Jason Kopcak has faced several challenges – both personal and professional – on his path to becoming CEO. After a failed business in 2006, filing bankruptcy and getting a divorce, he started his career over again in 2006 at 35.
He had to work his way onto Wall Street through a non-traditional route with no relationships to support him during the challenging market of The Great Recession. During that time, he worked his way up while Wall Street was heavily out of favor, creating opportunities for himself – and thankfully, had some luck come his way.
Outside of his career, Jason has encountered several personal challenges along the way as well. From growing up in a low-income family that was raised at times on food stamps, to becoming a single father after his son’s mother passed away in 2016, learning how to balance his increasingly demanding career became that much more important.
Jason is a lifelong believer in setting goals and creating a plan to meet those goals, and then working to obtain them. When his first company failed, he had yet to set new goals or decide how to achieve them. He found that he was unsure of how to revisit progress and refresh strategies.
Learning to do this and setting out to understand the market, where the opportunities were, and how to pitch new business through cold calling, gradually became his methods to land jobs and move up the ladder on Wall Street. Quickly, he learned how to execute building new businesses to incur revenue.
Overcoming challenges taught him to learn from his mistakes, listen to others with experience, take notes, not to overplay his hand, and put more value in gaining knowledge instead of ensuring he earned the most money possible.
Jason also learned that it’s essential to focus less on the monetary side of things, gain the most experience, work hard and smart, gain and establish as many new relationships as possible, keep life simple, stay healthy, be grateful, modest and thankful, help others and pay it forward, and do not forget to reflect on past experiences, success, and losses.
Approach to Success
Jason’s approach to success is to be open-minded when meeting new people, read as much as possible, compound that knowledge with experience, be modest but set goals high, and pursue what you want. There is no better way of learning than through experience.
Other lessons he has learned are to be patient and play the long game, give time and knowledge to helping others, and sacrifice today for tomorrow.
Advice for the Next Generation
For those starting in the industry today, Jason recommends creating goals that include a strategic plan to work toward.
While a common end goal might be around salary benchmarks, try to focus less on the money upfront and more on your experiences and gaining as much knowledge as possible. When you broaden your experiences, you can focus on improving every day and work on being better today than you were yesterday.
It is imperative to remember that tomorrow is a new day. Resting and having a healthy relationship outside of the office can help your body and mind reset and prepare you for a better tomorrow so you can start fresh and improve.
Other integral advice Jason shared includes being accountable for your actions and communicating with honesty. Reflecting and growing from them can support your career journey just as much as benchmarking your progress and process against yourself rather than others.