Motivational speaker transfers NBA skills to the business world
Walter Bond teaches audiences the importance of connecting
By Charles Hallman
After leaving the NBA, Walter Bond was told he didn’t have enough experience during his job searches. “We’re looking for someone with more experience,” he vividly recalls being told by interviewers who didn’t think playing against and with the world’s best athletes in both college and the pros qualified him for the business world.
“You won’t find [any]one more experienced than me,” he told the interviewers. Looking back, Bond said that not getting hired was the best thing that could have happened to him.
He has been a motivational speaker for over a decade, appearing before nearly 75 major corporations around the country and teaching his audiences around the world basic principles for success through speeches, workshops, and through his books and CDs.
“I want you to reach your potential,” said Bond as the November 20 featured speaker at the North Community YMCA Business Speaker Series. He played basketball at the University of Minnesota in the 1990s and later became the first rookie free agent to start for the Dallas Mavericks. “Confidence is a skill level — I think everyone in the room can be confident.”
He told the audience that one of business’ best kept secret is “the likeability factor”: “While some people brighten the room when they come in, [others] brighten up the room when they leave. Do you brighten up the room when you enter or leave? I would never hire a person who is not likeable…
“You’re either a tough decision or a no-brainer in business,” continued Bond, who proudly told the audience that because of his current 40-day speaking schedule, he’s a no-brainer.
Bond cited several persons who have had influence on his life. “I’m successful because of my dad. He was a phenomenal role model,” Bond said proudly. “My daddy did a great job of laying the economic landscape for my family. I can always hear my father’s voice. I was not raised by a single mom.”
Secondly, he pointed out that coaches “are the greatest salesmen in the world because they sell hopes and dreams.” He saw this up close and personal as many major college coaches visited him and his family at his home as a high school star in Chicago, but only one “sealed the deal” with him and his family.
Bond recalled when he first met Clem Haskins, “[He] looked like success, looked like money” as the former University of Minnesota coach was dressed in a three-piece business suit. “In 30 minutes, he had my mother wrapped around his finger. He sold me hopes and a dream,” remembers Bond.
He strongly suggests that the business people be more than just effective communicators. “All the other schools who tried to recruit me were all effective communicators,” said Bond, “but they couldn’t close the deal. Clem Haskins came into my home and connected. So if you want to close deals, stop communicating and start connecting.”
Bond said he also watched John Stockton and Karl Malone during his brief stint with the NBA’s Utah Jazz. “I was around great people and I paid attention to every little detail,” he proclaimed.
The speaker urged the audience in his closing remarks to get more involved in the center’s programming — the North Community YMCA is the Twin Cities’ only Y solely designed for youth and teens. “North Minneapolis is in trouble. These boys and girls didn’t have it like I had [it]. All I had to do was watch my dad. I wouldn’t be here today [without him]. You can be somebody’s role model, somebody’s dad [or mom],” surmised Bond.
“Walter was the ideal person” to speak on the importance of communication and connecting, believes Henry Crosby, executive director of North Community YMCA. “You can say a lot of things to people, but if you are not truly connected in a genuine way and let people know that you are sincere and want the best in them,” it doesn’t mater. What matters is “to have someone believe in you. I think that is the essence of what we are trying to do with young people here every day. We tell kids that it is okay to have hopes and dreams.”
“He’s right; it is about relationships, making a connection,” said Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce President Lea Hargett of Bond’s speech. “I also really appreciated his ability to get us all to connect and see the importance of giving back. The more that we as the business community take that responsibility, the more I think the entire community would benefit…What the Y is doing is good for business because this is our future workforce,” said Hargett.
Bond told the MSR after his speech, “I was fortunate — I had a mom and dad who were employed, good citizens and installed discipline and love, and raised me. Unfortunately a lot of kids…have become a victim of their environment.”