Douglass Pace, President and CEO of Stonehill
Emerging Business Finalist
To better highlight the impressive members of the small business community, we sat down with the 2019 Dream Big Award finalists to learn more about their startup stories, the challenges they have faced, and what the future of business looks like to them. We chatted with Douglass Pace, president and CEO of Florida-based company Stonehill, a strategy and transformation consultancy that helps businesses identify opportunity, implement change, and accelerate growth. Here is what he had to say (what follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity):
Q: What inspired the creation of your business? What problem does it help to solve?
The decision to start this company was a complicated one. You could say the decision was always there, but life circumstances made me slow down and see this amazing opportunity. In March of 2016, I thought I knew what I wanted. I had signed an agreement to sell the shares of my last company and was helping transition the firm to its new leadership. I planned to take a much-needed family vacation to San Francisco and was already negotiating an attractive offer with a Fortune 100 company. My company had sold and on my first official day off I suffered a massive stroke requiring time in the neuro-ICU.
In the beginning I had some mental and physical challenges, but with help from family, friends and the community, I began my recovery. I started to schedule lunch and coffee meetings with business contacts that I had made through my time on executive committee at the chamber. Many people had advice, some had encouragement, and some asked if I could help with their business. I politely declined, but after nine months of recovering I was asked how I was feeling to which I said, “pretty good.” Their response was, “Then why don’t you help me?” After starting a couple of these projects, I realized this was the work that I really enjoyed, and after doing some research, it was the beginning of Stonehill.
Stonehill is a strategy and innovation consultancy. We help the world's most interesting brands to innovate, implement change, and accelerate growth.
Q: What is the greatest challenge you faced while building your company and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge the company faced was in its infancy. The start-up phase of a company is a very exciting, yet taxing experience. This was even more pronounced for myself, as I formed the company just after suffering a major stroke. My doctor encouraged me to engage with people, so my brain could remap. I was extremely sensitive to light, could not stay awake, and could not recall simple words. I established values at this time of having fun, being optimistic, and helping others be successful. I decided that I would try to execute on my values every day. It's kind of funny. When I am living my values, things seem to take care of themselves. When I go off course, things fall down.
Q: At what moment did your business become a reality to you?
I think it became a reality just recently when I hired our 6th employee. They are highly compensated and make more base compensation than I did at my last company. It's kind of cool and scary at the same time.
Q: What words of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be optimistic. Have fun. Make others successful!
Q: In your experience, what do you think the future of business looks like for the next generation?
Business is rapidly changing. We have moved past the information age and have entered into the experience age. Companies will need to focus more on the experience for customers and employees and less on the core product.
To learn more about the 2019 Dream Big Award finalists, click here.