Professional Titles for Business Owners
Your job title can say much more than you may realize. It conveys your level of expertise, your seniority, your sector, and it can even indicate your level of training and academic achievements.
If you are a business owner, one of the first questions you will need to ask yourself once your business is established is: how will you describe yourself?
Are you an owner? Are you a director? Should you call yourself a CEO or a proprietor?
Your choice of title is something that you need to feel comfortable with, and it should help to project the image that you want to convey.
With so many choices, it can be extremely difficult for business owners to decide what their preferred title should be.
Choices can be impacted by your business sector, how many employees you have, what your future aims are and your managerial structure.
It is, therefore, important to consider your choice of job title as a business owner.
Your job title is unlikely to change significantly, so you need to ensure that your job title suits you as you start your business and as it continues to grow and evolve.
If you are a new business owner or a start-up entrepreneur, you may be questioning whether you need a business title at all.
If you are a small business and you operate on your own, you may believe that a business title is irrelevant.
You may focus initially on your sector and your skills as your initial job title (for example, you could refer to yourself as a copywriter or a management consultant).
But as your business grows, you may need to have a job title that conveys the different aspects of your job, such as the management side of things or the business development aspect of running a business.
Remember that your choice of title may have all sorts of implications and trigger assumptions to be made about your business.
If you choose to call yourself a CEO or a chairman, contacts may believe that your company operates on a large scale.
But conversely, if your business has grown successfully and you still refer to yourself as a proprietor or general manager, you could be giving the impression that your business is much smaller than it is.
This may depend on your business setup. If you are a limited liability company or operate as a partnership or corporation, there may be restrictions on what you can and cannot call yourself.
As a business owner, your job title implies certain responsibilities.
If you are a small business owner, you can only call yourself a 'partner' if you are involved in a legal partnership.
Similarly, if you are involved in a limited liability company, you have to be legally declared a ‘managing member’.
This is important to know because it enables wider stakeholders and third parties to understand what your role is and who they should report to if there is a potential issue.
Business owner titles should, therefore, be carefully considered and discussed with your business or legal advisor to ensure that it is relevant and legally correct.
If you are struggling to decide what to call yourself as a business owner, here is a brief overview of some common choices to help you choose the best professional title:
You will be well aware of this job title for business owners.
It is a grand job title with many connotations, namely that you are in charge of many different people throughout your organization. It is, therefore, one that may not be suitable if you are operating solely on your own.
If your role within your business is still focused on doing the job, then it may not be the right job title for you.
You should also be aware that often CEOs are appointed by a board of directors. Therefore, an assumption could be that you are not the business owner, and you are held accountable by those more senior who own shares in your business.
A chairperson is often considered an elected senior position. This is someone responsible for managing the senior management team, such as the board of directors or the chosen C-suite executive team.
In some circumstances, the chairperson may also have the dual role of CEO. This is where they may be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business, as well as the chairing of meetings.
Typically, chairmen or chairwomen are elected to their position, and their duration as Chair may be a time-limited function.
It is also important to note that a chairperson is typically in charge of a publicly listed company.
While it may be appropriate to call yourself a chairperson if you are a business owner responsible for many employees and branch locations, it may not be suitable if you are an independent operator.
For example, chief marketing officer/chief finance director
Calling yourself the ‘chief [job title]’ can bridge the gap if you are a business owner who handles day-to-day work tasks.
It implies that you are heavily experienced and have significant responsibilities.
It also implies that you may have junior colleagues working beneath you and that you have significant seniority.
This is a wide-ranging choice of job title because it works effectively whether you are working in a blue-collar job role or you are in a white-collar position.
This is also a job role that provides growth potential as well as continuity. As your business grows, you can start to alter your job title to reflect any new responsibilities.
This is a job title that is perfect for business owners working in creative industries such as graphic design, web development, art and design, or fashion.
As a creative director, it implies that you have full control over the creative side of the business.
You are in charge of the work that you do, and you oversee key projects and campaigns.
As a job title, the role of creative director implies that you have a hands-on approach to the business while also retaining managerial responsibilities.
This could include project management, financing or the management of other colleagues.
A director job title is closely affiliated with those working in limited liability companies.
