Like a myth of the tech gods, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook had “I’m CEO, Bitch” on his
business cards. Whether this was just a great addition to the movie The Social Network or is actual reality is inconsequential, the questions still remains, what do you call yourself when you are in the Seed Stage or Start-up stage?
After scouring the internet I found these useless answers:
- “Call yourself whatever you want, it’s your business”
- “Call yourself the founder, or owner; but nothing else”
- “Call yourself CEO or president, regardless of size”
Now, since this is a marketing blog, the question probably comes up; “why does this matter?” The answer is that it may not matter internally what you call yourself, but externally the ramifications could be noteworthy.
For instance, suppose you are a new MBA grad creating a startup company centered on stock speculation in one form or another. Would it make sense to say you are the “owner” of Super Stocks Inc.? Wouldn’t “principle” or “president” make more sense to those within the industry that you are trying to establish both clients and credibility with?
What you call yourself can be a small, but important part of your marketing strategy as a small startup company. It can give you a small increase in position within your industry if developed right, but can also make you come off as pompous and illegitimate if you go so far as to cross the line by calling yourself CEO if you’re a company of one.
So, after researching both the internet, and questioning many MBA students, here are some tips to go by when giving yourself a title:
- Make sure your title fits your industry. The food industry does not run with CEOs until they have multiple units, so if you are kicking off your first establishment, “owner” or “founder” may fit better. However, tech industries love the term CEO, so the use can possibly be used earlier in the process.
- Understand where you are as a company in terms of long term growth. Your company may never have a true CEO. Somebody recently said that very specific job titles are needed once a company gets big enough that roles start to get blurred. This is when “marketing manager”, “operations manager”, “CEO, etc… can start to be used. Once the functional departments are developed you are probably safe to call yourself what best fits your industry.
- Understand your competitors within your industry. If the closest rival to Super Stock Inc. is Amazing Speculation Artists Inc. and they are calling their chief “CEO”, then it would make sense to do the same. This can go for all other functional positions down the line when comparing your company with others of similar size in a similar industry. This will help you hire and retain talent as well since you will be playing on the same field.
While this may seem unimportant at first, remember that your business card is your personal marketing statement, and what you put on it says a lot about you. Social media connections such as LinkedIn and Facebook also act as your personal marketing domain at times, so the same applies to them. Do not underestimate the importance of what you call yourself!