“We believe when small businesses succeed, our communities succeed,” that is the motto of Portland-based Proper Strategy, a full-service business and brand strategy company. Founded by Cody Galloway, Proper Strategy has had a mercurial rise since its launch in 2019. Still just a young company, Proper Strategy has enabled businesses in the Portland area to thrive through its rebranding and marketing services. Now, Galloway is ready for his second year and beyond, and as it stands, the sky’s the limit for his exciting company.
Galloway launched Proper Strategy not long after finishing his MBA at the University of Oregon. His decision to gain his MBA came after years of working for companies and nonprofits that fueled the fires of entrepreneurialism inside him. Galloway found a need to create his own company and to work directly with business owners. Already, Galloway has seen success with multiple clients raving about the work Proper Strategy has done for them.
The business owner isn’t just a guru with marketing, but an author who has penned an ebook, Level Up, on the marketing industry. Galloway hopes to continue to improve small to medium sized business while growing his reach as an entrepreneur.
Cody, you are coming up on the one-year anniversary of Proper Strategy. Can you explain what led to the company’s formation in 2019?
Sure! I come from a creative agency background and was a partner at a Portland-based branding and web development company for 10 years. Ten years is a long time to do anything and I was ready to take a break from the industry and try something different. I started working at a nonprofit which coincided with enrolling in an MBA program through the University of Oregon. After completing the MBA program in June 2019, I was excited to combine these recent learnings with my past small business experience to help other entrepreneurs succeed. My time in the nonprofit world made me much more community minded and influenced the philosophy behind Proper, which is: When our small businesses succeed, our communities succeed.
Proper is a full-service business and brand strategy company for medium and small-sized businesses. Why have you focused on businesses of these sizes and what can they achieve by working with an experienced strategist?
I find it rewarding to work with small to midsize businesses because at this stage in the company’s growth you can work closely with the founder to realize their vision and have an outsized impact on their success and future direction.
Small business owners operate under many constraints such as limited time, money and resources. Working within these constraints makes deciding what not to do as important as what to do, which is fundamental to any strategic approach. A strategist should be able to lead the client through a process that results in determining key business objectives and what needs to be implemented in terms of branding, people, process, technology, etc to achieve them. While that might sound straightforward, it’s a lot of work to assess things like how to differentiate from the competition while balancing various interests such as short-term versus long-term gains or growth versus profitability.
The company has worked on some amazing looking projects. What can clients expect when working with Proper from the moment they first meet with you until the end of the project?
Thank you! Clients get someone who is an enthusiastic small business advocate and has direct experience with the many challenges small business owners face on a daily basis. Every client engagement is different, but they all start with an in-depth and collaborative discovery process. This kickoff helps determine the project goals, what efforts have been made to date, what roadblocks have occured, how success will be recognized and measured..
This upfront process typically includes several exercises to provoke conversations, gain clarity and spark ideas. Research is a critical early step to provide insights and inform the planning process. The result is a robust report that details information about the client’s industry, their competition and strategic recommendations that we help implement to achieve the desired outcomes. We take our work seriously, but always like to have some fun along the way!
Galloway has worked on some exciting projects including the rebranding of a midsized fitness company. His vision and expertise has taken the fitness brand from a small entity into one that is ready to grow with limitless boundaries.
In early 2020, Proper launched a new brand and business strategy for Fitness Union. Can you explain some of the work you did to increase the company’s ability to attract new clients and expand its reach?
When Fitness Union Founder Kim Stout and I started working together, her business was branded under her own name – Kim Stout Fitness. By going through some of the processes outlined above, we determined that it made sense for Kim to grow her business through hiring additional personnel which would enable her to take on more clients. This approach led us to facilitate a company rebrand to Fitness Union, a name that sets the stage for future organizational growth.
Kim has been subleasing space, which is the next issue we were addressing. Subleasing is great to keep your overhead low, but it started hampering her autonomy to make scheduling and hiring decisions. To remove these constraints, we were hoping to launch Kim’s own studio this Summer. This plan has been delayed due to COVID-19 and we have instead transitioned to a virtual training model. Even though this shift isn’t what we were expecting, all businesses need to adapt to current conditions. In many cases this means offering services digitally instead of in person. The upside is her reach will not be limited by geography.
The work Proper has done with Fitness Union and its owner, Kim Stout, led to charitable donations to Active Children Portland. What led to your decision to partner with the local fitness charity and how important is working with local groups to the company?
While it’s easy to be cynical about the dysfunction in our society today, my time working in the nonprofit space over the last couple years has shown me that there is room for nonprofits, for-profits and government to work in tandem to do good for the community. I’ve been inspired by one local cafe that collects 10% of every sale and contributes the total to two local nonprofits at the end of each quarter. I decided to borrow from this model and donate a portion of the proceeds from each project Proper takes on.