As an overall director, you may have personal responsibility for the general running and functioning of the business.
This is a job title that conveys seniority and authority. It invokes respect and helps stakeholders and other contacts to understand that you have a distinct tole within your business.
An overall director title may imply that you have responsibility across different departments. Whereas a more specific title such as finance director or marketing director will indicate that your attentions focus solely on specific areas of the business.
A director of operations is a job title similar to that of the chief operating officer (COO).
This is a job role that focuses solely on the day-to-day operations and handling of your business.
As a business owner, you may choose to use this job title if you are focused heavily on business strategy and general operations.
It’s a clever ownership synonym because it indicates that you are responsible for the overarching business while delegating tasks to other colleagues who are experienced and proficient in your sector.
This is a newer job title that business owners are increasingly choosing to use.
It implies a clear relationship with the creation of the company, and as such, it gives a detailed impression of your position within the management hierarchy.
Many small business owners choose to use the job title ‘founder’ because it is relevant across a variety of sectors. It is also a title that can remain in place as you grow and your role changes.
As a title, you will become synonymous with the development of the company in the same way that Sir Richard Branson is considered the founder of Virgin, or Jobs and Wozniak as the co-founders of Apple.
This is someone who is heavily involved across a variety of different aspects of the business. It focuses heavily on operations as well as resourcing matters.
The general manager is often a jack of all trades and plays an important role in business development.
However, as a business owner title, there is an implied assumption that the general manager could be someone brought into the company rather than an owner.
The MD is a similar role to that of the CEO.
It is a job title that implies you are responsible for many people and you focus on business operations rather than manual tasks.
It is a personal choice whether you choose to be called an MD or a CEO, although typically, you may assume that an MD is in charge of a smaller company than a CEO.
If you own a limited liability company, then legally you will be considered a ‘member’ of that company rather than a business owner.
As such, the legal definition may make you a managing member who takes overall responsibility for the entire business.
As with the managing member job title, the managing partner job role is a legal definition of someone who is in a partnership with another person.
The job title is directly associated with a business ownership position, and it also highlights that you are heavily involved in the management side of the business.
Sometimes, choosing a business owner title can become far more complicated than it needs to be.
The title of ''owner' is a straightforward way of showcasing that it is your business.
If you are a sole trader and own 100% of your business, it is an effective way of showing your responsibilities.
For small business owners, it is not uncommon to combine day-to-day operations with the job role itself.
Furthermore, this is a job title that is relevant for business owners across a broad range of sectors.
If you want to convey a particular image, then a business owner may wish to call themselves ‘president'.
This is a job title that is highly influential within white-collar businesses as it adds a tremendous element of prestige and glamour to the job title.
As a managerial structure, the job role of the president is similar to that of the CEO or MD.
Many business owners choose to use the term ‘principal’ as an alternative to ‘owner’.
This is because it can sound authoritative and implies a strategic decision-making responsibility.
The term ‘proprietor’ is less common these days. It is a legal indication that you own a business. It represents a person who is legally and financially tied to their business.
However, it is a job title that has fallen out of fashion and often indicates a small business.
This title is often used by those running retail or hospitality outlets.
Similar to the role of the creative director within creative sectors, the technical director is a common job title used by business owners within technical industries.
It shows your knowledge and expertise in your sector while also signifying your responsibility for specific projects and staff members.
This guide will have helped you to identify the most common job titles that business owners can choose from.
With many options available, you may wish to consider whether your choice of job title conveys your business effectively; but it’s also important not to overcomplicate matters.
Whether you are starting up as an entrepreneur or you are growing your business, you need to consider how your job title will work internally and externally.
Does your choice of title suit your sector? Is it understandable to external contacts? Does it imply a specific job description, or is it more ambiguous?
You should also consider how your choice of title aligns with your cultural ethos.
If you are down-to-earth and relaxed, the job title of 'president' could be too grand and out of sorts. Similarly, if you are in a creative industry, you may choose to use something more offbeat and personal to you.
When making your final choice, you should always get feedback from friends and co-workers.
Your job title is something that defines you as a business owner, so it must be something that reflects who you are, what you do, and what your business represents.