Jason Cox is the co-owner of Brightstone, a coaching and mentoring residential facility for young adults with autism. Jason oversees the executive directors and the administrative team at Brightstone.
Jason studied Political Science in college and then took a job working with inner city youth for the state of Georgia. Through that job he saw how much help that was needed in the world and how much of an impact you could make right away and decided to stick with that kind of work because of how much he really enjoyed working with young people every day. He worked for the state of Georgia for seven years and then moved on to working for a nonprofit, running boarding schools.
We saw the need for young adults that were transitioning into adulthood. He started working with the nonprofit to try to start a young adult program, but they did not want to do that, so he left the nonprofit and began working with the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco with their program that helped young people get into college.
At that time, his business partner, Tim McMahon, opened up Brightstone because there was a real need for a residential program for young adults with autism, and he asked Jason to join him in that endeavor.
Where did the idea for Brightstone Transitions come from?
There is a Brightstone Creek that is a beautiful piece of land that is close to the first Brightstone house. It was our founder’s favorite place to get outside and think. When we were looking for a name, this beautiful and serene place was the inspiration.
Brightstone started off with one client and one staff, but now we have 35 staff and over 40 clients. Brightstone now has five different houses for its resident clients. The average length of stay for our clients is 18 months. We have some young people who are with us a year and some that stay for several years. We also have a foundation to help support some of them longer term.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get here in the morning and check in with our team to see what we will focus on today in supporting our managers and helping them to problem solve. There are different issues that come up during the day and also checking in with our young people and being able to be around them. We have the greatest young adults in the world. They are so on top of it. They are smart. They want to do so well, and it’s really cool to be around them and watch them grow.
One of the great things about Brightstone is we don’t have typical days. Each day is a little bit different. No day looks the same. Some days are better than others. It is a dynamic thing. Our young people are in the community and working. They have jobs and lives. They are learning to succeed and how to pick themselves up when they fail. We help them focus on a goal and on what is in front of them and not get too consumed by the anxiety and emotions of the day. Those things will pass. It’s a temporary thing. It’s not forever, and we move forward.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We are still a small enough organization that we are able to come up with an idea and to be able to implement it somewhat quickly because are nimble as an organization. We have a lot more mentors and direct care staff than we do administrative staff. When someone has an idea, we’re able to figure out what that plan is and implement it, not right away, but pretty quickly.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am excited about the trend of people understanding our young people, even our young people without a diagnosis, and understanding that anxiety is there and something real. People are getting a lot more awareness around our young people with neurologic differences, and more importantly, people are more accepting and even seeking our young people out because they are great employees and great students.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
We do think outside the box. We are able to see the world as we want it to be, and not how it is. I think that is our best habit, not being constrained in how we view our clients so we can help them even more.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient. You work hard and you want things to happen right away, but I think I would have made fewer mistakes if I had been more patient. Give things time to come to fruition.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Sometimes I think people get it in their head that other people want to fail, or they want to succeed, or they are pushing back because they’re trying to make someone miserable. I just don’t believe people are like that. I think that everybody is truly trying their best. Sometimes it seems like their best is not good enough or sometimes it leaves something to be desired, but nobody chooses to fail. Perhaps their perception is skewed, or their anxiety is so much. We are ingrained with patterns and those patterns have to change. But everybody wants to be successful and everybody works as hard as they can to be successful, though sometimes they have other barriers that are stopping them.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I keep learning and listening. We created these programs, but there is still so much learning. You are listening constantly and putting that information to use.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy is being intentional. Every time we have made the best decisions for our people, it has helped us to grow. That has been our secret.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I tried to open up a program before Brightstone, and there were so many people that had influence and were involved in the oversight. With Brightstone, we do not have investors or outside money, so we are free to make decisions based on what we think is right, and not just financial considerations.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think a great idea for a business would be creating a program for autistic young people using wilderness therapy.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought dinner for my family and my mom and dad. We finally got to see them. It was the best $100 I spent because I got to spend time with my family.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use the Google calendar. You don’t have to remember anything anymore.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye. We all want to have someone care about us, help us, and save us, and we all want to do that for other people. That book is always a good reminder for me of those things.
What is your favorite quote?
“What lies behind you and lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
● At Brightstone, we individualize everything.
● Compassion goes a long way in helping others.
● Value other people.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.