Meet the Suite - CFO Jason Balk

 

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What's your favorite movie, musical artist, and book? 

“Stand by Me” is my favorite movie of all-time.  Even though I have the shoes, Walkman, glasses, and willingness to buy the car (if I had room), “Back to the Future” has to take a step aside for this one.  Stand By Me is probably the closest I can get to have the feeling of growing up with my Dad.  Simple times, hard times, friendships, growing up, seeing people before they hit it big, narration by Richard Dreyfuss, written by Stephen King, directed by Rob Reiner, it had everything. 

It's hard finding a musical band from the early 90’s that are still going strong today.  I’m glad that Pearl Jam has survived and thrived during the ups and downs of the past 25 years.  Getting to see them play at Wrigley Field this fall was the best musical experience I’ve witnessed.  All the chances over the years to see them, somehow life was too busy to get out and do it.  I like to think that I appreciated the concert even more without seeing them previously, but can’t wait to see them again!

Playing basketball growing up taught me many life lessons.  As a point guard, I became a leader.  As a player, I learned to follow instructions from my coaches.  Over time, with practice I became confident in my skills, which allowed me to excel and take calculated risks.  Tying all of that together, I find myself drawn to sport history books.  “The Book of Basketball:  The NBA According to The Sports Guy” is one of my favorites.  Having read Bill Simmons on Page 2 on ESPN back in the day, I grew to love his writing style and access to information not known to the common fan.

Tell me about how you came up and how it shaped who you are today.

Coming from a Midwestern, faith based, middle-class family, I always planned to raise my family similar to my upbringing.  My father was, and still is, a workaholic.  However, he was always at our games, helped coach us and attended school events (except for that home run when I was 12).  We were blessed to have my Mom stay at home. 

If I wasn’t in sports, I had a job (or 2).  Paperboy, busboy, burger flipper, lawn mower, pool cleaner and CNC operator were just some of them.  I worked full-time while attending college and still maintained a 3.93 GPA.  My work ethic was driven by my Dad from the start, but having four kids, I have made it a priority to ensure more balance between work and home as the years have gone by.  My family is blessed to be able to share many of the values I had growing up.  Before marriage, I was a consultant and traveled across North America.  I realized then that I would always return back to Grand Rapids and raise my family.  Similar to my mom, my wife Melanie chose to put her career aside and stay at home with our kids. 

Balk.jpgEvery night I get home from work, I take time to play with my kids hoping to relieve my wife for as much time as possible.  To me, family and friends are the most important relationships you will ever have during your lifetime.  I do my best to make sure I never let anyone down and seek out ways to help take care of people in time of need.  Many times, you never know what someone else is going through.  I try and relate to everyone and put myself in their shoes.  Sometimes it may take a while to gain trust and have meaningful conversations with others to get them to share with you.  I take that time.  I value that time.  Sitting on our Community Engagement Committee has allowed me to focus some of that energy towards local endeavors.  I don’t think it can be any simpler than treat others how you would like to be treated. 

 

How did you get involved in advertising? 

I had the pleasure of working with several Adtegrity employees at a local telecom company in the ISP division back in 1997.  It was about a year after Adtegrity was formed that I had lunch with Scott and joined the team.

 

When did you become involved in Adtegrity? 

I started working at Adtegrity in 2001 after a lunch meeting with Scott.  The recession was going on and it was hard to see past the next week or month back in those days.  I’m glad we have been able to grow the company and focus on long term execution over the years.  Despite the external pressures of today’s economy and career driven world to change jobs every 3-5 years, Adtegrity has been home for over 15 years.  I’ve made friendships to last a lifetime and never regretted a minute of time spent here.

 

What makes Adtegrity special?

We care.  The focus on our employees and their families helps make us special.  While our customer experience is top notch, I gain comfort in knowing we have some of the best benefits anywhere.  Knowing I have significant influence in those benefit decisions, allows me to go home and appreciate what a wonderful place Adtegrity has been and always will be to my family.

 

Ad networks, exchanges, tech providers, they all come and go.  How has Adtegrity managed to stay vibrant and relevant in the marketplace? 

We’ve stayed relevant and vibrant by remaining agile, hiring great employees and making solid strategic decisions.  By aligning with industry stalwarts, we have always maintained excellent access to solid inventory sources and technological advances.  We’ve always focused on creating pleasant customer experiences while maintaining client ROI.  While that sounds logical, it isn’t always the case in this industry.  Over 16 years, many companies have come and gone in this space.  Many disruptors have appeared and technologies created.  Every year, FaceBook and Google are going to take over the world.  By taking care of our internal and external clients, I believe Adtegrity can and will continue to thrive and be a vital entry point for clients into our fast pace, convoluted industry. 

 

What's the biggest challenge that faces the advertising industry today?

I believe the biggest challenge in our industry today is finding talent.  Many colleges and universities briefly touch on digital marketing and do not specialize in degrees for our industry.  They are not able to keep up with the fast pace and change the industry has been going though.  As a result, hiring employees becomes a huge investment compared to other industries.  The industry needs to do a better job in educating employees and partnering with higher education to allow prospective employees to hit the ground running.

 

What's the biggest challenge that faces Adtegrity?

I would go back to the last question and say finding talent.  As a small company, your investment in each employee becomes a significant cost of doing business and important part of defining the culture.  We need to find a way to shorten training time and bring employees up to speed so they can contribute right away.

 

Share 3 things you wish you had known when you started at Adtegrity that you know today.

  • I thought system integration in the telecom industry was tough.  Digital marketing has been much more complex.
  • That the stress of a growing and maintaining a company during the early stages would be so worth it.
  • How important partnerships are as opposed to trying to do everything yourself.

 

What piece of advice can you give someone looking to get into the advertising industry?

Earn everything.  Network and take advantage of industry education pieces available to you.  This is a fast paced industry that requires flexibility and demands continual education to stay relevant.  Do the work, put in your time and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

 


Solid advice from a guy who puts his heart and soul into Adtegrity every day. Keep your eyes peeled for our next Meet the Suite!

 

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Topics: Meet the Suite