Taiwo Jaiyeoba is an esteemed urban planner and public transit consultant with over three decades of influential work across the United States and internationally. With a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Ife, Nigeria, and a rich background in geography, Taiwo has crafted transformative urban landscapes and sustainable development strategies. His career includes pivotal roles such as the Director of Planning and Assistant City Manager for the City of Charlotte, where he oversaw the acclaimed 2040 Comprehensive Plan. A respected leader and visionary, Taiwo is also a passionate advocate for equitable growth and community engagement in urban development. His dedication extends beyond professional realms into mentorship, shaping future leaders in urban planning. Recently, Taiwo launched a consulting business, City Development Advisors LLC based in North Carolina.

How did you get started in this business?

I began my career in urban planning and public transit development after completing my education in Geography and Urban and Regional Planning. My interest in making cities better places to live, work, and play led me to pursue opportunities where I could apply my knowledge to real-world problems, starting from my work in Botswana, then moving to various cities across the United States.

How do you make money?

As Consultant, my income is driven by advising cities, government agencies, and private developers on urban development and transit projects. This includes comprehensive planning, designing public transit systems, and developing strategic land use plans that foster sustainable and inclusive growth. I also provide strategic advice to executives and leaders.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

Well, we just started the business so we are gradually building it up. The nature of consultancy and urban planning projects means that profitability can be contingent on mutual interests, the scale and duration of the projects. It takes several years of building a reputation and network before consistently securing profitability on any project. As someone who has worked in the private sector, I understand that success begets success. Thus, the success of earlier projects that I have managed will play a critical role in establishing credibility and attracting more substantial contracts.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work?

Yes!  Especially in the early stages of launching out. There were concerns that projects could be scarce to come by and payments may not come in a timely manner. Further, the outcomes of urban planning initiatives are not always immediately visible. The complex nature of urban planning, which requires navigating political, social, and economic landscapes, often made the path to success uncertain.

How did you get your first customer?

It usually starts with people who know you, who trust you and appreciate the quality of your work. My first opportunities came through referrals and through a combination of networking and the demonstration of my expertise at conferences. Engaging with the community of urban planners and transit advocates to showcase my understanding of urban issues will be very important in building upon my initial successes.

What is one marketing strategy that works well to generate new business?

Absolutely networking! It has been indispensable. Attending industry conferences, participating in seminars, and contributing to urban planning publications have been effective in building relationships and establishing my expertise in the field. These activities help keep me at the forefront of potential clients’ minds when they need consultancy services.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Recently, I had to decide to resign from my public sector employment and launch my consulting gig. With no prior customer base or long lead time in planning, it was a tough decision to leave a secured employment for self employment as a consultant. Consulting involves a significant commitment of resources and time. Balancing this decision with personal commitments was challenging, but such decisions are crucial for long-term growth and impact.

What do you think makes you successful?

My success can largely be attributed to a relentless focus on community-centric urban development, empathy, and a deep commitment to sustainability. These principles have guided my projects and have resonated well with communities and clients, differentiating my approach from others in the field.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

One of the most satisfying moments was seeing a community thrive because of the transit-oriented developments we planned and implemented. Witnessing how these projects can transform people’s daily lives and contribute to economic and social growth has been profoundly rewarding. I often think back to the time I was asked to manage a $300M light rail engineering project. As an urban planner, that’s not an opportunity you often get. However, I was able to marshal the resources needed to move the project forward successfully. That was a very satisfying professional moment.

What does the future hold for your business?

The future involves further embracing sustainable and innovative urban planning solutions, managing bus rapid transit projects connecting communities to jobs and affordable housing, expanding our reach to more places, including internationally, and continuing to influence how cities develop to accommodate future generations more effectively.

What business books have inspired you?

“Great By Choice” by Jim Collins has been particularly inspiring. It provides insights into what differentiates top-performing companies from others and stresses the importance of disciplined people, thought, and action, which are applicable in the context of urban planning as well.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would advise my younger self to focus, be patient and persistent. Urban planning projects can take years to materialize, and it’s important to stay committed to your vision and values, even when immediate results aren’t visible.

Are you willing to be a mentor?

Absolutely! I have mentored many people in my career who went on to become executives and leaders of organizations. Mentoring the next generation of urban and transit planners is something I am passionate about. Sharing knowledge and experience not only helps others grow but also enriches my understanding and perspective on urban development. Legacy is the most powerful thing a leader can leave in people!

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