I hate the title CEO - in certain contexts that is. What do you think of when you hear the title “CEO?” I think of this:
Older, white guy - who probably has a cushy job getting paid lots of money and doesn’t really get his hands dirty. Is this a huge generalization? Maybe, but maybe not. Just Google “CEO” and look at the image results.
Everyone is a CEO.
If you work in tech, you meet people all the time that are CEO’s of something. Granted many of these people are running real businesses and some of them have a “side project” where they’ve deemed themselves the CEO on their business card but whatever the case may be, the title CEO feels very out of place to me in the context of start-ups. It’s not that start-ups don’t need people working in this type of position, it’s just that it feels wrong using titles like this in this new, modern and innovative environment that is the start-up community.
The CEO Environment
To me, the title CEO makes me think of an environment where things move slow, there’s not much innovation, there’s a clear delineation of management, tiers of hierarchy and if you’re on the bottom of that hierarchy it’s hard to even talk to the people on the top.
The Start-Up Environment
The start-up community makes me thing of an environment where things move quickly, everybody works together towards one common goal, everybody gets their hands dirty and people wear many hats.
If this is really the case, why do we still call ourselves by these titles? I think it’s time to toss these titles out the window. It’s not time for us to reclaim the these titles - it’s time for us to start looking at other alternative names. Bryan Zmijewski, founder of Zurb and two other businesses calls himself “Chief Instigator.” Sure, this may not be appropriate for EVERY business, but you get the picture.
Crista and I faced this issue when we had to figure out what to call ourselves when we launched our ice cream company. We had to decide what our titles were for piles of paperwork we had to fill out and also for things like business cards. We briefly talked about who would be the CEO and who would be the COO but the reality is, we both do a lot of everything. Not only that but those titles felt so wrong for us, even if our company was a real business and generating revenue. For now we call ourselves “Co-Founders” which also feels a bit out of place since technology start-ups in a way own this title. Down the road we will probably invent our own titles like “Chief Ice Creamologist” or something, but even that begs the question of who’s the Chief?