CEO or CVO?

By Cory Warfield

Company founders and solopreneurs wear many hats and can claim many titles, the most common of which is probably CEO.  We think of ourselves as the CEO’s of our businesses the same way we see ourselves as the CEO’s of our own lives — in charge and with a responsibility to succeed (however we define that) and a strong desire to “provide shareholder value”. Every company needs a CEO, but every company needs their right- or center-brain counterpart as well.  As entrepreneurs, we all need to be Chief Visionary Officers (CVO’s), whether we officially adopt the title or not.  Because ultimately, it’s our vision that will determine create our reality, establish our perspective, and drive our results.  Whether we’re forced into the role or step into it willingly, the title comes with visibility, accountability and a fair amount of external pressure.
The role of a CVO is simply to define a vision that creates the future of the company. It sounds intimidating, but as entrepreneurs, we have to embrace the role and rise to the challenge. Without vision, we can be hampered by pre-conceived ideas that come from outside — from our upbringing, other people’s expectations, from what competitors do, or what our limited senses tell us about our situation. With vision, we can achieve anything that our minds can conceive. In small businesses, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to have a full-time CEO and a full-time CVO, so the burden of both roles is likely to fall on your shoulders alone. But in my opinion, that’s a good thing; when we wear both hats and can see both today’s reality and what the future can hold, magic can truly happen.

The role of a CVO is simply to define a vision that creates the future of the company. It sounds intimidating, but as entrepreneurs, we have to embrace the role and rise to the challenge.

It’s worth noting that the “C” title (Chief) implies that you have teams that your leadership impacts. The role of CVO becomes increasingly important as your company grows, when your clear vision is activated by an inspired team that can amplify and execute it.

I hit my stride when I hired a CEO to replace myself as CEO of a scale-up, and took on the role of CVO full time. With a new and somewhat lofty title, I didn’t just sit around having visions! On the contrary, it freed me up to create – so I built a new and improved product, placed national prospects in one pipeline and in paid pilots, and focused on building the company’s culture as we prepared to scale. Call it creativity meets productivity meets THE FUTURE.

I can’t take credit for inventing the job, or the title. Depending on what source you look to, Einar Stefferud, the co-founder and CVO of First Virtual Holdings, first laid claim to the title in 1994. Another early CVO was Tim Roberts, founder of Broadband Investment Group. Roberts said he invented the title as a rank that was intended to be superior to CEO, created in order to recognize the visionary attributes needed to integrate a complex and diverse business. Whoever started the trend, it’s definitely caught on. The practice of formally defining a CVO is already in place in many global organizations, and that title looks positively ancient compared to newly created titles like CZO (Chief Zoom Officer) and others.

The point is not the title. The point is how important it is to regularly get beyond the daily pressures of running a small business and ideate – whether that’s creating a literal vision for your company or envisioning incremental or radical changes in your products, distribution channels, partnership strategies, or other operational processes.

Whether you want personal or professional success for yourself, your idea, or your company, I highly recommend that you regularly set aside time to review, evolve and articulate every element of your vision — and ensure that implementing those elements has as high a priority as your current operational initiatives. The world can’t wait to see what you’ll create!

Cory Warfield is Chief Visionary Officer at Shedwool, a scheduling app that is revolutionizing the way businesses connect their employees to each other and their work schedules.