Stephen Koppekin – Founder of Koppekin Consulting

Keep your clients happy and treat them with the utmost respect. Be responsive in the most efficient way.

Stephen Koppekin is an expert in labor and industrial relations with over 40 years of experience in the field. Throughout the course of his career, Stephen has helped to improve the efficiency of a government agency by exponentially shrinking its case backlog, bargained the television industry’s first basic cable agreement, negotiated an end to two industry-wide strikes by the Writers’ Guild of America, and more.

Following his retirement in 2013, Stephen founded Koppekin Consulting, Inc., where he serves as president and provides the highest quality labor consulting services—including unionizations, negotiating contracts and collective bargaining agreements, strike resolution, grievances and arbitrations, scheduling and staffing issues, developing workplace policies, and more—to small and mid-size firms in all industries.

Although Stephen Koppekin has spent decades as an executive at various organizations, his career began in a factory in New Jersey where, as a young man, he worked to process oil from ships into Crisco. One day, a 2-by-4 struck his head, rendering him unconscious; when he woke up in a hospital bed several hours later, he resolved to make the most of his life from that point forward and decided to get an education. He attended Fairleigh Dickinson University and then matriculated into the law program at Rutgers University.

Upon receiving his law degree, Stephen and Alfred Blumrosen—his former law professor and the first chief conciliator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC)—took on a project for the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Stephen Koppekin managed to trim a filer’s “wait time” down from nine months to forty days: a massive increase in efficiency for the office.

Stephen Koppekin then branched out into economics and law before developing a specialty in the realm of labor and employment as the space that combined those passions. He worked for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) before taking a position as Vice President in Negotiating Services and Labor Relations at CBS and then moved onto a role as an Executive Vice President in Industrial Relations & Workplace Safety at a major motion picture studio. He helped to establish several new media agreements, the first basic cable agreement in television history, an end to two industry-wide strikes by the Writers Guild of America, and more.

Today, Stephen Koppekin balances his time between his consulting business, philanthropic pursuits like support for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF), and spending time with his family—especially his grandchildren. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Where did the idea for Koppekin Consulting Inc.come from?

Upon retirement, besides doing charitable work and spending time with my grandchildren, I needed to do something that kept my brain sharp. After all, there is only so much golf one can play. Thus, my business of labor consulting (a field I spent my entire working career in) began.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I really don’t have a typical day. My days vary, from spending time with friends and my grandchildren as well as working on my consulting company. Depending on the day, I have assignments from different clients, which requires me to visit them have telephone conversations and respond to emails as well as doing research. This also means that I have to be well-organized and prepared at all times. Since you don’t know exactly which clients or which issues will need attention, you can’t waste any time getting ready—you need to always be ready for anything.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have discussions with clients in which I get their buy-in on concepts and ideas and we implement them on various work sites. Collaboration is essential; after all, since I spend as much time as a client needs on any issue—usually not more than an hour—it’s very important that the client has a sense of ownership over the solutions we develop if they’re going to succeed and last.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m seeing more managers who have a true understanding of what labor relations is all about. That is a great trend going forward. Seeing clients internalize the lessons of labor relations means that they’ll be able to put them into practice even when I’m not there to help them.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

The glass is always half empty. This requires me to analyze the worst case scenario and present alternatives to solve the potential problem for the client, not just the easy answer.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job was summer in high school, many years ago. I collected seeds and racks at supermarkets that weren’t sold, did an accounting and confirmed with the supermarket, then loaded them in an old company-supplied truck, boxed them up , prepared shipments and sent them back to the manufacturer. After two and half months of doing that in the hot and humid New Jersey summer, I decided I needed to get a good education.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would probably be a better student in high school. While I became successful, I really had to work at it. I didn’t go to college upon graduation but worked until I got hit on the head by a falling 2 by 4—then decided I had to continue with my education. Other than that, there’s nothing I would do differently.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep your clients happy and treat them with the utmost respect. Be responsive in the most efficient way.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

The strategy is to give multiple alternatives, if possible, to clients and then help them to decide which is the best one. Additionally, you have to analyze your clients. If you have decisive ones, it’s easy. If you have clients who are hesitant to make a decision, that’s where the hard work starts.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I was initially overconfident with my startup. I overcame it by digging down deeper and understanding that people are not going to come to me because they know me—I have to go get them.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A digital complaint letter writing service. Millions of consumers who think they’ve been cheated or mistreated go home and say, “I’m going to write and complain about how I was treated,” but they don’t because it’s difficult. To help meet that need, an entrepreneur should establish a website that, with one-click and for a reasonable price, will write for letter and take care of it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Taking my grandchildren to lunch and having great conversations about what they are doing. It’s the greatest pleasure to hear their aspirations.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

LinkedIn—it’s a great service. I love that you get to discover and contact people who may be experts in an area that you’re looking for very easily. It’s also great for research.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Art of War written by Sun Tzu. Basically, if you’re interested in business, conflict, strategy, or other disciplines, it offers a philosophy of how you go to war, what you should expect from your enemies, and more. It was written with generals in mind, but it teaches lessons for modern, everyday life: how to strategize, how to prepare or respond to your competitors or your rivals how to lead others, and so on. It’s been one of the most influential books ever written.


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