Q&A With Two Military Veterans Who Turned Commercial Real Estate into a Second Career
As we celebrate Veterans Day, our gratitude goes out to all who have served as well as to their families and loved ones. We are thankful for the leadership and courage they have shown as well as the sacrifices they’ve made. At Cresa, we are honored to work with many veterans and military families. We find that many of the skills gained in military service not only translate to a business environment but, serve them particularly well within the commercial real estate industry.
Jason Jones, Managing Principal from Atlanta, GA leads Cresa’s Hybrid Workforce Services and Business Technology Sourcing. Prior to his career in real estate, Jason served in the US Navy, as an A-6 Intruder Bombardier/Navigator on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier.
Kelly Koepsell, Advisor from Omaha, NE specializes in providing in-depth analysis & planning for leadership and service programming for nonprofits and associations. He is a disabled veteran, having served twenty years in the U.S. Air Force as an air control officer. Kelly has deployed to combat zones four times, was trained as a command-and-control specialist and certified as a U.S. Army strategic planner.
We asked them the following questions to honor and learn from their experiences.
How did your military experience change you in ways you did not expect?
Jason Jones: Serving in the Navy as a carrier-based aviator made me process-driven, detail-oriented and mission-focused. These three traits have served me well in business, especially as an advisor for business technology sourcing. It provided the building blocks to turn a disciplined approach as a military aviator into a methodical approach for helping Cresa clients select communications technologies like Zoom and internet service.
Kelly Koepsell: My time in the military in my formative years taught me that there is a higher purpose to our lives and that purpose is to serve those around us. The sacrifices my family and I made while in the military were for the benefit of all Americans, and we are proud of those sacrifices. When I left the military, my service continued in the nonprofit sector, building capacity in organizations that serve those who need assistance. When I think about the freedoms I have been given and those I fought for, I am compelled every day to continue to fight for and exercise those freedoms, and to help others realize and exercise their freedom.
What did you learn about yourself?
Jason: I learned that I was strong enough to make it through the challenging selection and training process and go on to succeed in a dynamic operating environment. Learning to operate the A-6 Intruder’s navigation and weapons system was tough, especially combined with learning carrier operations. Doing so gave me the confidence to know that I can tackle other challenges that may come my way.
Kelly: I realized that there is nothing that cannot be done. Both myself alone, and with the various teams I was a part of or led, pulled off some amazing feats and victories. I attribute that to perseverance and grit, built up and ingrained over time through training and military education both in myself and in those around me.
The other thing I learned is that preparation is the key to success, regardless of the undertaking. I do a lot of strategic planning assistance for nonprofits. One of the hardest things to get across to board members and leaders is that the whole team needs to be in on the development of the strategic plan. The research and analysis that needs to be done to prepare not just the strategic plan, but also the branch plans and sequel options, make the adjustment to a new plan in the face of reality (which is ALWAYS required) that much easier. When everyone ‘in the fight’ is in on researching and formulating the plan, success rates go up. I continually reiterate to those I coach “The plan is nothing; PLANNING is everything.”
Is there anything you wish civilians understood about military service?
Jason: I wish civilians would know how much we appreciate the support of our fellow countrymen and that the traits imbued in servicemembers are great for creating loyal, hardworking employees who learn fast.
Kelly: As a veteran, I wish more people understood that I was willing to die to keep them safe. Their physical safety and the freedoms that we have in the United States was that valuable to me. The other thing I wish civilians knew was that military units do not operate because commanders give orders. In general, civilians think that military leadership is easy – you just give orders, and they have to do it. Many do not understand that success in military operations requires a high level of trust in those you serve with. People will not risk their lives for someone they do not trust. In twenty years as a military officer, I can recall giving only nine direct orders. The hard part of every accomplishment or successful mission I was a part of was done months and years before the mission: by gaining the trust of the people I led BEFORE sending them into action. I live by the adage, “As a leader, no one will buy into what you are asking them to do, unless they first buy into you as a leader.”
What are some things you miss about being in the service?
Jason: I miss the flying, of course, but even more so I miss the camaraderie of the squadron. Being pushed professionally by smart, motivated, and hard-working peers was a great experience that lifted me every day.
Kelly: I really miss the camaraderie and the shared vision of mission success. Working together was a given, basically, because there was no other choice. The mission had to get done and guess what: no one else was going to show up to get it done.
Do you have advice for others transitioning out of the military?
Jason: Get help translating your skillset into civilian terms and be confident that the skills and intangible traits you developed in the military are highly sought after in the private sector.
Kelly: You have knowledge, skills, abilities and a can-do attitude. Continue to work with integrity and alacrity, you will be successful. The military prepared you to handle an immense workload, operating with foresight and determination, don’t underestimate the value you bring to an organization.
What about commercial real estate makes it a good career choice for veterans?
Jason: The desire to accomplish a mission while working on a team is a great fit not only for commercial real estate but especially for the culture of Cresa.
Kelly: I am continuing to serve my community by assisting nonprofits in the acquisition of new operating space for things like homeless shelters, animal rescue, educational and sports complexes, and campuses for recovering sex-trafficked children. I lead nonprofit boards and leaders through strategic planning and implementation, programming and market analysis, and fundraising, and also do executive coaching for them. For me, this community service is a natural dovetail with my military service. Many nonprofit leaders get into nonprofits because they want to ‘serve and save’, not to plan, analyze, evaluate, file government paperwork, and balance bank accounts. I come along and help them with all the necessary actions in preparation for the move into their bright, new, shiny space. That service is important to me and important to my community.