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Collaborative Solutions Turns 16: An Interview With Carroll Ross

Collaborative Solutions has been in business since 2003. That’s 16 years of helping businesses, non-profits, schools, and government agencies to transform their organization. To celebrate, we talked to Carroll Ross, Collaborative’s founder and CEO, about how Collaborative got its start, where it’s going, and what his favorite dessert is.

Let’s start with some easy questions. What’s your favorite kind of cake?

Coconut

Favorite pizza topping? 

Pepperoni

Favorite color? 

Blue

Favorite dessert? 

It’s a tie – Flowerless Chocolate Waffle at Jackson’s and Coconut Cream Pie at Capital Grille

Favorite song to listen to in the shower? 

Not sure – I never listen to music in the shower

Favorite thing about Bob? 

His great sense of humor

What was the best career advice you’ve ever received? 

Trust your gut

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

Fireman

Ok, let’s switch gears. What prompted you to start Collaborative Solutions? 

I started the company for a few reasons.  While I enjoyed the people I was working with, I wasn’t completely happy with where I was working (Accenture).  The company had changed drastically through a split and IPO, and the future I was sold on when I started didn’t exist in the new order of things.  Career development and mentoring was non-existant.  I also had spent a few years on a collaboration effort with PeopleSoft to build out industry functionality for their product.  When we completed the buildout my employer decided to shift gears away from the market opportunity that was created.  I felt like there was gap I could fill with that opportunity and by taking a shot at it on my own.

Did you ever think that Collaborative would be what it is today? 

I don’t think at the outset of starting the company I could have ever conceived of us being where we are today.  We’ve been the beneficiary of being at the right place and the right time and having the right people to help build the company.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your past self about starting Collaborative and running a company? 

They journey will be an amazing learning and growth experience but be willing to seek out the guidance of advisors and mentors as early as possible.  It’s OK to not know and ask for help.

Collaborative’s core value is People, how do you ensure you stay connected with employees, especially as the company grows? 

At our size, it’s certainly a challenge.  I try to make it a point to get around to our offices and our customer sites to meet our Collabies whenever I can (some are of course easier than others to get to).  When I’m in a location where there are many folks who might be on different projects, I try to do dinners, events, etc. that bring us together.  I also try to participate in the Collabie convos whenever I can.  I want people to always know that I’m here and accessible (as is the entire leadership team) and we are all part of one big family.

How do you stay organized and prioritize tasks? 

It’s definitely a challenge today since there are many unplanned things that come up.  I start with making sure my schedule is laid out in Outlook.  I also set my top five “to-dos” at the end of each day to get done the next day.  I’m a bit old school in that I still use a notebook to capture these items and work from, but old habits are still comforting and work.

Employees of Collaborative are encouraged to maintain work/life balance. How do you maintain this balance as CEO? 

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do it as well as I should.  What helps the most is having three children at home and making sure I prioritize my time with them.  It allows me to unplug from the Collaborative world and focus on what’s really important to me.  I try to ensure that I also spend time doing some recreational/physical activity each week, which could be playing golf, tennis or just going for a walk.

When you look at Collaborative today, what are you most proud of? 

While there are so many things I’m very proud of with this company, the one that really stands out to me is helping raise over $300K for Autism Speaks.  Having Collaborative as a platform that can mobilize our employees, suppliers and customers to help support a cause that is personally important to me has truly been a privilege.

Looking at Collaborative’s future, what most excites you? 

Everything!!!  We’ve got so much great opportunity ahead of us as a company across so many areas.  From a technology standpoint, we have a great business partner in Workday who continues to push the envelope on new and exciting things to offer our customers.  I’m very interested in what Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning will do for our business and our customers.  We’re seeing some great opportunities to build partnerships with other technology providers who complement Workday in these areas.  This will, in turn, help us continue to innovate in how we go to market and evolve in the capabilities and services we offer.  In particular, I’m excited about our partnership with AppLearn in the digital transformation and user adoption space, as they provide us a unique/differentiated opportunity to go to market.  From a people perspective, I’m very bullish on the work we’re doing around to continuously improve our own employee experience.  From our continued buildout by L&D of career path tailored learning to adding new programs and benefits to our offerings, I think what we’re developing for our Collabies will be second to none!  I also am very excited by the opportunities we’re seeing in the global market to continue to grow and expand – both here in the US and abroad in EMEA and APAC.  This will allow us to continue to grow our global brand while bring our unique culture and business approach to a whole new audience!