[Entrepreneur] What do you call yourself?
May 3, 2007 12:33 PM   Subscribe

You're an entrepreneur. You're the owner and head of your own business. You're a completely new start-up with no (or very few) employees. What do you call yourself? CEO? Managing Director? Development Manager?

So I'm considering starting my own business (in the UK). The specifics are non-existent at the moment and I'm no-where near writing a business plan but some friends and I got into a debate about titles.

Some entrepreneurs call themselves CEO or MD. Personally I find this unnatural when they are the only employee (or there are only a couple of people involved). I know lots of people find this really pretentious and a bit of an ego-inflater. "Partner" doesn't sound too bad but there need to be at least two people.

Google are well known for their zany titles, but less established businesses may find it more difficult to get away with this.

I know a title isn't all that important but for the sake of things like domain registration, bank accounts, business cards, contact details for suppliers, etc, it would come in handy. Many other businesses require your title in communications.

So to all the entrepreneurs out there - what do you call yourself and why?
posted by TheAspiringCatapult to Work & Money (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used Founder, but prefer Principal.
posted by zeoslap at 12:39 PM on May 3, 2007

For formal things, forms, and so forth, I just call myself a director (as in the general 'company director' sense), since that's my only official role in the business from an administrative point of view. In the UK most other business people will be familiar with the term in that sense..

It's not uncommon for the heads of web/design agencies to call themselves 'principals'. This carries many of the same connotations as 'partner', but without the implication that there's two or more of you in that position.
posted by chrismear at 12:40 PM on May 3, 2007

President and Founder.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:44 PM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've wondered about this more than once.

I know of a few people who started businesses (in Infosec, fwiw): one calls himself a principal, one calls himself Founder/CTO, and one used to be a CTO and "promoted" himself to president.

I've seen founders of tech firms call themselves CTO pretty frequently. I guess there's some "conventional wisdom" that you shouldn't call yourself President, because customers won't take you seriously -or to make your company seem larger.

Personally, as someone who's bought and sold to small and large companies, I don't like that line of reasoning, and I'd like someone to be up-front and proud of their ownership position.

I hope more perspectives come up in this thread.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:48 PM on May 3, 2007

I vote for calling yourself whatever you legally are.

In the US, a person in that position is almost always, legally speaking, the President.

If they want to specify President and Founder, that'd be fine as well.

Or you could just leave the title off of your business cards/signatures.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 12:55 PM on May 3, 2007

Founder and CEO.
posted by alms at 12:56 PM on May 3, 2007

CTO strikes me as an exceptionally odd thing to call yourself, since it's an internal position, that basically consists of taking high-level guidance from the CIO, and then turning that into specific technical issues.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 1:01 PM on May 3, 2007

posted by notyou at 1:02 PM on May 3, 2007

I don't have a title on my cards. If one is required for a form I just put "owner."
posted by Mick at 1:04 PM on May 3, 2007

I've always used "Co-owner," so presumably if I wasn't co-owner I'd be the owner. I kind of like the sound of "Proprietor," though.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 1:18 PM on May 3, 2007

Tacos are Pretty Great, that depends upon your perspective. There are lots of companies out there with a CTO but no CIO. (There's also that new-fangled CKO -- Chief Knowledge Officer -- floating around out there.)

Definitely President or Founder. I associate CEO with an entity that requires a Board of Directors, and a sole-proprietorship would probably not require that.
posted by kdar at 1:21 PM on May 3, 2007

Proprietor sounds like you should have on a brown overcoat and be polishing fruit or something.
posted by zeoslap at 1:22 PM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Managing Partner.
posted by hollisimo at 1:26 PM on May 3, 2007

Owner or proprietor
posted by briank at 1:31 PM on May 3, 2007


Because that's what I am. And because it lets people know a lot about me.
posted by jdroth at 1:35 PM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just say I am the owner.
I also claim to be a "legitimate businessman" while straightening the knot on my tie.
posted by Iron Rat at 1:50 PM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dictator for life
posted by craven_morhead at 1:51 PM on May 3, 2007

I don't have anything on my business card... just my name. It's only me and sometimes my title needs to change depending on the situation. Generally, it's not in my style to be a hierarchical beast.
posted by teststrip at 2:09 PM on May 3, 2007

Over worked.

Then "owner."
posted by tkchrist at 2:21 PM on May 3, 2007

Director or consultant, depending on my company.
posted by acoutu at 2:32 PM on May 3, 2007

If the firm will provide professional services, the custom is to call yourself the 'principal'
posted by sid at 2:33 PM on May 3, 2007

It's an LLC so officially I am "Member".

My business cards don't have a title, but when asked I say "owner".
posted by disclaimer at 2:35 PM on May 3, 2007

Response by poster: Great, thanks a lot MeFites.

*really* useful information from everyone (hence no "best answer"). It's interesting to see the spread of opinions out there folks.

The hive prevails again :)
posted by TheAspiringCatapult at 3:00 PM on May 3, 2007

Owner or president.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:02 PM on May 3, 2007

When someone asks what my job title is, I just say "whatever you want it to be." and then wink at them.

At other times when I don't have something witty to say I've used variously: owner, director, partner, consultant, founder, etc.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:18 PM on May 3, 2007

Not like it hasn't been answered yet, but...

For me "Owner" or an occasional "founder" if I'm being pompous.

I only used "President" or "CEO" if I actually am a president or CEO of the corporation. If it's not a corporation you don't have those positions.

I've also gone by "Partner" in a partnership, but in San Francisco that term gets confusing.
posted by Ookseer at 3:38 PM on May 3, 2007

For what it's worth, I've never seen 'President' as a business title in the UK. I think it's a bit of an Americanism.
posted by chrismear at 3:42 PM on May 3, 2007

I used President.

Some people I know use 'entrepreneur' ... one of them is usually working on many projects at once, so he carries a sharpie with him, and writes in the company name. It's kind of a cool gig if you're 'cool' enough... and he's really, really a '2.0' kind of guy.
posted by SpecialK at 5:13 PM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seems like it would depend on what you expect the structure to be in the future, so I'd imagine giving some thought to that would be helpful.

I'd vote for "Principal." It denotes ownership without projecting a CxO culture.
posted by Exchequer at 5:14 PM on May 3, 2007

posted by recurve at 6:44 PM on May 3, 2007

It might vary a bit depending on the type of entity. Some positions might make sense for certain organizations, but not for others.

For a corporation, I would go by President/CEO/Director

For a partnership: Partner, Managing Partner, Shareholder

For a proprietorship: Proprietor, Owner, Founder

You could also use: Manager, Team Leader, etc.
posted by debit at 6:44 PM on May 3, 2007

For what it's worth, I've never seen 'President' as a business title in the UK. I think it's a bit of an Americanism.

I believe that MD is your equivalent title, legally speaking, but I've never owned/ran a UK-based business, so I'm not sure.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 8:59 PM on May 3, 2007

Another strong vote for principal.

I don't mind founder.

In the US, I think president or CXO is pretentious, and owner doesn't necessarily convey the appropriate level of leadership/management.
posted by pineapple at 9:56 PM on May 3, 2007

Supreme Potentate?
posted by wordwhiz at 2:26 PM on May 4, 2007

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