Betsy Wills is a Nashville native who, in her own words, has “never lived, nor worked, nor attended school more than a block off of West End (Overbrook, St. Cecilia, Vanderbilt) … until recently when we moved to Middleton,” a neighborhood off of Old Hickory Boulevard. She’s the director of branding and marketing for Diversified Trust, and she’s also involved with an education company called YouScience. She writes an art blog, ArtStormer, and serves on the board of Turkish-T. She’s a huge cheerleader for Nashville’s women-owned companies and the people who work so hard to give back to our community. It’s with great pleasure we introduce Betsy as today’s FACE of Nashville!
What is your favorite thing about this city?
There are just too many things I could say. There are genuine friendships here and an authentic sense of community. You know, one of the things I always say is that if you look at my Christmas card list, 80 percent of the people listed are transplants from other cities, and I’m not unique in that way. That has a lot to do with how welcoming this city is, that people want to come here and stay. The world has come here! … Nashville has no limits … and people smile. I like that.
Where is your passion right now?
Developing ideas and people here in Nashville. In my job at Diversified Trust, and in my board involvement at Turkish-T and YouScience, the burning question is consistent: “How can we help our teams grow and succeed?”
In the case of YouScience, the central mission and product is to provide direction to young people who do not have effective resources to make good decisions about their education and life path. I could enumerate the benefits of YouScience all day long because I think it is so important. I’m passionate about it. I became interested in this when I went back to graduate school at 34. Before I made the decision to go, I sought direction from a career program called Johnson O’Connor in Atlanta. They offer the same assessment of aptitude patterns as YouScience, but it’s only available in an office environment and has a high price tag of $700. [YouScience is taken online for $29.] The experience unlocked a huge number of insights for me.
After graduate school, I wrote a career program aimed at recent college graduates called Launch. I also created another program called The Brain Spa for women who were returning to the workforce. I recommended Johnson O’Connor to everyone as the starting point because of the critical role understanding one’s natural abilities or aptitudes plays in career satisfaction. What surprised me was that my number one customer base turned out to be 40-year-old male lawyers! That’s when the lightbulb went off for me. Everyone is at one time or another wrestling with the questions like: “I don’t know who I want to be” or “Am I in the right career?” Everyone experiences this uncertainty and angst.
The truth is no one job is going to exercise ALL of our natural talents at the same time. Aptitudes act like forces in our lives. They demand outlets and attention. Our professional pursuits should align with them as much as possible. Making informed career choices is critical, but also people need to recognize and nurture a broader sense of self. So, perhaps you shouldn’t quit that job at the law firm. Instead, consider broadening your activities to exercise your full set of aptitudes. Musical aptitudes? Take guitar lessons or volunteer at the symphony. Feed and develop them! Your aptitudes are clues to unlock the possibilities, and a fuller life.
By the way, aptitudes are NOT the same as IQ or personality. People confuse this. They aren’t learned, they are innate. They are seeds of potential in each of us that ask to be developed through education and practice. Rather than spend too much time on things that do not come easily to us, we should focus most attention on those things that feel natural. It is similar to right- or left-handedness. Everyone has a unique and powerful set of aptitudes. We are equipped with different engines, and our job is to figure out how to operate them. Traditional school tends to send the message that only a few of our natural abilities can be rewarded, which is sad. For me, advocating for YouScience is a mission to encourage people to think more authentically about themselves. In my own case, people might ask, “How are you working in the financial world doing marketing, being a part of an education company and writing an art blog?” If you look at my aptitude pattern it makes total sense.
You want a full life. The idea of well-being starts with understanding yourself. We’re all among “the walking dead” until we invest in understanding what makes us tick. It is not only about aptitudes, but YouScience is the most useful tool that I know of to kickstart that process.
Obviously, I am passionate about this. I’ve realized what a huge problem this is … making poor or misinformed choices on education … it has ramifications that are enormous and impact an individual’s mental health, self-esteem and economic potential. This is my change-the-world thing; I’m going to pound the table about it until every person in America is getting better information. It’s a long ball … it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but we’re making inroads every day.
