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Transcript- Episode 80: Create A Growth Environment For Students & Beyond! With Will Walls Founder & Principal Executive Officer Of W. Sales Strategies Episode 80

Oct 11, 2022

00:00:00 Will

One of the things that I think is super important is goal-setting in terms of what do you want, because if you have the audacity to dream and then you have what do I want out of life - then when I get to the Freeman Center or the counseling people or the Transfer Center, that is totally different if you come in there with your own personal goals, where do you want to be in 10 years? Where do you want to be - it starts with that.


00:00:30 Christina

The workforce landscape is rapidly changing and educators and their institutions need to keep up. Preparing students before they enter the workforce to make our communities and businesses stronger is at the core of getting an education.


00:00:43 Christina

But we need to understand how to change and adjust so that we can begin to project where things are headed before we even get there. So, how do we begin to predict the future?


00:00:55 Salvatrice

Hi, I'm Salvatrice Cummo, Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development at Pasadena City College and host of this podcast.


00:01:04 Christina

And I'm Christina Barsi, producer and co-host of this podcast.


00:01:07 Salvatrice

And we are starting the conversation about the future of work. We'll explore topics like how education can partner with industry, how to be more equitable, and how to attain one of our highest goals; more internships, and PCC students in the workforce.


00:01:21 Salvatrice

We at Pasadena City College want to lead the charge in closing the gap between what our students are learning and what the demands of the workforce will be once they enter. This is a conversation that impacts all of us. You, the employers, the policymakers, the educational institutions, and the community as a whole.


00:01:41 Christina

We believe change happens when we work together and it all starts with having a conversation. I'm Christina Barsi.


00:01:49 Salvatrice

And I'm Salvatrice Cummo, and this is the Future of Work.


00:01:52 Salvatrice

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Future of Work Podcast, I am your host Salvatrice Cummo. Today, we are starting our Speaker Series for the Future of Work Conference slated for November 8th, 2022, where we will take some time to talk to our conference panel speakers, really to learn more about them and their fields.


00:02:16 Salvatrice

Today, we will hear about a student's perspective on career pathways, college enrollment, and potential strategies moving forward to better support our students.


00:02:27 Salvatrice

With that said, we welcome Will Walls, Principal Consultant at W Sales Strategies and Pasadena City College alum. While at PCC, Will worked at the Freeman Center for career and completion, helping bridging academia and industry for students and alumni. Thank you for joining us today, Will, let's get started. How are you?


00:02:50 Will

Doing fantastic, Salvatrice, how are you?


00:02:53 Salvatrice

So, great to see you again. I miss you at the Freeman Center.


00:02:57 Will

It's good seeing you and I miss you guys too, actually.


00:02:59 Salvatrice

You have to come visit more often.


00:03:01 Will

Yeah, I do.


00:03:02 Salvatrice

Thank you for accepting our invitation to join our panel for the Future of Work. And I know who Will is, but the listeners don't. And I introduced you as Principal Consultant at W Sales Strategies, tell us what that all about is.


00:03:19 Will

I help small business owners and entrepreneurs get more through the language of sales. So, that means their elevator speech, their elevator pitch. And I basically show them the compelling words on how to sell yourself; how can you be compelling? Some people say, it's kind of like, if I say it, you doubt me, but if they say it, it's true. So, how do I get them to say it?


00:03:45 Will

So, these are the ways, these are the things that I teach people, especially small business owners and entrepreneurs, not salespeople because salespeople know. But small business owners and entrepreneurs who usually have to do everything, they even have to sell. I teach them those compelling words to have their sustainable competitive advantage, their unique value proposition. How do you do that?


00:04:08 Will

So, I specialize in those words that you use and that you say in order to sell yourself, basically. I've always been involved in sales forever, done standup comedy at a time in my life for over 20 years. So, I'm kind of the in-person specialist.


00:04:25 Will

There's two things that never can be outsourced. One is the human connection and the roofer; somebody's got to get on the roof and hit those shingles. And the conversation in-person can never be outsourced. So, that's what I specialize in.


00:04:40 Salvatrice

Especially with entrepreneurs who are seeking capital and trying to position their company for growth, and it's really all about their story and their narrative.


00:04:50 Will

There's a way to say that in an efficient and an effective way. And what I do is I help small business owners increase their productivity in that one space, because if you aren't efficient in that space where you're talking to people, you're just going to have low productivity in that place, so a cost of a customer is going to go up.


00:05:13 Salvatrice

So, speaking of that narrative and this holistic approach to not only positioning your small business for growth, you've positioned yourself for growth as well. We're kind of in this space of academia and that's the beauty of academia, is where we are constantly learning and constantly growing.


