Helping Founders and CEOs Thrive
High capacity CEOs and C-suite leaders often discover that while leading their organizations can be exhilarating, it can also be lonely and fraught with discouragement and unhealthy lifestyles. On top of that, all of us experience life disruptions and obstacles (marriage and family struggles, deaths of loved ones, health problems, life transitions, etc.). These difficult life-events and seasons can cause us to shut down and disconnect, leaving us feeling hopeless, fighting addictive behaviors, and feeling shameful or defective. Burnout and “quiet desperation” are inevitable unless something changes. Alternatively, these hard times can be a catalyst to help us find new meaning and purpose, creativity, effectiveness, connectedness, authenticity, happiness and true success. The difference is determined by how we choose to move forward.
The good news is that you already have everything you need within you to start thriving physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. Most of the time, all you need is someone to walk with you and help bring to the forefront what’s already there – your true self.
I have over 30 years experience in entrepreneurship and corporate CEO-leadership, in both public and private companies. Having grown a company as CEO from a $40m valuation to unicorn status (over $1 billion valuation), being named one of the “100 most intriguing entrepreneurs” by Goldman Sachs, and having started and led one of the fastest growing companies in the US from startup to exit, I understand achieving worldly success yet facing the emotional crisis that often comes with its pursuit. The journey forward is to find holistic healing and wellbeing. Whether you are a startup founder or a seasoned C-suite executive, I can help you set the table for your transformation and be where you want to be – a thriver.
Read more ABOUT VANCE (below). What is meant by EXECUTIVE ELDER (below)? Or click on the link to schedule a call with Vance.
Vance has over 30 years of experience as a high-tech entrepreneur, lawyer, and CEO. Currently Vance is co-founder and an executive elder at Thrivers Leadership Institute (thrivers.com). Vance also is the Executive Director at Exponential Impact, an incubator and accelerator in Colorado Springs with a mission to develop “the best entrepreneurs humanly possible.” (exponentialimpact.com)
Until Nov. of 2020 Vance was the CEO of the National Cybersecurity Center (NCC). Founded in 2016 by then Governor John Hickenlooper, the NCC is a cybersecurity think-tank that is getting global recognition for its thought leadership. Vance also is co-founder of The Classical Academy, the largest K-12 charter school in Colorado.
Vance was co-founder and CEO of Cherwell Software from its inception in 2004 until 2017. In 2014 Cherwell was tied with LinkedIn as one of the fastest growing companies in North America by Deloitte’s Fast 500. In 2015 Cherwell was Colorado’s software company of the year and was sold in 2021. Formerly, Vance was CEO of GoldMine Software, which was rated as one of the top 100 software companies in the US. Vance’s first software company he co-founded was Buildsoft, which was rated by Builder Magazine as the top software company in the country for integrated construction management. Through the years, Vance has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from firms such as Insight Partners and KKR.
In 2009 Vance was given the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award by Wake Forest University. In 2013 Vance was Entrepreneur of the Year for Colorado Springs. Additionally, Vance was named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Award Winner in technology for a 3-state region. Vance then served as an EY national judge for 3 years in the technology category. Vance also was named one of the “100 most intriguing entrepreneurs” by Goldman Sachs in 2017. In 2018, Vance was named the “Business Citizen of the Year” in Colorado Springs.
Vance graduated summa cum laude from Wake Forest, with degrees in Economics and Computer Science, and then from the University of North Carolina School of Law with honors. He finished on Law Review and Order of the Coif. Vance still is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia.
Vance serves on the board for charitable organizations such as Parents Challenge, Foundation of the Heart, and the Legacy Institute. He also is a lifetime Honorary Commander Emeritus for the US Air Force Academy and currently is a Civic Leader for the US Air and Space Force. Vance is an inventor on two patents and is a blockchain enthusiast. Vance has been married to Betsy for 35 years and they have three children.
Why Executive Elder?
The convergence of coach, consultant and spiritual director.
I have been greatly blessed in life AND life has been very hard. I have much to offer others regarding how to start and grow a global market-leading business with a wonderful culture. This is the arena where I am a coach and consultant. AND I have confronted addictive behaviors and have had to admit to personal powerlessness. I have suffered from and been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I have lived in much fear and shame. I have witnessed my child battle cancer and I have faced my own cancer, both of which felt like deaths. This suffering has been the catalyst for my spiritual journey. Life is treacherous; AND life is magnificent.