For the Fitness Union project, I decided to contribute to Active Children Portland because their mission to keep kids active through sports lines up well with the values Kim has for her business.
Proper is based in Portland, Oregon, a city that has become very popular for companies and youthful individuals seeking a fun locale to live and work in. Proper’s location has helped in its growth and Galloway recognizes just how valuable an asset the city is to the brand.
Proper Strategy is located in one of the coolest cities in the United States, Portland, Oregon. How has your location helped shape the company and does it lead to working with hip, young companies?
Portland has definitely been having a moment and there is a strong independent streak here. While we have some notable larger companies like Nike and Intel, Portland is very much a small business city. The show Portlandia joked that Portland is where young people go to retire, but I think it’s more accurate to say it’s where people go to start a lifestyle business, get a dog and take up yoga! People love the work life balance and there are tremendous natural assets to take advantage of from the coast to the mountains.
The cost of living is rising and affordable housing is an issue but it’s still manageable, especially when compared to other larger markets. I think this livability makes it easier for people to take chances and experiment, which does create opportunities to work with some great people doing exciting things. My goal is to help these people who are making the entrepreneurial leap be successful by helping them put planning and structure behind their idea and with a little luck, become the next hot brand.
Cody, not only do you run a fantastic new brand strategy business, but you have also authored an ebook on branding. What influenced you to write the ebook, Level Up, and what can readers learn?
I’m a big believer in branding and with this ebook, I wanted to share some basic branding information and convey how building a brand can help your business. We live in a big data world and a lot of us geek out on information, but humans are hardwired for emotion which is why cats videos rule the Internet, right? Branding is not a hard science and it can be challenging to track the impact, but if you’re not thinking about how you want your brand to make people feel then it’s going to be harder for you to connect with your customers on a more meaningful level. Besides the emotional connection branding can create, there are very real tactical considerations around just being recognized and remembered in a crowded marketplace.
Do you have any plans to write further on marketing and branding, and perhaps expand into longer print books?
Definitely! I’d like to continue to create content, resources and tools that our clients and other small business owners can use to stay current with trends and be informed on what approaches are helping their peers be successful. I believe every business owner needs to think like a publisher and create content regularly. Content creation is a cost effective way to establish yourself as an expert and move prospects along the customer journey in a non-salesy manner.
Galloway has taken his fledgling idea and turned it into a dynamic company in just 12 months’ time. His excitement for growing his own company knows no bounds and Proper continues to thrive. Although Galloway has been in business for just one year, he has already learned a lot about himself, his business, and customers.
Proper is just one-year-old, what has it been like to take the idea of launching the company and building it over the first year?
It’s very exciting and rewarding to turn your vision into something tangible that brings real value to people. Despite planning and doing all of the right things upfront, it is very much a leap of faith to see if the market responds to what you are offering in the form of acquiring your first customers. Through my own past experience and talking with other entrepreneurs, I know that companies that seem like an overnight success often grinded for years before becoming established. We all want our businesses to take off really fast, but it’s important to cut ourselves a little slack and be patient with the process.
Being passionate about what you do is the cliche advice we always hear, but it’s true. Passion and belief in your company’s mission and knowing that you are solving problems for your customers all contribute to staying motivated when times are tough!
What is in store for the future at Proper Strategy?
Entrepreneurship is essential to the health of our economy and our communities. A large majority of people start a business because they are ready to be their own boss, to pursue their passion or because they are burned out from corporate culture. Starting a business can be very fulfilling and allow the founders to create opportunities for themselves and others. It takes a lot of courage to take a chance on building a business and I plan on continuing to help these people be successful.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
My claim to fame is that I had a chance to meet the Dalai Lama with my study abroad class when I was an undergrad!
What makes you smile?
Seeing my garden come back in the Spring.
What scares you?
Let’s just say you won’t find me skydiving or bungee jumping anytime soon!
Do you have any hobbies?
My lady and I go trail running with our boxer nearly every weekend. It’s a great way to hit the reset button.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Well, there are plenty of them, but I’ll lead with Miles Davis. Business people always talk about the importance of innovation and Miles was undoubtedly an innovator who changed music several times, collaborated with all the greats of his time and lived a hell of a life!
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“Think like a proton, always positive.”
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
I wish everyone had the opportunity and means to live among a foreign culture or community for a year. I think it would increase our collective compassion and understanding for one another.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, if anyone would like to contact me or Proper Strategy, then they can at www.properstgy.com and the social media handle for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook is @properstgy.com.
Galloway turned his passion into a successful project with the launch of Proper Strategy. Through his expertise and work ethic, the company has thrived transforming clients and their businesses.
Galloway’s experience in various fields from nonprofits to for-profits has helped him gain the knowledge to build a strong brand. Now, he is ready to grow Proper Strategy even further and build upon the company’s growing reputation in the coming years.