Inside Track: Compass president plays many roles

Jay Greer’s background in accounting, medical devices and entrepreneurship proves beneficial in next endeavor.
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Jay Greer served as interim president before taking the role full-time in 2018 at what is now Compass College of Film & Media. Courtesy Aaron Greer

Jay Greer has been crisscrossing professions since he was able to work, but now he is settled on one.

Greer is the president of Compass College of Film & Media, a nonprofit Christian college in Grand Rapids. He became the president of Compass in 2018 and since then he has used the varied experiences and knowledge he gained throughout the decades to help the school excel.

Despite taking the helm just four years ago, he has made significant changes at Compass, including changing the school’s name from Compass College of Cinematic Arts to Compass College of Film & Media to give the school a new identity.

Compass now owns the building it once shared with ArtPrize. The entire two-story, 28,000-square-foot building is undergoing an approximately $400,000 renovation that includes its theater space with the purchase of a new movie projector and acoustic treatments, with sound and video systems to follow.

The collection of those changes was the result of Greer’s life work that preceded them. Greer began his career as a certified public accountant after excelling in accounting classes at Walsh College. His first accounting job was at Deloitte & Touche where he worked for more than two years as a peer professional in the tax department while he was attending school part-time.

Although Greer was working in the tax department, he said he realized he didn’t love taxes. So, after he graduated, he went to work at KMPG where he did auditing and consulting for four years before leaving. 

“The reason I left was because I was working too many hours,” he said. “I was working about 2,700 hours per year, which a normal person works 2,200 hours. I wanted to become a partner, but I realized I couldn’t, and they didn’t have the priority of raising a family that I was going to have. We didn’t have kids yet, so when I knew that we were going to have kids in a couple of years, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t working those crazy hours.”

He went on to work at what was Crittenton Healthcare in Rochester where he was an accountant. The hospital started to diversify its services by buying a home care business and starting to build a nursing home. Greer said those two businesses began losing money and the health system ended up on shaky financial ground.

JAY GREER
Organization:
Compass College of Film & Media
Position: President
Age: 64
Birthplace: Pontiac
Residence: Hudsonville
Family: Wife, Ann; sons, Aaron and Daniel
Biggest career break: Starting Surgical Carepair and then being able to sell it. “That was the biggest thing. Starting my first company and growing it to 30 cities in three years, that was huge. I learned so much during that period of time and I was able to replicate it in other businesses.”

Greer used the accounting skills he gained at Deloitte and KMPG and helped to make the businesses profitable after a little over a year. He said he was later promoted within the system and ended up starting three more companies.

In his second year at Crittenton Healthcare, Greer started a business that made durable medical equipment (DME), which can include blood sugar test strips, canes, commode chairs, crutches, walkers, oxygen equipment and nebulizers.

“What I found out with home care, which are the nurses and the physical therapists going to a person’s house and helping to take care of them, that those people needed equipment at their homes, DME,” he said. He said the information from the Crittenton nursing staff eventually led to the formation of a DME business.

Greer also started another business in his third year. While he was building relationships with doctors, he encouraged them to use the labs at the hospital instead of sending patients to other labs. Greer said the hospital labs could handle basic lab testing but not sophisticated lab testing, so he was able to put together a joint venture between the hospital and a national lab and, as a result, the hospital was able to create another revenue stream.

He also was responsible for starting physician practices during his eight years and Crittenton and soon realized he had developed some entrepreneurial skills.

Greer decided to start Surgical Carepair, a company that repaired such hospital equipment as minimal invasive surgery cameras and heart scopes, and he was able to help the company expand nationally with a presence in 30 cities across the country. 

“What I found was that we could repair them faster and cheaper than manufacturers, like half the cost, so I helped the hospital save money and made it that they didn’t have to rent equipment,” he said. “Instead of the manufacturer taking two weeks to get it back, they can have it back in three days.”

Greer purchased another competitor during the fourth year of operations and then sold Surgical Carepair to Cardinal Health. He eventually spent 14 years at Cardinal, initially on a series of six-month contracts. During that time, Cardinal purchased another company that was failing. Greer was able to turn that business around and eventually sold it. He then started a new company at Cardinal Health called Optifreight Logistics, which grew into a $250 million enterprise in six years, three of which he served as president. Eventually, Greer also facilitated a joint venture between Cardinal Health and Healthcare IQ in Florida.

After 14 years at Cardinal Health, Greer retired. The hiatus didn’t last long.

“I had two companies call me within a week,” he said. “One from Iowa and one from Auburn Hills, Michigan, that were entrepreneurial companies. They were small companies, and they were service businesses, which was all I had ever done, service businesses, and they asked if I could consult so I started doing consulting.”

As a result, Greer started a consulting firm called Jay Greer Entrepreneurial Consulting. He also started another business, Cornerstone Technologies, that sells medical supplies to the same clients Carepair focused on.

Fifteen years later, Cornerstone is serving more than 80 hospitals in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, and Greer still is involved as a managing member.

Jumping from a medical device manufacturer to president of an arts and entertainment school might seem like a stretch, but like everything else in Greer’s life, there are connections.

He became involved with what was then Compass College of Cinematic Arts after his son attended a high school film camp at the institution. His career as a CPA gave him the opportunity to join Compass’ board of directors 15 years ago as its treasurer and later chairman.

After the previous president retired, Greer agreed to serve as interim president and eventually filled the position permanently. The school was rebranded this year as Compass College of Film & Media.

Greer said Compass is using the resources it has to show students the various opportunities they have in the film and media industries while stressing those opportunities are not limited to just Los Angeles and New York. He said there are many cinematic, television, marketing and advertising jobs right here in Michigan.

“The industry in the last five years has changed, and with the COVID piece, the number of things being shot in LA has gone down,” he said. “There are more things being shot in other states and with the streaming services that are going on, it doesn’t matter where you shoot the film. The question is, ‘Do you have the right equipment? Do you have the right staff? Do you have the right background? Do you know how to edit? Is it a good story?’”

Compass recently created three productions on-site and students were able to get hands-on experience from professionals in the industry. One of the TV series the students produced is called “The Watchers.” The trailer will be released in April on a streaming service.

Students recently partnered with the Kent County Sherriff’s Department to help its staff create a better social media presence by training them to write, produce and edit videos. Compass also partnered with Critter Barn in Zeeland to do a nativity shoot so the organization could post it online for people to watch when they couldn’t visit the barn because of the pandemic.

“I am hoping to build a relationship with the community,” he said. “I want to reach out to different parts of our community with our skillset. I am looking at how can students learn hands-on while helping the community, because if they can help serve the community while they are doing hands-on, they can make an impact on the community with their video storytelling skills. Compass could help the community in a lot of different ways.”

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