00:05:31 Salvatrice

So, I'm really curious as to what brought you back to PCC or what brought to you, I should say, to PCC, what led you here?


00:05:40 Will

I have a story.


00:05:41 Salvatrice

Please share. Please share.


00:05:43 Will

I had a really good friend of mine who was always talking about her brother and you talk about your siblings, whatever. So, she was talking about her brother and she had introduced me to him once and he was like unemployed, not really doing too much, kind of floundering. And so, she's always talking about her brother.


00:06:03 Will

So, then all of a sudden, her brother starts taking classes at PCC; music major, I'm like, okay, yeah, whatever. So, then she's always talking about her brother, how he was not doing that well. Then all of a sudden, she starts bragging about her brother, how he starts doing better.


00:06:20 Will

He started out as a music major, then switched his major to computer science. He's getting all As, he's killing it. Next thing you know, all these companies are trying to hire him to create apps and all this stuff.


00:06:35 Will

He keeps going, he transfers to a four-year school, keeps going, gets his master's degree and he's like killing it. This is someone that I saw this happen. I know this person, I was introduced to him way back. And today, this person is an actual professor at PCC in computer science.


00:06:57 Will

In 2020, I was on the phone with my friend and her brother and we were having a conversation just about life. And he told me, this was his exact words; "PCC changed my life, bro." That's what he said. And guess what? It did. And I saw it, I witnessed PCC changed his life.


00:07:16 Will

So, January 2020, I was like I want PCC to change my life, so I enrolled. And my first day of class was February 18th, 2020. And my whole point was to how do I get this to change my life. And one of the things I remember he told me - his name is Dave Smith. I'm going to out him. He's Smith.


00:07:40 Will

He actually spoke at my graduation, which was so cool. He was one of the speakers at my graduation. But one of the things he said in this pep talk was take advantage of all the resources, be open because you don't know what you don't know. And I jumped in, and I've been open. It's been absolutely quite a journey.


00:08:00 Will

And my whole point was how do I get PCC to change my life for the better? How do I become more? So, that's what this has been about for me, because I'm not a tradition student. It'd been like 30 years since I had last been in school. And so, I decided to go back and that's basically, I saw PCC change someone's life. So, I wanted it to change mine, and it's doing that.


00:08:24 Salvatrice

You said something very important. You said I'm not a traditional student. I didn't really kind of fit the archetype of a traditional student. And I feel like that is a missed opportunity really for community colleges. I mean, I'm sure we'll dive into it a little bit later in this conversation, but it's a missed opportunity when we are potentially not recognizing a missed market.


00:08:45 Salvatrice

We have our focuses as a body of institutions. We have our focus on the transfer student and which is great. And then the students coming in from high school. But what about you and I that are looking to upscale, change directions - that's all workforce.


00:09:01 Will

So, to me, I'm an advocate for workforce training, I'm an advocate for upskilling and retooling. And I'm lucky that I have all that at my fingertips and I have domain experts and professionals like you at my fingertips too that I can learn from. But it's like how do we shift the mindset that the community college is the place to be and to do just that?


00:09:25 Will

I think it ties into what do you want? Because I came here with a goal; how do I make this place or my experience here work for me? Every class, I would meet with my professors beforehand and I'd let them know that I want to somehow use this in my life. That's what I'm trying to ... okay, how do I use this stuff that I'm about to learn in my life?


00:09:55 Will

So, what I'm saying is that it's important to have goals before you get here. Even the students, even the young students, it's like having a goal, what do you want? What is your why? That's so important because there's a lot of resources that PCC has. There's a lot of help.


00:10:14 Will

But if you don't know what you want or what you're shooting for or what you're trying to do, it kind of makes it, I think, more difficult for you guys to even help. If you don't have a goal, having an ed plan, it's kind of weird. It's like how do you really get the best out of an ed plan If you don't have a personal goal in life, what are you trying to do? What do you want to be? Where are you trying to go?


00:10:38 Salvatrice

How did that influence your decision as to what major you wanted to go into? Like because even prior to that, as students, we need to ask those questions and figure out what our purpose is here and why we're here to begin with. But like what influenced the why maybe?


00:10:53 Will

That's a great question. That's a great question because I love that question. Because I've always been a sales guy, sales training, helping small business owners and entrepreneurs. So, I had a whole lot of passion, whole lot of pathos.


00:11:03 Will

So, one of the things that PCC gave me was ethos and logos. It helped me with my credibility to offset all this passion because I talk about stuff really passionately. So, in terms of my major, I started out as a business major and I remember saying quite often, "I don't know what I don't know. I don't know what I don't know."


