be able to take things in stride, to look for the solutions instead of the problems. It’s a lesson I have to keep reminding myself of.” And thirdly, be mindful of your reputation. “It’s by far the most valuable asset you have, so make sure the things you’re doing and saying are reflective of the reputation you want.”