When Paul Tutmarc created the first electric bass guitar in the 1930s, we’re confident he didn’t have HR outsourcing and Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) in mind.
The same could easily be said for Jason Ward, one of PrismHR’s motley crew of customer success managers (CSMs). The HR outsourcing (HRO) space wasn’t even something he would have considered fretting or learning about early in his career. After all, how many heavy metal musicians do you know who went from walking the bass in front of thousands of screaming fans to picking a career focused on helping make sure customers’ needs are being addressed and questions answered?
Lunga pausa …
That’s what we thought; there’s only one Jason Ward.
“As much as I tried to rebel against my father, I became my father,” Jason says, laughing. “I wound up being in the music industry for a lot of years and made a lot of records and got to play with a lot of famous people, but I couldn’t do it forever.”
He left the music field behind, but he never completely abandoned music. He still loves to play bass, but his career trajectory changed. He moved into payroll positions with a few different companies, including a PEO, and ultimately worked his way up to a vice president role at a large organization. Still, he decided he wanted to take on another challenge and spend more time doing what he does best: Talking to people. That’s one of the reasons he joined PrismHR in April 2022 as a full-time CSM.
To paraphrase Yoda, the gift of gab is strong with this one. Jason’s a salt-of-the-earth guy with none of the aloofness you find peppered throughout the music industry.
When he started out in the corporate world, he didn’t really discuss his former life as a rock star. It didn’t seem appropriate to him at the time, but, as a CSM, he’s learning that customers like to vibe with his story of being a former jukebox hero.
Even Wayne and Garth, those young, starstruck dudes from Aurora, Illinois, would feel right at home and even excellent riffing on whatever with Jason.
“His personality is what people recognize the most because he’s so personable and outgoing and can relate to the customers,” says Melissa Eversole, PrismHR’s manager of customer success. “With his background working in payroll, he knows how to assist customers whenever they have issues or questions. He’s always great at jumping in to help problem-solve, and he’s always looking for ways to help our team however he can. He’s a great asset to us, our customers and the whole PrismHR organization.”
Also, just like no two concerts are the same, no two days on the job are the same for Jason—and that’s how he likes it.
“I think, with CSMs, what makes us a different animal, so to speak, is what we do is not set in stone. I don’t know what’s going to happen day to day.”
A client could have a question about a certain functionality, how to achieve their goals or even want to learn more about a Marketplace partner, he says.
“In this business and in the music industry in general, you can always second guess yourself,” he says, “but you have to overcome that.”
Customers, he adds, are looking for people who not only exude confidence but also can back it up as well with their solutions, so they can feel positive about their decision-making. And Jason is not lacking in the confidence department. Whether it’s talking to people individually or addressing a large group of people at once at PrismHR LIVE, nothing seems to faze him.
“A lot of times in the PEO business,” explains Roger Hays Jr., president and CEO of Passio HR Inc., “you get a great contact at one of the companies you are using to help you with your business, and you tell people that this account manager or service rep rocks. Well, with our CSM at PrismHR, Jason Ward, that statement is far more accurate than you would normally mean it. He is a fantastic partner in helping with our PrismHR account, and the man actually rocks. It’s not every day you can be on the phone with your PrismHR CSM talking about benefits onboarding functions and watch him playing old Flotsam and Jetsam tunes on his YouTube channel.”
So where does his outgoing, partnering personality come from? His dad, James Ward, who unfortunately passed away in 2016.
“My dad would walk into a room,” Jason says, “and there’s not a person in that room that’s not gonna remember him. He always had a joke, always had a story. … The funny thing is that I wound up being in payroll, which was almost a parallel job to what my dad had done.”
The Key of See
With Jason, what you see is what you get.
Nowadays, he resides in Orlando, Florida—with his wife, Julie, and their two American bulldogs named Atticus and Nessie—not far from a certain enchanted rose found at a certain Beast’s castle, but he got his start in the music business in Chicago banging on the E string (and, you know, the A, D and G strings, too, when necessary) in an ’80s metal band called Widows Rose. His son, Jake—notice a J pattern emerging?—lives in Phoenix.
And while most bassists dip their fingers into the water learning easier riffs for songs like Wild Thing or Smoke on the Water, Jason was diving headfirst into more complex tunes like Rush’s La Villa Strangiato from the beginning. We’re guessing even Geddy Lee would have been impressed by that.
Eventually, in the early ’90s, Jason joined the well-known band Flotsam and Jetsam. Often considered one of those on-the-cusp, “underdog” heavy metal group, he recorded eight albums and dozens of songs with them over the years, including Swatting at Flies. He played in front of thousands of metal heads at places like the famed Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Denver opening for Megadeath. He also traveled the world. A careless baggage handler in Germany even scratched his prized 1985 Charvel Jackson bass on one of his tours, and on another he headed to the Namba Hatch in Osaka, Japan, as part of the Thrash Domination tour.
“I couldn’t believe there was a group of Japanese fans that actually followed me around from the airport to the hotel,” he says. “They wanted me to sign all of their stuff. They were really into the music. Some of the stuff was recorded 10 years earlier, and it blew my mind to think there are people on the other side of the planet listening to your stuff.”
Reflecting on his rock ’n’ roll career, he has fond memories of hanging out with Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, who he calls the “real McCoy,” and members of Alice in Chains because they were “really super nice guys.”
Still, years of touring took its toll. “Life’s not easy. Neither is metal,” Jason once told a heavy metal music news website.
Taking that one step further, he told the PrismHR blog, “I like being on a tour bus for a little while, and then, after a while, 12 guys on a bus is kind of … a stinky environment,” he says, laughing.
Before he turned to bass, Jason started off his musical experience by learning the drums like his big brother, Jeff.
“We started out as very young kids in the music business,” Jason says. Jeff “was the kind of guy who didn’t want his kid brother to be in a band with him.”
But they did get a chance to play together briefly in a tribute band in the mid-’80s, and as Jason was going with the flow as a bassist with Flotsam and Jetsam a few years later, Jeff was establishing himself as a premier drummer in bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Sadly, Jeff passed away in 1991 while Jason was on his first tour with his new band.
“I miss him quite a bit,” Jason says. When Jason’s watching a Chicago Bears game, he often thinks, “ ‘Man, I wish Jeff were here. He missed the whole Devin Hester era.”
To help remember and honor his brother, Jason organized a tribute concert in the early ’90s at a Chicago-area club, which is no longer in business, called the Thirsty Whale. It was the same place they launched their music career many years before as teenagers; you could say they were thirsting for a little bit of the spotlight in their own right.
Still, Jason takes pride in the fact that he and his brother were successful in their music careers and how close they were as brothers.
He also learned the importance of never taking things for granted, and it’s those lessons he brings to his job as a CSM every day. And it didn’t take long for him to find his groove moving to the PEO space.
“I think the greatest thing that I’ve discovered being a CSM is that this job allows me to be myself. This job allows me to do what I do best, which is connect with people. I’ve always been able to do that as a musician, and now I get to do that as a CSM.”
Finally, when asked if he’s ever considered writing a bass line for PEOs, he laughs and says, “That’s a unique question. It probably would sound very jazzlike and all over the place with a lot of improvisation.”
Of course, Jason’s customers know they don’t have to improvise thanks to the rockin’ solutions he helps them with every day, and that they can rely on his bas(s)ic instincts to help get them what they need.
James Tehrani is PrismHR’s digital content marketing manager. He is an award-winning writer and editor based in the Chicago area.