CEO copilot; a brand story

The story of a brand is as unique as the business or the individual behind it.  Mine is no different. In fact, it should be no surprise that mine arose in order to highlight the uniqueness.

You see, for a good 5+ years I owned a franchise coaching practice up until late 2016. This was preceded by a 14 year career that encompassed consulting, business turnarounds, executive and Leadership roles project management and business development in a diverse range of Industries. Just imagine the ‘cross pollination’ possible from awareness of the agriculture, hospitality, grocery, retail, automotive repair, insurance/employee benefits, manufacturing, oil and gas Services, engineering, and construction industries! But, what is relevant here is that I learned that while a franchise coaching business was a good model, I was not born to be one of many. I am unique and I have a strong desire to celebrate and offer my uniqueness.

So, in early 2016 I set about to achieve two critical things; create a brand name as unique as me which describe who I serve and what I do, but also create a new name that didn't say “business coach”. You see, during that time where I live, Calgary Alberta Canada, the economy was going downwards and the market was becoming flooded with past executive management and disillusioned workers needing to pay bills. As a result, the market was overloaded with many people who called themselves “business coach”. I felt I needed to (and wanted to) stand out from my competitors and portray the wealth of experience and knowledge I have to offer.

So I started with what I knew I had to offer and the incredible resources around me. Here's what I know I have to work with as a starting point:

  • I am creative. In fact, I tested in the 95th percentile for creativity. In other words, I am among the top 5% of the world for creativity. It should be no surprise then, that I'm quite Innovative in how I approach problems.
  • Because of my diverse work and Industry experience I have seen things go right and wrong in a myriad of ways; from systems and processes to anything related to how a business communicates; from ideas to implementation, and particularly in the ways of all things people. This gives me the advantage of good instincts and a unique perspective of how well things are really working.
  • Throughout my experience I have always been readily able to both see the big picture and how to get there.  As a side benefit, I have also been able to easily see what will get in the way.
  • I have learned how to “call it as I see it”.  I will do it respectfully but I believe in being N.I.C.E. (no matter how scary or uncomfortable it is for me to speak up about what I see, I say to myself “No! I Care Enough” to speak up and out).

With knowing what I had to work with I then had to decide where it fit.  So I went to my friends, my family, my clients (past and present) and I asked them to be both brutally and joyfully honest about what they thought I brought to the table that helped them move forward.  Many wonderful insights were revealed but two clients came back with the identical response that really stood out for me; “Curtis, you make an incredible number 2!”

The joke wasn't lost on me, but I knew what they meant.  They were number 1 in their organization and I was there to support them in that role. But, couldn't call myself “your number 2!” (the implications are too wrong! LOL).  I still laugh when I think about the connotations and a part of me loves that innuendo, but the marketing inference that I'm sh*t just wasn't cool. So I set about finding a reframe, knowing somewhere in there was the name or the brand I was looking for.

A few months went by, meanwhile I was networking and building connections in the world (the market) I wanted to serve: CEO’s who wanted real and challenging feedback to their leadership style or business direction (business success is more important than their “feelings” or ego) and were tired of “feeling alone”, not quite sure they were not getting the “brown nose” feedback to initiatives or new ideas and were even frustrated at their team were “not getting it”.  I learned their language. I learned where their pains are and were. I learned where they hung out and with whom and how they behaved. I never sold anything. I had nothing to sell, I was building relationships and became a “safe” person. I helped make connections where I could.

Then the craziest thing happened.  A friend who is a private pilot invited me to go for a spin, we had not flown together in a while (I’m not a pilot, just enjoy the “road” trip).  As we were going through his airplane for the pre-flight check, about three quarters of the way through the list, he looked over at me and said: “Curtis, you make an awesome copilot!”.  

Immediately I connected the dots...CEOcopilot©!

My brand name was born!  In my gut, my heart and my head I knew it was the brand name I was looking for, but I wasn’t done.  It didn’t matter what I thought; it only mattered what my market thought. It needed to resonate with them. So, back to the relationships I had developed I went and asked them what they thought of the name.  I went to networking sessions and confidently introduced myself as a CEOcopilot; when they invariably asked what it was (or meant), I just looked back and said “please don’t think I’m playing games, it’s a brand new brand and I would like to know what it means to you?”.  They all got it!

My brand was born!

Ever since I have been working diligently to develop and build the reputation I want it to be known for, to get the brand to take flight and to stay safely aloft and to ultimately land safely when I’m ready to exit.

These are what I do for my clients and I practice what I preach.