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CEO dear – job titles to cringe for

9 September 2015

Chief. Executive. Officer. Now, that’s a list of impressive words. Add them all together and you’ve got a phenomenally impressive job title. The type of title that means the prime minister is your assistant and God is your right-hand man. Yep, you must be really important.

Oh, hang on. Did we say important? No, that’s not quite right. What we meant to say was that nothing suggests you have an enormously misguided sense of self-importance more than calling yourself a CEO, when in fact you simply run a part-time eBay operation from a second-hand Ikea desk in the corner of your bedroom.

Unless you really are a chief executive officer – you know, the most senior employee of a limited company who heads a herd of subordinate executive officers and reports to a board of directors – it’s buttock-clenchingly pretentious to declare yourself CEO of a small business. Having a shareholders’ meeting between yourself, your cat and a selection of glove puppets doesn’t make you a CEO of anything. You’re not even the CEO of your own imagination.

What next – the president of a paper round? The chairman of baking buns for bring-and-buy sales?

Unfortunately, the business world in particular is jam-packed with pompous job titles designed to flatter over-inflated egos. We’ve all heard of bin men throwing away their traditional titles in favour of recycling engineers, toilet cleaners scrubbing up as sanitation operatives, and local-environment hygiene consultants brushing their real roles under the carpet.

And that’s before we even get started on the not-so-ironic, not-so-witty, self-titled talent executives, experience architects and directors of life enrichment.

Yet, when you meet someone genuinely important, it’s often the case that they’ll play down their rank. Bill Gates, for example, works in the position of technology advisor.

Okay, many business leaders might informally say they’re the boss or the owner, or simply the founder. But even that slowly-disappearing title MD these days doesn’t sound as cringeworthy as CEO; yet it amounts to pretty much the same thing.

And it’s not just job titles that are bloating under the pomposity of SMEs (or small and medium enterprises – regular firms, to you and me). Company names also suffer a similar fate, being boosted up to sound more impressive than they really are.

But what’s the problem, you ask. Surely any business should be built up to sound the best. Surely it’s the job of any marketing agency – you know, like Spoon Media – to put that company on a pedestal.

Well, that’s the thing: there’s a big difference between promoting your brand and pumping up your customers’ expectations to well beyond deliverable results. Imagine a potential investor’s disappointment when they find out the CEO of Strategic Continuum International Limited is just John Brown working from a bedsit in Scunthorpe.

And when we say disappointment, what we really mean is insatiable laughter.

Talking of Strategic Continuum International Limited, the eternally infuriating trend for tagging Ltd onto the end of your company name – and, worse still, into your logo – is surely in the same overblown boat as all the other ridiculous ways of making yourself sound more important.

It’s just not necessary.

Honestly, there’s nothing special about being a limited company. Which is why you don’t walk down the high street to see stupid Ltds dangling from the shop signs of every M&S or B&Q.

But who are we to make such assertions? Why should you pay attention to stuff we’re spouting out? We’re only the office cleaners, after all.



Posted by Dan.

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