A quick note on “Titles”

I am super busy this week so I thought I would take a quick moment to reflect on titles.

I was cold called today from someone in Tokyo selling me stock. They kept trying to build rapport with me by calling me the “Managing Director.” Needless to say it failed, because 1. it isn’t my title and 2. they weren’t at the equivalent level (sales peon calling MD please pick up) and were trying to be chummy. Titles kills rapport when handled badly.

If your like me and you have sized your business model to emphasize small there is a tendency to worry about having the clout that a great title brings. To me this is a departure from why I would want to scale small. I scale small to emphasize rapport and relationships, personal attention to detail and the security of always having to deal with me not a random sales associate.

I wouldn’t be the first person to scale small to reflect benefits like this. If I took a title like “Managing Director” I also wouldn’t be the first person with a staff of ten people or less to use a similar title. In essence a lot of entrepreneurs have scaled small but want to create an impression that they work on scale big.

I get why, but in my business model unless there are enough people to generally manage, or offices that actually need chief executing, or directors in need of managing it is better to leave the titles well enough alone. Use a business title to emphasize your corporate philosophy not to overstate your business function. If you want to scale small pick an intimate title that reflects being at the head of a new movement not that as my mother would say, “puts on airs.”


2 thoughts on “A quick note on “Titles”

  1. Hi.

    Yes, but when dealing with customers, its sometimes important to for them to know that you are the top guy.

    Is “scaling small” part of your market positioning? If so, then great. No need for titles. If not, then it can be a necessary short-hand communication packet. Do you have two Chinese assistants? The title “老板“ is good enough. Or not even necessary as long as employees do not get the wrong impression. (they would not get the wrong impression from you, or me… but I do know many “bosses” who fail to project the “boss” power when they need to). Does your company have 10 Chinese people…all upwardly-mobile…who go out to meet clients? That’s still small-scale. But in that situation I definitely would want people to use my title-name within client conversations.

    • I see your point but I also think of this as simple title inflation. A recently founded training company in Guangzhou has a handful of employees and three founders. The founders have titles like “Managing Director, General Manager, and Owner.” So that is a 30% title range with high end executive titles. Arguably they may want to scale to be the biggest training company in China but the label themselves as a boutique firm…

      Being a boss is one thing having title inflation is the other side.

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