Running a business is a lot of work and, as an entrepreneur, you probably wear a lot of hats. From head administrator to marketing professional, the variety of activities you undertake on a daily basis can make it hard to define your role. Understandably, picking just one title can seem overwhelming.
But committing to a title can bring more organization to your small business and narrow your responsibility. It helps you define who you are, your business’ structure, and even helps shape company culture.
What’s in a title?
It seems silly to say that finding the right job title as a small business owner is a big deal, but it really is. It’s easy to get so overwhelmed with the excitement of starting a business, that picking a title just doesn’t seem that important.
Not only is it fun to say, “I’m the CEO of XYZ Industries” at a conference, but having a formal title adds an extra air of credibility. It’s a lot easier to do business when you know how to introduce yourself.
Titles have an impact on you and those around you. Yours can help define your role to employees, so they can identify who you are and what you can help them with. It can also indicate to customers or clients who you are.
But that clarification isn’t just external. Having a title can also help you define your own role. Doing so adds confidence, which is crucial if you really want to see growth. However, picking the right job title can be a bit of a challenge.
Common small business titles
Picking a job title shouldn’t keep you up at night, but it’s something a lot of new entrepreneurs struggle with.
Your title isn’t set in stone, and it’s OK if you want to try on a few before you fully commit. You can pick any title under the sun that helps make you confident and comfortable in your role, but these are 11 common choices that modern entrepreneurs go with:
Founder is a favourite title among many small business owners. It implies the holder built the business from the ground up, and it’s a great title for someone who acts as the driving force behind the business.
Because it indicates the founding of the company, you should have actually founded the business to use it.
The title Founder doesn’t have to be a stand-alone one. It’s often paired with a secondary company owner title where a partnership is involved. For example, you may have two founders but one is “Founder and CEO” while the other holds the title “Founder and Creative Director.”
Another common title business owners take is Chief Executive Officer or CEO. This is a heavyweight title that really indicates the person in charge.
CEOs look at the whole picture of the business, guiding its long-term direction, and have the final say in any major decision the company undertakes. But the person who takes this high-level view often isn’t involved in the day-to-day of the business––this primarily falls to the Chief Operating Officer.
Because there’s an underlying assumption that only larger companies have CEOs, some small business owners wait until they’ve grown before taking this C-level title, particularly specially if they’re looking for a title that really indicates day-to-day management.
Chief Accountant/Chief Accounting Officer (CX or CXO)
If you want a C-level title, but CEO is a little too big picture for your business right now, you could try out something more business specific. The CXO or CX title, with “X” being the specific factor, is a title that’s both descriptive and big.
A small accounting firm might have a Chief Accounting Officer, while a plumbing business might have a Chief Plumber. Both titles indicate a high level of decision-making and management power, but are specific to the job and the company as a whole.
The best part is, you can be the chief of anything in your business. As long as it makes sense to employees, contractors, and potential clients, the perfect title is the one that works best for you.
The Managing Director title carries a similar connotation to CEO and other similar titles. It indicates the holder is in charge of running the company’s long-term strategy and having final say on important decisions. But, while CEO tends to carry the weight of a large company behind it, Managing Director doesn’t. It’s a professional title fit for small to midsize businesses.
You could also go with the similar title of Managing Partner, which is a title you see often in the professional services, like at a law firm. However, the partner title indicates there are other business partners in the mix, possibly who have narrower job descriptions.
Managing Member is a title that tends to indicate you both own and manage a business. It’s descriptive of someone who runs both the day-to-day operations and long-term strategy, and can make binding decisions on behalf of the company.
This title tends to show up in organizations that are owned and operated by multiple “members,” with the Managing Member being the one who manages it. That said, you could use the title so long as you’re both the owner and manager of the business.
The title of President is another one that tends to carry a similar job description to CEO, but often for a much larger, more established brand or firm.
It should be noted that the President title tends to exist in organizations that have a more complex structure. It’s not often that a sole proprietorship has a president, instead the business tends to be its own legal entity with a robust management structure.
That’s not to say you can’t use this traditional title in a less formal way, but you probably want to consider how you want your company’s managerial structure and future job titles to play out.
Director of Operations
Business operations are the activities your business performs and participates in on a daily basis to gain clients or customers, and ultimately increase profits. The Director of Operations title matches someone who oversees those activities.
Director of Operations is synonymous with the Chief Operating Officer or COO. It’s a C-level position, regardless of whether you use the COO or DO title, but in a larger organization this position usually reports to someone––in most cases, the CEO or President.
This could make for a good small business owner title if you want to indicate your involvement in the operations of the business in a way that a CEO or President might not. You can also use this title as the top-level title of your organization;it does not need to be a reporting role.
Director titles are great for small businesses because they can be specific, like a CX title, and still indicate a high level of authority without making the organization sound massive.
The big difference between a C-level title and a director is that, by definition, chief indicates a business section head or leader (like the Chief of Marketing), whereas a director role is often a little more niche.
That said, you can often find Creative Directors at the head of organizations like marketing consulting businesses or design firms. These types of businesses cater to the creative industry, so the emphasis on creativity in the lead role makes sense.
Much like the Creative Director title, if you’re running a small technology company, the title Technical Director or Director of Technology could be appropriate. This is a descriptive title that could indicate involvement in the technical development of the firm, especially if it’s a smaller shop.
While still a conventional title that depicts authority l, it’s less formal than CEO or President and can easily blend into a smaller company.
Creative title like Chief Disruptor
You can also get creative with a witty title like Chief Disruptor, Chief Everything Officer, or even Coding Ninja. This isn’t the approach for all small business owners, but if you’re in an industry where it won’t turn clients off, having a little fun with your title could be a good approach.
We use job titles to help others, both internal and external, understand what role we play within the business. But when we’re talking about a small business with a bootstrapping approach to work, you’re likely to wear a lot of hats, so doing something more creative could be the best choice.
One of the most common business owner titles in small businesses is Owner. It’s an easy title to start with while you’re getting your business off the ground.
The downside to this title is it’s not very descriptive and doesn’t share any information about your level of involvement with the company. This is why it’s a good starting title for a sole owner who’s still carving out their role.
You can always upgrade to a more descriptive business title when you’re ready.
How to pick your business owner title
Picking your business title doesn’t have to be challenging. It’s not a life-long decision and there isn’t a wrong answer. At the end of the day, the best professional title is the one you’re most comfortable with, and that’s going to vary from person to person.
When you’re just starting out, you want to keep it simple; there’s no need to overthink it. But there are a few guidelines that may help make the process easier:
- Your title should be understandable to both customers and employees.
- Consider perception and subtleties––while CEO and Owner could be interchangeable, most people picture different roles.
- Titles should align with company culture and brand. The title CEO might align with a consulting firm, but does it match your cutting-edge tech outfit?
- It’s important your title matches both you and your business. Don’t use something that you’re not comfortable with.
It’s helpful to remember that, while having a title will probably make you feel a bit more put together, it’s not set in stone. You can change it as you grow.
If you’re looking to get a little more professional, a title isn’t the only way to go. When you’re ready to get your business out into the world and put it on paper, Ownr can help!
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