You seem really happy with your current job with Diversified Trust. How is this company different than other wealth management firms?
Diversified Trust has two primary offerings. We serve institutions with a full range of investment services and individuals and families as comprehensive wealth managers. What makes it unique is our clients have access to and are served by a team of experts — lawyers, tax specialists, investment professionals, trust and estate specialists, and business advisers. Our clients typically have some degree of complexity with regard to their financial picture. We serve as quarterback so goals are met.
We have four offices — Memphis, Atlanta, Greensboro, NC, and Nashville. The firm has grown substantially over the past 20 years, and so the time came to hire a dedicated branding and marketing manager. I have a great deal of respect for the founders, in particular Bill Spitz, who was the treasurer and vice chancellor for investments at Vanderbilt University for over 20 years. I’m excited to be a part of the next phase of growth. The firm is committed to excellence, which makes it easy to promote the services.
Tell us about keeping up in the marketing world today.
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed bringing to my work and all the different things that I’ve done is an active interest and understanding of technology. I’m excited about what’s new and happening on these platforms that continue to change, but the principles behind marketing are the same. I enjoy discovering new tools that can help me do my job more effectively.
Tell us about your art blog, ArtStormer, and the Nashville art scene.
There is so much talent in Nashville, as expressed by both the artists and the fabulous galleries. Thank goodness for the Art Crawl. It’s an awesome monthly event. And Nashville Arts Magazine has done a beautiful job. Everyone, even in the art world, is up against the Internet and a plethora of “fairs” competing for purchases and purchasers alike. I don’t know how many people are buying art in our local galleries (please support them!) … but artistic expression is alive and well in Nashville. I’m just not positive how the economics end up shaking out, you know?
There is a lot of great public art going on. In The Gulch, the angel wings by Kelsey Montague; it’s a great example of this. I’m trying to do my part to promote interest in art. The theme of ArtStormer is “Your art does not need to match your sofa.” I am curating a show at David Lusk Gallery that opens June 2. There will be seven or eight artists sourced from my blog working with the theme, A Show of Hand. I like to see the hand in the work, and it’s exciting to see how each artist interprets this message.
Do you and your husband (Ridley Wills, owner of The Wills Company) talk shop a lot at home?
Not about specific clients, that’s off limits, but it is fun to live with someone who has such a strong aesthetic sensibility. He wants to make everything right. Back to the YouScience thing, Ridley has perfect pitch, which is an aptitude. Most people think it’s a musical ability, but it’s more. It’s about your ability to discern really fine differences in things. So seeing instantly that a wall is crooked … your eye goes straight to what’s off … or that a door is too small, is his natural gift. Living with that degree of critique can be hard (laughing), but it’s ideal for someone who has to make a punch list! Design comes so naturally to him. When Ridley goes into a space that needs renovation, he seems to identify exactly what needs to happen right away. He loves what he does. I don’t know what he would do if he weren’t in the design/build field. It’s an example of his innate abilities being put to work so perfectly. It’s not all he can do, but it’s a driving force in him. It’s enviable that he has found something that matches his abilities and his work.
Do you have a piece of advice you like to give?
FAIL. After all, this means First Attempt In Learning!
A favorite vacation spot?
St. Barts. It’s incredible. I’ve never been anywhere where I’ve felt so relaxed and happy. It’s a little bit misinterpreted … people think it’s this fancy, fast-paced, Hollywood thing, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. My two insider tips for the best deals: rent a house and do it in the summer, as it’s half the cost and the weather is still great!
Could you recommend three books for summer?
Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea is my favorite book of all time, and I’ve probably given away hundreds of copies. It’s about a billion dollars worth of gold that was recovered from a lost shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina in 1987. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. It’s awesome. And, from a fiction standpoint, Ishmael.
Last best meal?
Three things you can’t live without:
- Eyeglasses 2.75!
- The Blowout Co.
Thank you to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photographs. See more of Ashley’s work on her website — click here.
There are so many inspiring women in Nashville. Read all about them in our FACES section — click here.