Keith Ellis has had a colourful career that speaks for itself. 

Keith Ellis (Source: LinkedIn)

The hard-working ethos that motivates Keith took hold early. In high school, he was a top-tier competitive gymnastics coach while additionally interning at a real estate firm. It was at the latter that he was offered the opportunity to get involved with Student Works.

That first year with us? He generated over $100,000 in sales. This was, of course, before he received his high school diploma. Yeah, you read that right.

His resume is impressively decorated with roles at Dell Canada, SAAS, EnerNOC, Honeywell, Global Payments Inc; and he currently is Director of Business Development at TransPerfect.

Did his Student Works experience help mould him to be the top performer he is today? Keith spoke to Chris Thomson on our Leaders of Tomorrow Podcast to explain why he thinks that just might be the case:


When you’re in highschool, the thought of going out in two feet of snow and knocking on doors to pitch your painting services might sound like a daunting task. If it scared Keith, he didn’t let it get the best of him. In fact, he claims it was valuable training for his future. Nowadays, the thought of cold calling C-level executives doesn’t cause him to bat an eye. 

Oh, and speaking of confidence, Keith never lets a potential client hang up the phone until they have their next meeting in the calendar. You can write that pro-tip down!


When it comes to sales, Keith insists the key to success is selling your potential customer on the value of what you’re offering. 

For most homeowners, their house is their most prized possession, and anyone they allow in to do contract work has got to know what they’re doing. 

“You’re protecting the most important asset someone owns,” said Keith, referring to his time with Student Works.

If you don’t understand your product, service, or customer, you’ll never be able to pitch yourself in a way that resonates and creates value.


If you let one bad day on the job shake your confidence in a way that limits you from providing consistently great service, you still have much to learn. 

Keith doesn’t sweat the small stuff. “Student Works separates the boys from men on who’s able to stop and see the bigger picture and understand that there’s wins and there’s losses … I made tremendous profit on three out of five jobs and on some of the others, it’s okay, I kept my painters employed and maybe only made a 10% or 20% margin on some, but that’s the whole point, is that it’s a balance” Keith told Chris. 

We’re inclined to agree.

Are you a student looking to further your development as a leader and enter the exciting world of entrepreneurship? Check out more stories from Student Works participants and alumni on our Leaders of Tomorrow Podcast!