Work and Money
Serving With Girl Scouts, Then Building a Consulting Empire
“We are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that, I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” ~ Maya Angelou
What would it look like if you combined lifetime memberships in the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Black MBA Association, Mensa, and the Girl Scouts of the USA? It may serve as the building blocks of a career in strategic consulting, or lead to projects with GE, McKinsey, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For Daria Torres, it has resulted in all of this and more. As a high-performing chief executive committed to servant leadership, Girl Scout alum and business owner Daria Torres shares her story:
What services does your Company offer?
I launched Walls Torres Group, a multiservice consulting firm, in 2004 with the vision to combine dedicated client service with world-class expertise to facilitate positive change in organizations that aspire to excellence. Our client portfolio reflects multiple sectors – corporations, philanthropic foundations, nonprofits, universities – and we have deep expertise in strategy, governance and leadership. Our service areas primarily encompass engagements in strategic planning, strategic activation, thought partnership, operational effectiveness and professional development. A representative client list is available on our website.
When did you first know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
In 2003, while out on maternity leave from McKinsey & Company, the seeds of opportunity began to sprout. After a few months away from the firm, I began receiving inquiries from former clients and colleagues to support various projects. My hypothesis was that the level of inbound activity I was seeing was the tip of the iceberg, and so I formulated a business plan to test the level of broader market interest. Fortunately, I had the benefit of seeing my father pursue entrepreneurial interests in real estate alongside his day-to-day role (as an EEO HR manager at Bell Telephone in Philadelphia), so I had his example as inspiration. I also knew from my Girl Scout background that I had a knack for sales. I was the top cookie seller in my troop more than once. I still remember that the grocery store main entrance was a great location to set up, and that we had to have a higher inventory of green and purple boxes to satisfy demand. I hear these two are still the best-selling, followed closely by the red box. Entrepreneurship at its best!
Which of the Girl Scout traits have carried over into your adult life and/or business?
A few traits that matter to me greatly, and also help to fuel business success in client service are:
Humility – there is always room to grow.
Curiosity – there is always more to know.
Empathy – there is always care to show.
Do you remember any specific lessons or activities from your Girl Scout days? If you do, please describe and comment on why you think it left an impression on you.
My most vivid memories as a Girl Scout are working alongside my friends to earn badges. The sense of camaraderie, commitment to shared goals, and mutual support and encouragement are ingredients for teamwork, which are qualities that are necessary to thrive in one’s career and life. I remember one particular weekend camping trip where tasks like starting a fire had to be completed in order to achieve a survivalist-type badge. Unfortunately for us, it was raining. Our troop leader kept us encouraged, despite the rain that was falling, and did not let us forget what we were there to do. There is always a risk that unforeseen challenges can deflate ambition, but great leaders motivate teams to persist through obstacles and barriers.
Imagining that your professional life is a continuation of the Girl Scout program, what professional award/recognition ("badge") have you been the proudest to earn?
I was selected to serve as the inaugural Executive in Residence (EiR) for the Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia. While this was not an award or honor in the traditional sense, it validated the commitment to intersectional thinking, transformative innovation, and relationship building that have animated much of my career. In this role, I facilitated efforts to bring new disciplines and domain knowledge to both philanthropic grant-makers and grant-seekers, with a major emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. My tenure in this EiR role came to a close just as the COVID pandemic began raging, and right before the tragic murder of George Floyd. I reflect on my contributions during that time with a sense of purpose more than pride, as I know that many organizations were better prepared to respond to community needs as a result.
Girl Scouts' 110th Anniversary is on March 12th… can you share what the 110th Anniversary means to you?
What a privilege it is to see Girl Scouts reaching this milestone of 110 years – a century plus a decade! You cannot build such an impressive legacy without exceptional leadership, a dedicated team, and an engaged community supporting the mission. I am fortunate to have received the CEO patches from two of our previous leaders – Anna Maria Chavez and Sylvia Acevedo. On the first is a picture of an eagle soaring through the clouds, and the second shows a rocket traveling on an orbit through space. I am unsure what appears on the CEO patches for Judith Batty or Sofia Chang, but I suspect the images are equally inspiring. An organization with a trajectory this long and a legacy this rich has leaders who aim high, reach for the stars, and see over the horizon!
How did being a Girl Scout shape you, as a woman business owner?
Being a Girl Scout did not just shape me in the past tense; it is still shaping me. When you identify as part of a community, you are committing to live by its ethos. The pledge we make includes a promise “to help people at all times,” and the abundance of opportunities to do so as a business owner are boundless. The motto of my firm is, “A long enough lever can move the world,” paraphrasing from a famous Archimedes quote. I truly believe that helping others is what lengthens our individual lever, and strengthens the metaphorical fulcrum upon which that lever rests.
Walls Torres Group (WTG) is a strategic management consulting firm that combines dedicated client service with world-class expertise to facilitate positive change in organizations that expire to excellence. WTG is also a Minority and Woman-owned Business Enterprise, certified through the State of New Jersey. For more information, visit www.wallstorresgroup.com