00:11:30 Will

And I remember Dave told me to be open. So, I got my goals, I know where I'm trying to go, but I'm open because I don't know what I don't know, and I often said that to counselors, professors. And so, I took a class in anthropology (study of people) and then they told me there's four different disciplines.


00:11:51 Will

One was linguistics. I'm like, oh my God, are you kidding me? That's a thing? You mean I can major in that. So, it like totally blew my mind that that exists and that I could focus on that and met with my professor. And I told her about my goals, what I'm trying to do, who I am, and how could I tie this in? And they helped me see it. They helped me see it.


00:12:15 Will

I met with a counselor and I said, "Hey, this is who I am, this is what I do. This is what I'm thinking. What do you think?" I mean, they're the experts, you know what I mean? So, they said, "Yeah, that makes sense. I can see yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, you should." So, it clicked.


00:12:27 Will

So, for me, I went from a business major, switched to linguistic anthropology. That's my jam because I have the business background. I already have that. So, it compliments me as a speaker, as a person that teaches the language of sales language. Sales has been around for hundreds of years.


00:12:45 Will

For years, I've been saying that. That totally ties into linguistic anthropology, cultural nuances. It ties together. So, that's how it all ties in for me. But that's from being open, totally being open, and listening to the counselors, listening to my professor.


00:13:02 Will

My anthropology professor, she told me once we had this conversation; she said "Welcome to the discipline." That's the last thing she said to me.


00:13:12 Salvatrice

I love that. And through these experiences, Will, did you feel there could have been room for more opportunities for us as PCC to provide different or better career exploration or even as a system - like it's not just about PCC, but it's about our system of community colleges.


00:13:29 Salvatrice

Was there a point where you said, gosh - or maybe you've witnessed it or experienced it; there could be a moment here that we didn't capture that we could be better at?


00:13:39 Will

Me being the entrepreneur person and then working at the Freeman Center - I'm going to say this in the most loving, kindest, gentlest way; one of the things I think the Freeman Center kind of misses is the whole aspect of these kids wanting to be an entrepreneur. Maybe some of them don't really want a job, they don't want to work for someone else, they want to start a business.


00:14:02 Will

They want to have their own business. And I think that it's a whole area that we're missing in terms of talking to the kids from the perspective of some of you aren't going to go and work for someone else. Some of you are going to start your own business and have a business plan, and everything that goes along with that.


00:14:23 Will

Especially these millennials today with influencers and all that and everything, if there was an area where we made some of that available, where we talked a little bit about having your own business, being an entrepreneur, working for yourself, I think it would attract more of the students that are already here.


00:14:45 Will

I think the Freeman Center would attract more students in general because part of being an entrepreneur, building your own business, you may have to get a job to support your dreams and your goals. So, they go hand-in-hand. I've always been an entrepreneur, but I always had a job as well to support my dreams and goals until I can make the total jump.


00:15:07 Will

But I think that is an area that we kind of miss by not talking enough about the entrepreneur spirit. With the pandemic that happened, a lot of people worked from home. A lot of them don't want to go back to a job. A lot of entrepreneurs out here, that whole area is an area that I think we may miss just a little bit.


00:15:31 Salvatrice

So thankful you said that. I feel like this is a universe working at its finest right now because there's been so many moments. There's two things happening here; one, you're absolutely right, capturing the entrepreneurial spirit. We're in the Mecca here of entrepreneurial ecosystem just within the city of Pasadena.


00:15:49 Salvatrice

And even if we just took what already exists, like the Small Business Development Center, and continue to braid further into the college campus is amazing. When I say the universe is working at its finest, because it's been one of my goals to build an entrepreneurial center within the Freeman Center.


00:16:10 Will

Oh my God.


00:16:12 Salvatrice

It really has, honest because you're right, like there's so many disciplines. Like entrepreneurial spirit, the entrepreneurship, in general, is braided across disciplines. It's not a single standalone entity.


00:16:25 Salvatrice

I have a master's in entrepreneurship and innovation and I always go back and forth, can entrepreneurship be taught? Can it not? And I'm always doing this dance of whether or not it can or can't be, but I think there's a happy medium. I think that there are tools, elements, both on the soft skill side and the hard skill side.


00:16:45 Salvatrice

I think there's a good way for us to braid that. And I think that having an entrepreneurial center presence on campus will really help what you're talking about. It's like, we have a massive opportunity here to even shift career goals.


