The views expressed by the contributing Entrepreneurs are their own.
In a corporate setting, a job title can be used as leverage, something you should strive for. Titles for distinguishing levels, such as e.g Fellow, Vice president and CEO, allow other employees to understand your position in the company and the status it entails. Some titles come with specific salary ranges and benefits — which is one of the reasons to try for them. People aim for verification with some level of importance, and in a business environment, one of those levels of importance comes from the job title. However, when it comes to entrepreneurship, the way we think about securities is different.
One of the concepts I covered in a previous article was the risk and benefits of priorities. I’ve seen inexperienced entrepreneurs over-prioritize their titles — choosing a title should be at the bottom of the priority list. In the age of social media, there is an endless stream of titles for people to choose from, such as Boss, President, Authority, CEO, Founder, King and Owner — Choose. All of these are not important to an entrepreneur and are ways to validate an ego without doing work.
The job title doesn’t matter at the business level. Here’s why.
1. Job titles can be lies
Job titles in any size business can be misleading, but at the business level, they can be outright lies — especially if you’re the one who created them. You may call yourself a CEO, but what exactly are you the chief executive of? You may be President, but what exactly are you presiding over?
Just because you decide on a fancy title doesn’t mean you’re good at your business role. Likewise, just because someone you’re networking with has a fancy title doesn’t mean they have the skills and experience to back it up. Job titles do not always accurately represent a person’s level of knowledge or expertise.
All companies, big or small, want to be seen as professional and worth doing business with. One of the ways this is achieved is by giving specific titles to employees. Who wouldn’t want to deal with a “vice president of a company?” But that “vice president” could be one of the less senior roles. This is true for most companies and is an old way of doing things. On the other hand, someone with a simple title can be a valuable contributor to the team.
Related: The Weirdest Job Titles Can Also Be the Most Unpopular (Infographic)
2. Job titles are misleading
Building on the previous point, job titles don’t necessarily reflect a person’s responsibilities — especially in the business world. When you work for a company, you quickly realize that sometimes your responsibilities tend to go above and beyond your job description. The smaller the company, the more roles you play.
For example, your title might fall under sales, but the specific responsibilities would fall more into an operations or customer service category. Additionally, two people with the same job title may have very different roles and responsibilities within a company. And this becomes even more true when you compare job titles across companies.
Related: Why Job Titles Don’t Always Reflect Employee Value
3. Job titles can be changed at any time
If a job title can be changed at any time, it has zero value. Additionally, as an entrepreneur, you’ll find that focusing too much on your title can create a culture problem as the company grows. If employees start to question and compete for title status at such an early stage, it takes focus and teamwork away from achieving the real goal – growing the company. Titles can motivate employees when the company reaches a certain size or has a certain structure – anything before that is just a hindrance.
Related: You’re a Real CEO When Your Company Is Bigger Than Your Title
As an entrepreneur, especially a non-startup entrepreneur, your job title is what needs to be done that day. If you have to make sales, you are a salesperson. If you have to pay bills, you are an accountant. If you have to clean the office, you’re a janitor. Your job is to do what needs to be done.
Now, as the company changes, so does this concept. As growth comes, there will be a need for more structure and agency. Hopefully there will come a point where you can delegate low ROI responsibilities. Cleaning probably doesn’t generate the company’s biggest ROI, so outsource it. Paying bills doesn’t generate the best ROI for your skill set, so outsource it.
When does a job title matter?
A job title matters when you decide it matters. If you feel that you absolutely cannot get ahead with being an entrepreneur unless you have chosen the right title – then you should choose the right title (disclaimer: if this is the case – you might want to ask yourself if entrepreneurship is Right for you) .
Now, if you feel like you need a title after your first hire, go for it. But chances are, everyone internally understands their place in the business and their role. In my experience, depending on the business model, most employees instinctively understand their role and where they are in the structure up to about 15 employees. At that point, the titles might make sense.
Related: What’s a Job Title Really Worth?
Finally, if you think you need an awesome title to fit in with all the other awesome entrepreneurs, remember this: A true entrepreneur, especially in the business world, doesn’t care about your title. They care about what you do, your portfolio and what you can do to help each other grow.
If you can pick a title and move forward focusing on key priorities, that’s great. But if you find yourself preoccupied with headlines and other details, remember: Titles don’t matter. the execution does. Don’t validate your ego by choosing a title. Validate your ego by building a better business.