30 In Their Thirties: Ryan Gross, Director, Getzler Henrich & Associates, Detroit Office

Public accounting was a natural way for Ryan Gross to start his career after he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from John Carroll University — and a very appealing job with PwC certainly fit the bill.
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Ryan Gross // Photo by Trever Long

Public accounting was a natural way for Ryan Gross to start his career after he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from John Carroll University — and a very appealing job with PwC certainly fit the bill.

After a year of working on the audit side of the company, Gross realized something. While he liked the company and the people, he wasn’t finding satisfaction in chronicling, after the fact, what had happened. He wanted to be able to impact the outcome for his clients.

His father, an attorney who handles turnaround restructuring cases, kept telling his son he would find the field interesting. Gross put him off, until eventually the day came when he could no longer do that. “Finally I told him to give me some names of who to talk to,” Gross recalls.

Initial conversations with major firms like Alix Partners and Alvarez and Marsal piqued his interest, and he ultimately landed a job with Riveron (formerly Conway MacKenzie in Birmingham). He had found his thing. “I really fell in love with it,” Gross says. “You’re helping clients that are in trouble.”

After five years, Gross joined New York-based turnaround firm Getzler Henrich & Associates as director of its Detroit-area operations.

Today, Gross finds every opportunity to bring a client back from the brink rewarding. Of course, such situations are also filled with stress — especially for company executives and their employees, who know it’s not a good sign when a turnaround management company has to be called in.

“Employees can look us up and see who we are,” Gross says. “I try to be transparent. It’s how I’ve always done it. I’ll tell the clients, ‘Here’s the situation as I’ve discovered it. I’ll try to keep you updated as much as I can, but I’ll always do what’s best for your family.’”

Turnaround firms are usually brought in by banks when one of their business customers is in financial distress and isn’t able to maintain its obligations. The problems can arise from a variety of situations — sales can dry up, financial strategies don’t work, or overhead gets out of control.

While many turnaround firms are brought in primarily to manage bankruptcy cases, Gross says he usually works in situations designed to save a company from bankruptcy.

“Our job is to figure out the problem and resolve it to keep the cash flowing,” Gross says. “The majority of our cases aren’t bankruptcies, and we’re able to get in there ahead of time (and) solve the problem so the company avoids bankruptcy — or we can take them down a different path so they can sell the company or do something else.”

Often, the key for Gross and his team is to bring an objectivity the management team doesn’t have.

“I’ve been brought in and the management team is like, ‘Sales will get there, the product will sell,’ and they can’t step back and be objective,” Gross says.

One of the best rewards, he says, are the relationships he builds with clients who keep in touch after he helps them save their business. “I always tell them, if you need anything, give me a call,” Gross says.