Cope stresses teamwork as key to success

The ultimate key to success is mastering the skill of fostering strong professional teams, said George Cope, president and chief executive officer of Bell Canada and BCE Inc., Canada’s largest communications company.

Cope spoke to 425 graduates from the Richard Ivey School of Business and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the Tuesday, June 19 afternoon session of Western’s 299th Convocation.

Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.) upon Cope in recognition of his success in the telecommunications industry and his dedication to promoting mental health awareness.

“As an Ivey grad, you’ve developed a unique ability to work within teams and to lead in them. You can cooperate to achieve objectives that benefit people you’re serving, your customers, the community and everyone on your team. Building teams is absolutely a key to success,” Cope said.

An Ivey graduate in 1984, Cope started his career in telecommunications with BrookTel, a marketing partner for Bell Cellular, where he became the company’s top sales agent.

Shortly afterward, he became president of a small radio dispatch company called Clearnet Communications. Under his direction, the company became a significant national player in the mobile phone industry. Telus eventually purchased it for $6.6 billion.

Cope took on the role of CEO at Telus Mobility and transformed the company from a regional wireless operator into a full-fledged national carrier. In 2006, he moved on to Bell as president and COO, and was appointed CEO of BCE and Bell two years later.

But Cope’s success and dedication isn’t exclusive to the business world.

Spurred by his mother’s battle with depression, he turned his attention to raising awareness of mental health. Cope initiated a multi-year charitable program with Bell, dedicated to the promotion and support of mental health across Canada. The five-year, $50 million initiative supports programs that will enhance awareness, understanding and treatment of mental illness while promoting access to care and research across the country.

Cope has also been active at Western, serving as one of Ivey’s most-trusted advisors since 1998. He was on the cabinet of the Ivey Campaign For Leadership that will result in a $200-million investment to support faculty, student and research as well as Ivey’s new building.

Cope told the graduates to foster good working relationships with everyone they meet – anyone could be a future teammate.

“Look around and see a team that will matter to you for the rest of your life – your study partners, your case team, your profs, your family and your fans,” he said.

Cope left the graduates with five points of advice in their future careers:

  1. Choose to show up every day. Respect yourself and the teams you rely on;
  2. Choose to trust yourself;
  3. Choose to use the problem-solving skills you developed with all your hard work at Ivey. Don’t walk into the boss’ office with a problem unless you have a solution;
  4. Maintain your integrity at all costs. You will need to like that person looking back at you in the mirror;
  5. Respect your rivals. They’re playing the same game you are, competing with a similar level of commitment and desire. Play it straight and fair. Who knows, you may end up on the same team one day.

In her citation, Carol Stephenson, Ivey dean, said Cope’s career has paved a roach of excellence in telecommunications.

“George Cope has a long history as a titan of the telecommunications industry. He has earned a reputation as an innovative telecom strategist and builder of high-performance teams, having successfully launched three next-generation Canadian digital networks during his career. Attesting to this impeccable leadership, Mr. Cope was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in Business by Canadian Business magazine,” she noted.

The status of professor emeritus was also conferred upon Ivey professor Larry Wynant.