Doug Ross | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Doug Ross


The Aces Group is a Philadelphia-based professional search firm specializing in finance and accounting recruitment. Their online recruitment platform, called The Aces Network, aims to match Big Four accounting talent with the best employers.


The Mistake: 

I've made many mistakes over the course of my career, as I'm sure most people have. But when I think about the most worthwhile lesson that somebody can learn from my mistakes, I think it's something really valuable for somebody who is considering pursuing an entrepreneurial venture of sorts. Before I launched the Aces Network, I had worked in a very collaborative agency setting for a number of years and I actually made the decision to go out on my own largely due to the bureaucracies and inefficiencies that you find within large corporate settings. When I came out of that setting, I was really seeking autonomy and had a strong desire to take control of my business. I think I carried that mentality into the launch of Aces. At that point, I felt comfortable pursuing this project and relying on my devices to get it down.

But as the launch continued to unravel, it became rather overwhelming. Just from a standpoint of how much I could actually get done myself, I realized I was deficient in a number of areas, and that was really detrimental to the Aces Network. When I look back, I see now that I should have rethought the people I was going to bring in on this and delegate more responsibly. I think I should have brought in specialists in some areas and sought partnerships in others.

You need to have people around you who can help. 

The Lesson: 

You don't have to be alone in this. Quite the contrary, when you're working on your own, it's paramount that you seek assistance and seek out those in your network who are willing to help and are proactively thinking and working in areas where you might need help. And I would recommend doing that sooner rather than later, because once you start moving down that path it's going to be more difficult to bring people into the fold.

I think a lot of people start their own businesses because they are seeking autonomy and want to pursue their own ideas. My message would be: you can do that, but you need to strike a balance. You need to have people around you who can help.

In hindsight, as much as I would like to think that I'm a programmer and a marketing professional, the reality is that I'm an accountant ... When I started, I probably should have taken a step back and asked, "Who do I need to get involved with me on this?" You can pursue a business endeavor and maintain a high level of autonomy without working completely alone. 

Photo courtesy of Doug Ross.