My first half of life was more about surviving rather than thriving. It’s helpful to walk with someone who is a little further down the road to give you some perspective and to help you dispel the illusion of separateness. I believe there is hope for peace, contentment and happiness in all aspects of life, including work. I have enjoyed a career in the corporate arena and achieved a lot of worldly success, but getting to the top of the ladder often felt empty and like the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall (as stated by Thomas Merton). Much of my business framework and workplace values are summarized in my Thrivers book. Spiritually, I was raised as an evangelical Christian (see my book No Matter the Cost – my “first-half-of-life” manuscript) and in 2001 I started a men’s ministry called Band of Brothers (bandofbrothers.org). In the past several years I have been greatly impacted by the non-dualistic and contemplative work of Fr. Richard Rohr, the author of many books including Falling Upward. I recently completed his 2-year Living School program at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC). This is the arena where I am a spiritual director. There is no intention when working with my clients to proselytize any particular religion, but I do reference the ancient wisdom of perennial traditions representing and respectful of different faiths. We will consider the big patterns that are true always and everywhere. Clearly my own spiritual tradition is Judeo-Christian.
I typically work with business leaders who are in transition, perhaps questioning the systems, world views and religious beliefs that no longer seem to be working. My model for being an elder to executives is holistic – Mind, Body and Spirit – where we work to Rewire the Mind, Regulate the Body, and Connect to Everyone and Everything. I believe it is impossible to experience true personal growth and and transformation without exploring all aspects of well-being. “Spirituality” is not just for the church – it is the human language of failure and glory in all of life, including our work. It’s the language of meaning and purpose, which usually is transformed through unwanted yet necessary suffering. I believe that pondering the big questions of life is important to the way we deal with the suffering. Even Albert Einstein commented, “I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?'” Our core belief or view of the benevolence or wrath of the Divine is a crucial question.
I consider myself a “wounded healer” who continues to do life wrong – every day. As often stated by Rohr, “We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.” An elder has lived long enough to know that life can be very hard, and an elder understands that all will be okay and knows that in the end life is “very good.” Often what we thought were curses were actually blessings. I believe in good endings because I believe that resurrection(s) follows death(s), a truth that is echoed by the loss and renewal pattern found in nature. An elder also is about being curious, being present, and is about always being a life-long student – i.e. a growth mindset. Our time together will include my role as a coach, consultant, and spiritual director. Holistically, it is all about laying the groundwork for your transformation – which is all about surrender and letting go. An “elder” brings a perspective that helps you hold the space, paradox and tension between the “very hard” AND “very good.” The only term that feels inclusive of my role with those business executives I work with is “Executive Elder.”
Vance Brown and Richard Rohr
The Thrivers Quadrant
Some entrepreneurs’ highest priority is making money (the “mercenary” or pragmatic mindset), while others most value a life of purpose and meaning (the “missionary” or passionate mindset). The reality is that most of us want both. We all lean with a mindset and skill set that favors one over the other, just like most people are either more left-brained (analytical) or right-brained (artistic). The same is typically true of entrepreneurship and organizational leadership. Rarely do leaders excel at both — but we believe with the right training and self-awareness you can be a Thriver. Additionally, where we are typically changes throughout the life-cycle of our respective journeys (i.e. either first or second halves of life). Vance developed The Thrivers Quadrant to help you identify and navigate where you are and where you want to be. This model is fully described in the Thrivers book.
Videos & Media
Special tribute video of Vance Brown, played for his Business Citizen Award from the Colo Springs Chamber
Excerpt of Vance Brown at the 2018 National Cyber Symposium. Vance is a seasoned speaker and enjoys the topic of mind, body, and spirit in the workplace.
Articles by Vance Brown
Professionals around the world are standing together at a crossroads: We’ve met at the intersection of emerging technical disruption and the future of work. It’s a busy, chaotic place. Some naysayers are waving banners of warning, convinced technology will end our usefulness and purpose. But my forecast for tomorrow is much brighter.
Whether you’re a layman launching a passion project, an entrepreneur waiting for her first big act, or a blue-collar man who’s simply ready to be his own boss, know this: Those who sprint to achieve mythical unicorn status flicker out fast. Laboring through long days and longer nights, they’re left depleted.
Everyone talks about employee engagement. But what happens when leaders are the ones who feel detached from their companies? Whether startup entrepreneurs or corporate executives, they need to reignite the fires that got them to their current position—and determine where the future is to consistently fuel their happiness.