Investor Spotlight: Stonehill Innovation

April 23, 2019

Stonehill is a strategy and innovation company that helps businesses to identify opportunity, implement change, and accelerate growth. Their teams consist of an innovative blend of creative, strategy, technology, and change management experts that allows them to unite the functional silos of business in the common objective of creating differentiated customer experiences.


Douglass E. Pace, CEO

Doug Pace has been considered one of the most innovative minds in management consulting and marketing strategy for over two decades. As CEO of Stonehill, he leads the vision of the firm and enjoys working directly with the its portfolio of clients. Doug founded Stonehill with the vision of bringing agile management practices found in entrepreneurial organizations to large companies. He found that his approach also provided process and structure to small organizations allowing them to accelerate their growth. Doug is a noted speaker on business design, marketing strategy, building innovative cultures, and design thinking.


You have built successful companies in the Tampa market. What are your takes on Tampa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and business climate?


The great thing about Tampa Bay is that it is a very friendly business community. Individuals can come into the community and easily connect with CEOs of large corporations or leaders in the community. At the same time, the business community is very close knit. This is an advantage because if you are looking to connect with someone, they are normally not more than a few people away. I have done business in many cities across the country and think this is very unique to Tampa Bay.


The friendly and interconnected business culture in Tampa Bay makes it an ideal place to start and grow a company. When I started Stonehill, multiple people helped me to get it off the ground. Some gave us small projects to get started, some helped with legal and accounting, some offered us cost effective office space, and many offered to connect us to potential clients. The community really went out of their way to help in any way they could. Without the business community in Tampa I don’t think we would have seen success as quickly as we did.


Design thinking is a creative process that you specialize in at Stonehill and some of the world’s most well-known companies like Google, Apple and IBM have implemented. What is design thinking and how can it benefit local companies?


Design Thinking is a problem-solving framework developed at Stanford University. The framework focuses on employing empathy to fully understand what customers need. With this information, ideas can be developed through a rapid prototyping process – allowing you to get immediate feedback and adjust your idea in an extremely short period of time. Solutions are traditionally customer experience oriented and incorporate storytelling, process, culture, and technology.


Design Thinking can benefit local companies as it helps to change the dynamics of how companies innovate. At many companies, innovation is regulated to a technology or R&D department that is regulated to some back room. The team is entrusted with creating new strategies, products, and services that will help the company enter new markets and grow revenue. This process normally takes a lot of time and it totally ignores input from the people who use the product or service. Design thinking puts the user at the center of the solution and drives deliverables that are desirable, viable, and feasible. In basic terms, Design Thinking is a cost-effective way for companies to identify opportunity, create change, and accelerate growth.


Stonehill is a mission-driven company with a 1% for the Community program. What is the ROI for companies that demonstrate good corporate social responsibility?


Being a mission driven company is a very personal thing for me. After I sold my last company, I had the unfortunate experience of suffering from a major stroke. I almost died and spent significant time in the neuro-ICU at Tampa General Hospital. Although it was a difficult time in my life, I was amazed at the empathy provided from friends that I made from my time in business and serving on a variety of boards. Leaders from the community took time out of their day to visit me at the hospital and at my home. They helped me recover and provided the foundational ideas for me to start my next company.


As you can imagine, some of the main causes that we support are healthcare related. But what this experience taught me is that when you are in business you are an integral part of a community. Giving back to the community is not just about gaining exposure and creating an ROI from a business transaction. It’s about becoming invested in the people and the creating an ROI from the greater potential that we have in helping each other be successful – whatever your individual definition of success might be.


You’re a big proponent of mentoring. Why is it important to mentor? What makes a good mentor/mentee?


I will let you in on a secret that many people don’t know. Most people think that being a mentor is about giving back and providing guidance to others. There is some truth to that, but I think I get more from being a mentor than any of my mentees could possibly get from me. In a single meeting I can get a few ideas, hear differing viewpoints, and gain an incredible amount of energy that can keep me invigorated for days.


In regards to what makes a good mentor/mentee, it’s all about curiosity. You must have an authentic curiosity in what makes other people unique. The different experiences that people have from growing up, school, careers, and family are what really define us.  Authentic curiosity allows you to ask the uncomfortable questions, build true connections, and create a platform to really learn from each other.