Leonard Leadership Scholar Class of 2003
- Controller, Goodman Decorating Company
- BBA, Accounting, University of Georgia (2003)
Ben Pace is one of the 995 values-based, impact-driven leaders ILA has been developing over the past decade. Early on in his career, Ben was determined to have a job he was passionate about. He is an accountant, writer, passion seeker and adventurer whose professional ride has been anything but dull.
Ben’s career began as a Real Estate Financial Analyst with Wood Partners, a development firm in Atlanta, and soon moved into an accounting role. Two years in with Wood Partners, Ben “panicked” realizing, “I can’t sit behind a desk my entire life”. As a golf enthusiast and world traveler, he feared never again having summers to explore and being stuck inside the four gloomy walls of an office.
Ben decided to quit his job and follow his passion for writing. Although he admits this was a rash decision, it was one made with calculated risks. He wanted to try his hand at writing a novel and his own sports blog. To financially support his pursuance of his passion, he caddied at the East Lake Golf Club. “If you don’t try to follow a dream when you’re young, when are you going to do it?”
For two and a half years Ben pursued his passion for writing through his self-created blog, Braves By The Numbers. He also wrote several fictional short stories. After getting “knocked around” and rejected by publishers for his fictional writing he says, “I took a shot at it. Did it work out completely? No. But did I learn something along the way that makes me a better manager and leader today? Yes.” It is good to go after a dream and it’s also good to fail young. You learn so much about yourself and discover what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at by failing at something. “If you constantly succeed and never fail, you never learn; you never grow; you never expand who you are as a human being.” By failing at fictional novel writing, Ben learned that it wasn’t his strength and that sports writing was. His perseverance paid off and he has earned a staff writer position at ATL All Day, an Atlanta based Fansided blog and is currently being considered for an editor position.
Ben’s appetite for accounting reemerged, and he returned to school to earn his masters in accounting from Georgia State University in 2008 and his CPA in 2009. Ben went into public accounting for the next five years in a small, family-owned firm in Dunwoody. It was there that Ben got his first “real world” leadership experience by taking over as lead CPA on a financial audit for this firm. It was challenging because he was the youngest member of the team. However, his partners’ trust in his ability to interface with the client made it great. He also discovered that he was talented in accounting and that he could work behind a desk and could be a great manager and leader.
It wasn’t long before he filled the void left by a departing audit manager. In three years, he went from learning audit to being in charge of the audit. Ben naturally gravitated to this leadership role and his team followed him. In this he learned a valuable leadership lesson: “Leadership isn’t about having a title. It’s about who actually fills the void necessary to move the project forward—who actually steps up.”
Once again, Ben’s sense of exploration sent him looking for a job with more flexibility. Goodman Decorating, one of the largest specialty contractors in the Southeast, welcomed him to their staff in October of 2014 as their Controller.
Ben attributes much of his success to three keystones that have stuck with him from his time in ILA: determination, communication and servant leadership.
Ben reflects back on the greatest personal leadership challenge he ever faced, which was overcome through ILA: “I was not a very good communicator, publicly or privately. I tell that to people now and they laugh.” ILA broke down the walls of introversion and brought him out of his shell. All fears Ben had about talking to people or in front of people vanished by the time he finished the program. “Numerous executives and clients have commended me on my erudite speaking style to this day, and I have ILA to thank for that.”
Ben’s idea of servant leadership in business is giving employees what they need to succeed rather than demanding what you need. However, this way of life has influenced Ben in every facet of his life. “It’s not just about my business opportunities, but in my church life and charity work as well.” He has become a Sunday school teacher in his church and has been involved in several projects with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. He believes leadership is about serving others, and making the world a better place in the process. “By helping others succeed, helping them better perform their job, you progress as a company. You help others by giving the tools to be successful, developing relationships, and adapting to those you’re leading.”
Ben Pace is a passion seeker and servant leader, communicator, and manager; and he is just one of the 995.