What kind of title is chief love officer? Dave Veale interviews Chris Nadeau, CLO, Evolving Solutions as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.
That’s the burning question many have pondered after their first encounter with Chris Nadeau, CLO and co-founder of New Brunswick-based web development and social media company Evolving Solutions.
‘One of our core values is to lead without titles,’ says Chris Nadeau, Chief Love Officer and co-founder of Evolving Solutions. ‘I wanted no titles for people in our company because I felt everyone was just as important and titles got in the way. But I talked about it with others and they thought I needed some sort of title, so I said, ‘Well, I’ll be the Chief Love Officer then.’ ”
Chris and his brother Adrian have grown the company from a professional service firm offering web development services to a successful web product company. As an entrepreneur I’ve been watching and learning from this nine-year-old firm and my sense is that Evolving Solutions has really come into its own.
Q My first question was about Evolving Solution’s tagline “Keeping it simple” how did it come about?
A What we realized is that we were making things too complicated. When we started our business we were like, “Oh, we don’t want to be the website guys.” But then we realized everyone needs a website. So we said lets build a really killer product that focuses on a really solid website for businesses or organizations and really keep it simple.
We structured the products so that we get people on board that use the product. They get trained, but then there’s the recurring revenue model behind it, so we don’t have to stress out as business owners trying to find that next project, that next client.
Q How did you get to this place where you said: We have to shift this, we’ve got to change this? What was the process of making the decision around that?
A We were banging our heads against the wall and then a light went on. Everybody needs a website, but a lot of people are very fearful of the sticker price at the start. They see this big website, and they want it, but then they realize how much it costs and they back off.
So we thought, “Why don’t we go with a product so that we can actually put multiple people on top of the same product and have their own little area.”
We can lower the cost because our cost of development is a lot less now, and the initial investment for our customers is a lot less than what it was.
So that probably took us about six years in the business to really figure that out.
Q As a business owner, what are some of the hardest decisions you’ve had to make?
A For me, it was dealing with employees. We’ve had some great people help us along the way to get to where we are now. They have since moved on to either other jobs with other companies, or we’ve had to make changes in our environment. Those are the toughest decisions, I think as an employer.
Q You guys seem to like having fun and you enjoy what you do. You came out of a corporate culture and you are, in my mind, a pure entrepreneur. You guys just went for it! On your website, you call yourself the Chief Love Officer, which is about having fun. Tell me a little more about that.
A When we decided to start the business, we didn’t want to be 50 looking back saying – What if we had of started our business? What would have happened?” So we had this passion to go out and do it on our own and our motto at the time was “If you risk nothing, you risk everything.”
So we said let’s jump in, see what happens. The worst that can happen is you could lose your house or whatever. It’s really not that big a thing. As we evolved we had fun with it, (and I became) the Chief Love Officer.
One of our core values is to lead without titles, which comes from (author and consultant) Robin Sharma. I wanted no titles for people in our company because I felt everyone was just as important and titles got in the way. But I talked about it with others and they thought I needed some sort of title, so I said, “Well, I’ll be the Chief Love Officer then.”
Another company value is to be nice, because a lot of business is cut throat or at least we saw it that way. So we thought, you know, we’re just nice guys, we’re going to operate as nice guys. We think there should be a lot more love in business, so I’m the Chief Love Officer, and I try to spread the love.
Q A lot of people want to jump in and be entrepreneurs. What advice would you give to someone who’s about to take the leap?
A We’re all different. If you’re in a job and you actually love it and you like the employer, then I really don’t see why you would want to leave.
But if there is that inkling of feeling that you’re not enjoying every day and there is something that you know you can do, that you’re very passionate about, I think you’ve got to go for it.
I think you’ve got to look at it and say, “What is the worst thing that can happen to me if I go for this? Alright, if it doesn’t work, I’ve got to go get another job.”
Q So it’s about making a decision, being okay with the worst possible outcome, and then going for it?
A Follow your passion.
Q You have a sports background, a business background, you’ve been in the corporate sector, you’ve done a lot of things, and you’ve met a lot of people. Is there one person who you can think of that has really inspired you and had a real impact on who you are as a person and as a leader?
A I would have to say as far as the business side, it would have to be my brother, Adrian.
Q In the interviews that I’m doing, I’m expecting people to talk about Warren Buffett or whomever, and most people are pointing to family members, which is really interesting.
A I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done with the business and I don’t think he would have been able to do what he’s done with our business. I think having our two skill sets, our two personalities, being able to lean on each other, have really made us who we are, and it’s worked really well, and seeing what he does inspires me to be a better leader, a better person for our company.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. His column appears every other Thursday.
Interview published Thursday May 20th, 2010 in the Telegraph-Journal
Read my most recent interview with Chris…Catching up with Evolving Solutions Chief Love Officer.
Photo: Kate Braydon, Telegraph-Journal