00:16:58 Salvatrice

Because I think about careers that we talk about all the time and it's like, well, there is a level of entrepreneurship within there. And there's also a level of entrepreneurship where companies are seeking entrepreneurs to solve some of their largest problems. And it can be in the most non-traditional industries, but they're out there. They're out there seeking entrepreneurs to help solve organizational issues.


00:17:22 Will

I think they would complement each other. It would totally complement everything that Freeman Center does because Freeman Center does what it does very well. But I think that other part will totally complement it. Because I think in 2022, you kind of need both. You just do.


00:17:39 Salvatrice

They need to be able to see and witness and experience what that looks like and what is possible. Now is a perfect timing, actually, I think, and maybe you would agree as an entrepreneur, just to be bold and be unapologetic.


00:17:56 Salvatrice

I heard those two phrases at one of our CEO meetings. In fact, Dr. Keith Curry - make sure I share where I got that from. He shared that with us. Dr. Curry said, he's like we got to be bold and we have to be unapologetic. And I thought, God, that hit home for me. And now, through our economy, like this is the time to do it. This is the time where we can shake things up a little bit and test things out and see if it works.


00:18:21 Will

With that being said, for me, when you talk about this and entrepreneurs - I think it always gets back to goal-setting. I watch these kids come into the Freeman Center and ask for help. And one of the things that I think is super important is goal-setting in terms of what do you want, totally what do you want.


00:18:43 Will

Because if you have the audacity to dream, and then you have your own personal, what do I want out of life - then when I get to the Freeman Center or the counseling people or the Transfer Center that is totally different. If you come in there with your own personal goals in life, where do you want to be in 10 years? Where do you want to be?


00:19:09 Will

Because I always feel like it's like a Smörgåsbord. You get to pick what you want, what you want to be. It starts with that.


00:19:18 Will

When I first started my business, I started by helping youth that were being emancipated out of the foster care system and I'm trying to teach them sales skills and all this stuff, but it was too much. I have to go back and spell it back to goal-setting. Just simple.


00:19:34 Salvatrice

Do you think that the student mentality has changed towards that after experiencing the last two and a half years now, since 2019, with this shift in our environment, shift in economy, and everything got thrown upside down? Do you think that the student mentality has changed towards that? Or do you feel like they're kind of going the other direction?


00:19:56 Will

What I see is students show up and I don't see them taking advantage of resources. I can't tell you how many times I've said to someone, "Have you been to the Transfer Center?" "No." I'm like "How long have you been taking classes? Have you met with the counselor?" "No."


00:20:13 Will

I'm shocked when I hear a student say that. And so, in my mind, that's a huge problem. They show up and not take advantage of meeting with counselors, meeting with the Transfer Center. To me, that's a big issue because what's going to happen is they'll end up taking classes, and next thing you know, they're on academic probation because they've taken too many classes and they're kind of all over the place, and they don't see the importance of transfer center, counselors.


00:20:43 Will

And I'm not talking about just one counselor. I mean, meet with as many counselors as you can, meet many advisors as you can, as many professors as you can. I think that's one of the biggest issues that surprised me, because it's not like it's your area of expertise. You don't know this stuff. You don't know about transfer and what it requires and all that. So, why are you trying to do it on your own? That blows my mind.


00:21:09 Will

But I don't know what it takes for them to see and understand that you don't know what it takes to transfer. You're going to make a mistake if you're just taking classes and you're not relying on the guidance of counselors and advisors and as many people as you can to help you.


00:21:27 Will

Maybe it goes back to not having a goal. How do you get people to see that you need help? You can't do this on your own. This isn't your area of expertise; picking classes, and knowing how to transfer appropriately and efficiently.


00:21:41 Salvatrice

I think that's a real struggle, Will, like a real struggle across higher education, is how do we ensure that all the students know what's available at their fingertips? What are ways in which we can do that to the existing students.


00:21:55 Salvatrice

But then the other side of that is how do we even appeal to them to begin with? Our offerings, our positionality in the community, our wraparound services that we just talked about now, how do we appeal to incoming students? And then also, demonstrate and share and connect students to the services and resources that are available.


00:22:18 Salvatrice

We're always testing those two things. I really feel strongly that in the next five years, our student archetype is going to look drastically different than it did even two years ago, or now for that matter. So, from a non-traditional student lens, what could you think are some things or some thoughts or some initiatives or ideas - what could we do to appeal more to that non-traditional student lens?


00:22:45 Will

When you were asking me that, I was thinking of my own process and what I was thinking, what did I want? I want what Dave had. I want what Dave got. He got his life to change for the better. And I saw it happen. I know Dave just bought a house in Pasadena, that's what I heard.


