David Williams may have surprised a room full of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business when he gave them some advice for the future during a speech on Sept. 19, 2012. Quite simply, he told them to use a common tool from their elementary school days: the Venn Diagram.
Williams, CEO of Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, advised students to construct a Venn Diagram of their abilities, passions and desired salary to determine what career paths they should pursue. “Where they all intersect is where you want to be,” he said.
Kicking off the CEO@Smith Speaker Series for the 2012-13 academic year before a standing-room-only crowd in Frank Auditorium, Williams noted his amazement that people would sit on the floor to hear him speak.
Advising the audience that the biggest factor for success is perspective, Williams explained that in the business world, that means having the correct perspective for a client’s problems and helping them figure out those problems. It’s important to know the facts, but one also needs to have a point of view, he said. “Take advantage of the fact that everyone’s perspective is different.”
Williams also discussed five principles he relies on: building relationships, creating and sustaining the brand, operating with discipline, knowing the customer, and consistently offering solutions.
He focused on the first three during his presentation.
He said that, in building relationships, one has to be deliberate, and doing so will pay off. Regarding branding, he cited two important factors: to become the best one can be at one’s craft, which Williams noted is an ongoing exercise, and to be a good communicator, translating the craft into something clients can understand.
Operating with discipline is about “making good choices,” Williams said. He stressed the importance of this in situations when the best decision for the business may conflict with the best decision for the client, and either of those decisions (or both) could conflict with what’s best for the business’ partners. The destination shouldn’t be the primary concern, but, rather, the journey and the choices made along the way, he said.
Williams has more than 25 years of experience providing advice and counsel to clients engaged in business transactions or facing critical business events. During his tenure with Deloitte, Williams has served in various leadership roles spanning Deloitte FAS’ two major business arms: Forensic & Dispute Services and Advisory Services. Most recently, he was the national leader of the Advisory Services practice.
He earned his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.