By Steve Sears
Grant Thornton’s J.T. Kostman can see Lake Hopatcong from his home. Apropos stuff for a guy who loves nature.
Kostman, 56, joined the tax, audit and advisory firm at the end of August 2018, but at the time was semi-retired. “I was sitting on a couple of Boards,” he says, “and I was bored.” He has always been a highly sought-after speaker Applied Artificial Intelligence, IOT Analytics and other various forms of technology. During one of these engagements, he met the Grant Thornton Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. “We really hit it off, and they asked if I would consider joining for two reasons.” First, he would go around the world talking and writing about what’s possible now, not some idealization of what might happen in the future. “Practically, pragmatically, implementably what are the things that can give companies an advantage, and what skills and capabilities need, in particular talking to those mid-cap companies, who my heart goes to; I’ve always been about arming David with a slingshot, enabling the little guy to play fairly on the field.” The second was actually to build the beforementioned, and he leads a team that actually builds those solutions.“
Kostman has a favorite saying: “Succeed while doing the right thing.” He elaborates. “I was having this conversation recently with a number of people. I sit on a number of Boards, and I tend to be very selective of those. One of the questions I typically pose to leadership is, ‘Tell me about a time you could’ve been much more successful had you taken advantage of someone. Have you taken the shortcut? Have you gone with what was expedient or what was easy? It might have harmed someone, but would it have helped you be more successful?’ The ones I wind up working with are the ones who can’t think of an example. They can come up with several examples where they didn’t do it. Those are the people I want to work with.”
“Live a life where you don’t have those regrets.”
Kostman, who lives near beautiful Lake Hopatcong, feels his family is the most important thing for him. “Everything I’ve ever done is because of Angie (his wife),” he gratefully exclaims. “She’s the center of everything, and then I have two children. My daughter teaches special needs children and is the mother of my three grandchildren, and my son is a photojournalist for the New Jersey Herald.”
Kostman had a rough childhood, but it readied him for what’s been a rewarding career and life. His wife reminded him once that, “I had said in a rare moment of self-indulgence, that I became who I am in spite of my parents, and she reminded me that it wasn’t true. Instead, my earlier life formed who I am. It’s absolutely true. The short version – I was horrifically abused on a continuous basis, and eventually made my way to the streets.” He has also worked as a paramedic, police officer, and is a former soldier. “It gives you a sense of real perspective of realizing that at the end of the day, what are the things that truly matter to us? I think there’s nothing wrong with doing well, but there’s no reason you can’t simultaneously do some good.”