00:23:05 Will

So, I saw and heard his experience and I saw his life become way better. I saw that. So, that's what I wanted. I wanted my life to become better and I wanted to use PCC as the vehicle to get me there. I think from a sales perspective, you got to find out what the person wants. And that's the question; what do you want?


00:23:38 Will

So, whoever it is, whether it's somebody right out of high school or a non-traditional student, what do you want? Not what do you want to be? That's different. What do you want? So, that might mean I want to buy a house on the coast, I might want to be an internationally known speaker. What do you want?


00:24:01 Will

If you find out the want, what they want from a sales perspective, then you own them because all you have to do is connect the vehicle, meaning PCC as the vehicle to get you to what you want. I think that's the key, I really do.


00:24:22 Salvatrice

Are there barriers you think to that for us as higher ed or even as a student, are there barriers, you think?


00:24:28 Will

The barriers is going to be goal-setting. That's going to be the goal - so that'll be a barrier for you if I don't have a goal. It's going to be hard for you to help me if I don't have a goal. And guess what? It's going to be hard for me to help myself if I don't have a goal. I say, "What do you want?" That's the first step.


00:24:48 Will

The goal-setting thing I use, I get it from Zig Ziglar. I've been from way back. The first thing you do is you have to identify what do you want, and that is the goal. So, if you don't figure that part out, nothing happens. You can't help me and I can't even help myself.


00:25:05 Will

Well, I guess what I'm saying, Salvatrice, is that somehow, PCC should be the place of asking what is it that you want. If you can find out what people want and get them to say it, not you - not PCC, get them to tell on themselves - from a sales perspective, you got to get the customer to say it. Because if I say it, you're going to doubt me. But if you say it, it's true.


00:25:28 Will

So, how do I get you to say it? I got to ask you the right question. What do you want? And if they tell on themselves, guess what? The answer to that or the vehicle to get you to what you want is PCC and all its resources; the Transfer Center, the Counseling Center, the Freeman Center, the other counselors, the advisors.


00:25:50 Will

Those are all the things that are going to get you all the resources. This thing that you said, I didn't say it. But this thing that you said, you want it. Either you're telling the truth or you're wasting time.


00:26:06 Salvatrice

That's right. I usually like to close out the session by sharing or asking the question, hey, if there's one thing that you want to share to our listener about ... just one takeaway from this conversation that can impact them in the future, I feel like you've said, it's like what do you want? In goal-setting, that hit home for me too. It should hit home for everybody.


00:26:29 Salvatrice

Because I think you would agree with me, Will, that we are each and every one of us, we are always in this constant state of improvement, this constant state of evolution, and our mindsets change, our environments change, people around us change. And so, we always have to be asking these questions about goals and what do we want.


00:26:49 Salvatrice

But is there one thing that you would want our listener to understand about what you talked about that can impact them in the future?


00:26:57 Will

Of course, I keep going on and on and on about goals and having a goal. But before you can have a goal, I'm going to say, give yourself permission to dream, because I know what it's like to lose that where you just stop dreaming.


00:27:16 Will

I got connected to that again. And so, I just can't stress how important it is to have a dream of ... you know what I mean? So, in your mind, in the invisible place of your ideas is that place where you give yourself the permission to dream again.


00:27:36 Will

Because once you do that, then you can get to the goal-setting part of it, and then the writing it down, and then the action and all that. But it all starts with giving yourself permission to dream because it's just everything.


00:27:52 Salvatrice

I really appreciate that. I really appreciate it. I hope that our listener is taking that to heart too. Thank you Will so very much. Again, privilege and honor, and I can't wait to hear you and see you at our upcoming conference on November 8th here at PCC.


00:28:07 Salvatrice

We'll put all the details in the show notes, but if there's someone in our listening world out there, they wanted to connect with you, what's the best way for them to connect with you?


00:28:17 Will

My website is It's pretty simple. If you can't get in touch with me, you're not trying very hard. I'm pretty sure. and there's many ways; you can email me, it's pretty simple.


00:28:32 Salvatrice

You're incredible. Thank you so much. We'll put those in the show notes as well, and we'll look forward to pretty soon just right around the corner.


00:28:38 Will

Sounds good. Thank you, Salvatrice, this was fantastic. I loved it.


00:28:42 Salvatrice

Thank you.


00:28:42 Salvatrice

Thank you for listening to the Future of Work Podcast. Make sure you're subscribed on your favorite listening platform so you can easily get new episodes every Tuesday.


00:28:54 Salvatrice

You can reach out to us by clicking on the website link below in the show notes to collaborate, partner, or just chat about all-things future of work. We'd love to connect with you. All of us here at the Future of Work and Pasadena City College wish you safety and wellness.