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Stephen Balsley, Saris Cycling Group and Stephen Balsley Yoga

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Stephen Balsley, national accounts manager and yoga teacher, Saris Cycling Group and Stephen Balsley Yoga.

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1. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Balance. The retail market and consumer habits both evolve at a rate now that is hard to calculate. As my job and industry face these changes, finding a balance between immediate needs and future actions can be difficult. At the same time, I balance my career with being a husband, being a present dad, and teaching yoga. When it all works, like a handstand, the balance is super awesome. When it doesn’t, I fall. But I always learn from the fall.

2. Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

My dad. Easy. I learned a ton from my father about how to approach work and life. A humble person, my father approached everyone he met with the same level of respect and admiration. He wanted to work for himself and struggled hard to make a living as a sole practicing attorney. Despite his commitment to his clients and work, he never missed baseball games or swim meets for me or my brother. No one is perfect. My father acknowledged that fact. Still, the most telling anecdote about my father was from a note left for him by the janitor in the office building where he had his office. When my father was finally too sick to continue his career, the janitor left him a note asking if he was okay because my father always took the time to talk to the janitor and ask him the same. I admire him for that. He truly treated everyone with equal admiration.  

3. What has been the high point of your career so far?

At a previous job, because of an acquisition, I was offered the chance to move and keep my position or potentially lose my job. When the news spread about that offer, a buyer from a large regional sporting goods chain called me on my cell phone. He told me that he knew about the offer and if I wanted to stay in the industry and not leave Madison he would help me by placing phone calls to procure a new job. He told me, “You are always honest with me and I know I can trust you.” That’s a huge compliment. I have landed some big accounts and sold product to some major retailers, earning nice profits for my company. But to earn the trust of someone who is then willing to lobby for you because of your honesty, even being willing to tell him things that he might not want to hear, that is an accomplishment I think worthy of being called “the high point” of my career.

4. Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Smile everyday no matter the situation. Don’t write emails when you are hungry, tired, short, on a plane, sitting in a car, or when your wife or daughter are in your presence. Say “no” with conviction. Monitor your blood sugar levels; you can get rather difficult when you are hungry.

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