What do you do?
Better yet, what do you call yourself? For startups it’s a matter of, “What title should I give myself on business cards?” For established brands the question lends itself to “What title will help me build a reputation for quality and relationships?” Ultimately, the goal (for most) is to look professional without coming across too flashy or self-important.
Whether you’re an early-stage startup or running an established business, you may find you’re not exactly sure what to call yourself – and how you refer to your role will, in fact, change over time.
The matter is often made more complicated by factors including: the venue (i.e., whether you’re introducing yourself to someone or branding business collateral), locally-accepted terminology, industry preference, and even preconceived notions of what a title actually means.
To this end we asked 28 entrepreneurs to share what they call themselves and why – their answers may surprise you.
Founder says it all.
“I call myself a ‘founder’ because that title explains I am not confined to one specific duty… Introducing myself as a founder creates instant kinship with many of the people I meet while in San Francisco—so many people are, or were founders. Occasionally at some events, when people ask what I do, I just say ‘I code’.”
Establish expertise early.
“I’m a founder of a software development firm … [and] despite being the founder I call myself an ‘application developer’. The title helps me establish my expertise early in the conversation. I want my clients to know that I know exactly what I’m selling, that they can trust me, and that I can guide them in the right direction.”
Robert Haidari, Application Developer and Founder and of Hot Emu
Just be clear.
“Every business needs a clear chief or CEO and you don’t want Co-CEO’s to add another person you need to loop in on every single decision. Co-founder is a looser title, but it still conveys that you wear many hats and have been with the business since the beginning.”
Sean Higgins, Co-founder of ilos Videos
Titles are limiting.
“I call myself a co-founder, but I personally dislike titles—they are limiting. When someone asks what I do, I tell them I do anything necessary to ensure my company survives for the long haul, and our employees are both empowered and equipped to manifest our mantra (i.e., to improve customer service)…”
Ross Clurman, Co-founder of Comnio
“I use the title ‘founder and CEO’ when asked to define my role within our company. The inclusion of ‘founder’ in my business title communicates a relationship to our brand that is original and enduring … By [adding] the title ‘CEO’ I am able to establish authority and decision-making power… When meeting clients, many of whom are small business owners, I typically share the fact that I am also a small business owner and that their concerns… are also my own.”
Todd William, Founder and CEO of Reputation Rhino
Start with entrepreneur.
“I call myself an entrepreneur when asked what I do. Professionally, I give myself the title ‘founder’ … during the early stages of the project. This is simply because it doesn’t mean much to be CEO of a one man company. I don’t want anyone to think I am full of it or someone to mistake me for more than I actually am. I don’t call give myself the title of CEO until I have a tangible venture (i.e., raised money, real customers, etc..).”
Erik Chan, Founder CEO of RocketClub
Use a combination of titles.
“I use Founder and CEO interchangeably and sometimes together. The thought process behind this: ‘Founder’ to fellow business owners is cool, makes you stand out and is totally acceptable even if you are young. ‘CEO’ … makes the company sound less [like a] startup and larger in presence and size.”
Ishveen Anand, Founder and CEO of OpenSponsorship
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