R. Craig Coppola | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

R. Craig Coppola


Lee & Associates is the largest broker-owned commercial brokerage in the United States and has 55 offices with 900 brokers.

The Mistake:

Early in my career, my first large assignment that I pitched for, I really felt like it would be ours. It would have been a six-figure commission, so that was a big deal to me. A six-figure commission, young in my career, would have made a huge difference. But we didn’t get the business. I was really devastated. I moped around for a week or 10 days.

This one was really the first one that psychologically affected me. I think at the time I thought I needed this deal. I tasted it. I thought we had covered the bases really well and it was one we would win. I guess the gentleman I had a relationship with … I didn’t have one as good as I thought. Or I didn’t have enough experience.

At the end of the day, every transaction is important, every transaction means something to me, but I don’t need it.

The Lesson:

I learned to never need another deal to come through. Losing that big commission put me in a mental state that whether or not I got a deal in the future wasn’t going to change who I was.

The lesson is not whether I went in too cocky or whether we did a good job. It’s more about not putting yourself in a situation where you need the transaction to make your next house payment or next car payment, or putting yourself in a situation where a transaction will make you feel like this one will make or break your career. None of those things really matter when you’re looking at a career of 30-plus years of doing the same thing. It’s really about building the career, and that’s what I learned at an early age. It taught me a lesson to build my career around other principles rather than needing a specific transaction.

You build yourself a career on your reputation. You show up on time, do what you say you’re going to do, finish what you start, say please and thank you, and build your reputation on honesty, being trustworthy, being known as a thought leader in the community.

The idea of needing something so bad that it affects how you function – we don’t want to need to do this to make us better. At the end of the day, every transaction is important, every transaction means something to me, but I don’t need it.

From that moment on, 10 days after losing that deal, I have never put myself in a situation in the last 28 years where I have had to have the deal to make my year, to make my career, to make my month, to make my whatever. It would be nice, it would be great, but a deal didn’t change who I was, how I was going about my job, what we were going to say. We didn’t have to change who we are to get business, and/or if we didn’t get business. You have to be true to yourself in all aspects when you’re pitching and working on a transaction and when you’re developing relationships.

Life will give you plenty of sucker punches; you don’t need to add any more. Why put the additional stress on yourself?

Follow R. Craig Coppola on Twitter at @coppolacheneyc2.

Photo courtesy of R. Craig Coppola. 

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