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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

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BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

On My MicroISV Business Card, President Director or CEO?

Howdy JOSer,

I am a MicroISVer too. I am the owner of my MicroISV. I want to make business card for my ISV.

1. Which one do you think better to be my title: President Director or Chief Executive Officer (CEO)?

2. What about you? What title do you use for your business card? In what country do you do your business?

3. What's the difference anyway?

Thanks JOSer.
a Confused MicroISVer
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
It depends on what you want to do with the business card. If you are a one man shop putting CEO as a title would not be appropriate. Personally, I would just put the name and maybe what you exactly do underneath the name e.g.

Joe Bloggs
Software Developer

Joe Bloggs
Database Administrator

Just my idea.
Phillip Flores Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I have used "Technical Director" before, and I thought it was pretty good (for a 3-person company, at the time).

I was also technically the President. But I thought it would be stupid to put "President" onto a business card of a company with only 3 people. And "Technical Director" was more descriptive of my actual job responsibilities.
BenjiSmith Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
If you have an LLC or are incorporated, be aware that the title that you use can play a part in allowing someone to pierce the corporate veil if any lawsuits ever happen. It's most important that you use your legal title when signing any contracts, but generally a good idea to be consistant with it. We have an LLC of which I am the "Managing Member", so that's what my card says.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I just have my name and contact information. I'm technically the sole shareholder, president and sole employee of a private corporation, but when I'm giving my card to someone, I'm presumably talking to them and they're aware of my situation and don't need some important-sounding title to impress them.  In fact, I think an important-sounding title would just make me look stupid.

Of course, if you're using the cards to pick up girls, ...
Mike Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I struggled with this one too, finally decided "Managing Partner" sounded sufficiently executivelike without pointing out that my partners were two cats :).
Bob Walsh Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Don't use the title CEO unless your company offers stock or intends to do so at some point in the future (even if you hold all of the stock within your family).

There is no formal definition for CEO, but it is generally interpreted to be someone who is responsible for defining the strategic goals of the company, <emphasis>at the direction of the Board of Directors</emphasis>.

The Chairman of the Board represents the owners. The CEO represents the company when dealing with the owners. The President executes the strategy agreed upon between the Chairman, the Board and the CEO.  (The executive office, including the CIO, CFO, CLO etc etc is the buffer between the owners and the day to day operations.)

One person can be any combination of the three, but using the title implies there is at least a formal, controlled relationship between the company and its owners/investors.

President and General Manager are good titles to use when you have the ultimate responsibility for the business.  Vice President and Director are good titles to use if you are responsible for a vertical section of the business and by implication, there's only one level of authority above you.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I like Managing Partner and may have to steal that, but I typically just use "President" when filling out magazine surveys that ask for my job title.

(And I'm in the States.)
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Why use a title at all?

On my business card, I simply have my name and email address (and company logo/addr/phone etc of course). During my discussion with whomever I am giving the card to, I am clear to articulate the role I am respresenting at the time of discussion.

This helps serve multiple purposes. Firstly, it allows you to have flexibility, without needing multiple cards. One day you may be President/CEO, the next VP of Sales or CTO. Secondly, it starts a conversation since you need to discuss what you do for the company. Opening up a conversation like this always reciprocates with learning what THEY do, which is more important. And thirdly, if you can't articulate what your role is during the conversation, saying "CEO" isn't going to help.

Titles are more significant when it comes to signing contracts. By the time that actually occurs, you have already forged a relationship with the other party.

Oh... and an extra benefit for leaving off the title. You can use the "negotiating gambit of higher authority" when you don't provide a title. In other words, you can say "let me check with my people" if you have to defuse a situation. If you have on the card that you are the CEO, the buck stops with you. You are supposed to have ultimate authority and the ability to make the decision.

YMMV. HTH. Good luck!
Dana Epp Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Just leave it blank. Some people, especially at bigger companies, get uneasy when the "CEO" or "President" is making sales calls or addressing technical issues.

In a big bureaucracy, cliches like "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" hold water. Don't give them reasons not to pick you.
Duff Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Does the word "Owner" make you sound too small?
PA Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I agree titles are basically silly, but another vague but nice is Principal.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I'd go with "Chief Rocket Scientist". I use that title on my support forums and folks love it.
Neville Franks Send private email
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I prefer "Data Janitor" ... but might soon promote myself to the more pro-active sounding "Data Custodian."

Seriously, a humorous email signature (which is way more important than your business card for me!) can go a long way with clients ... in the appropriate context, of course.
chrisb Send private email
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I have 2 sets of cards.

The first one says
John Doe
Software Engineer

The second one says
John Doe
Managing Director

(Managing Director I guess is the equivalent of a "Managing Partner" in my country)

I have 5 other people working with me.
...are you sure you belong here?
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Surely "Software Guy" (or Gal) is appropriate?

Thursday, June 08, 2006
I simply put Director
I prefer the people I meet to know what I say the company will do will happen.
chris goCRM Send private email
Thursday, June 08, 2006
i'm a one man company (no employees at the moment).
I was thinking about using owner.
What do you think about it?
Andrea N Send private email
Thursday, June 08, 2006
fyi, my wife works at ernst & young and they don't have titles on their cards.
starving coder
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I use my name on my cards for my personal business, no title.  Back when my day-job still gave business cards to people at my level, they quit putting titles or division ID on them, just before they quit giving them to us at all, because it was all changing too quickly.

With simply your name, you can be anything that you want to be in the context of the contact.  Most of the labels are kinda silly, past the initial contact, and just as likely to be not-quite-appropriate for every other new contact.  (I use "owner" when I sign my state sales tax forms, but that's the only time I use that--it sounds to much like a something the vet's office would want to know, or a property management company.  Not a business.)
Ideophoric Send private email
Thursday, June 08, 2006
<John Doe>, <Company name>
Founder, Barista General and Chief of Stuff.
Chief of stuff
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Some people tends to behave accordingly to your title on your business card. The higher the title, the more respect they show (some people i said). However if they know that there are only few people working at your company, CEO may seem funny. I think writing nothing as a title is the best option.
Efe Aras Send private email
Thursday, June 08, 2006
The funniest thing happened to me last month: I'm meeting several people from a large company, some of whom I already know (the most senior), some of whom I don't. One of the new ones hands over his card to me. The title printed on the card reads something like "associate producer", but he has crossed out the word "associate" with a pen.

He must've been really proud he got recently promoted, but being so worried about the whole thing made him look pretty dumb.

I've seen young sole owners having printed "President & CEO". It also cries 'newbie'.
J Send private email
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I also struggle with a title.
What do you think of "Owner" or "Founder" for a one man shop?
ISK Send private email
Friday, June 09, 2006
I agree that for a small company, putting "President" on your card is lame.  But where's the cutoff?  I know someone with a 5-person company who has "President" on his card, but he still actually does a lot of the work.  How few is too few?  4?  3?

I'm sticking with "Senior Developer" for now, even though what I've been doing recently is really Project Management.  I think I'll be due for a title change by year's end, the way things are going.

I say, your title should reflect what you DO.  If you're a one-man show, the best catch-all title I can think of is "Founder".
Christopher Hawkins Send private email
Monday, June 12, 2006
As an owner of a 2 man show in 1995, I kept my card without a title until we hit about 20 employees.  I then went with President.  I agree that President/CEO for a single man or a small group seems amateurish.  However, when I would visit a customer site to solve technical problems and people eventually found out I was the owner they were surprised.  I don't think they liked the idea of being led to believe I was just another employee.
Friday, June 16, 2006

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