An Open Letter to the Next Entrepreneur
You may have a new startup or even a couple of employees, but you probably are NOT the CEO no matter how badly you wish to be.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Congratulations, you just launched your first mobile app! You entrepreneur you! You filed for an LLC, and the money is coming in! You even have a new title on your business cards and LinkedIn profile: CEO.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but while you may have all the makings of a successful company, you probably aren't the CEO.
Take a stroll down LinkedIn street, and you will see "director of this" or "CEO of that", and "Senior Executive of such and such." I've even seen "Chief Connector," whatever that means. There are no normal employees on LinkedIn, everyone is an executive somehow.
Have you ever asked any of them what their responsibilities are as CEO? Or do they think it's just "the guy in charge?" I find that most of them just don't get it.
I want to be helpful. Honestly. I can't tell you how many times I've met someone for the first time, and got so distracted by their use of the title CEO, that I couldn't focus on what they said. I feel bad for them, because when they walk into a room filled with actual CEOs, their misuse of the title, and lack of understanding of business fundamentals is the first thing they will notice.
So, what is a CEO?
"A chief executive officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking executive in a company, and their primary responsibilities include making major corporate decisions, managing the overall operations and resources of a company, and acting as the main point of communication between the board of directors and corporate operations".
Did you notice how the board of directors is mentioned the same number of times as the CEO? Or did your eyes automatically gravitate to the cool parts? That a CEO is "chief" implies that there are other officers in the company. In an organization of one, that is impossible.
Is your company an LLC? An LLP? If so, it is legally, and fundamentally, impossible to have a CEO, since the highest-ranking office in either is a managing partner, or managing manager.
I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing your genius app that "solves the issues with modern dating" doesn't have a board, of which you are the head, quite yet.
Unless it does, go ahead and remove CEO from whatever social profile you slapped it on.
Instead, start with some honesty.
I'm on your team.
I'm not saying you're not CEO material, or that you should stop trying. The world needs people like you. You are a founder, a creative, a dreamer: you are an entrepreneur. These are all great things, but don't get hung up on the title. If calling yourself CEO of your mobile app is that crucial to you, it sends a clear signal that others' perception of you is more important than what you are actually doing, (while also highlighting a misunderstanding of what the position really is).
I've spoken to people about this before, and the ones who are offended that I address this problem are the ones who are doing it!
The reason I call out this problem with such vigor is because I see the potential in you, and I don't want you to ruin that success by calling yourself the winner before the race is over.
Being humble and honest now will pay off one day.
Look at it critically: including this title in your bio, especially if it's the first thing someone learns about you, will always backfire.
If it's true:
Great! Is that the only thing you have of note in your bio? What are you omitting? What learning experiences did you skip?
Or: why are you applying for a job which is clearly below your skill level? Either you weren't a very good CEO, or there's something you're not telling them.
If it's not:
It will raise more questions than you are prepared to answer.
In the end, you're not fooling anyone.
It's akin to claiming you won a race in which you were the only participant. It may sound cool in your head, but nobody is impressed, and it hinders your career more than helps it.
To use a similar metaphor: it's the same thing as buying a "World Champion Bowler" trophy at Goodwill. Sure it's an award with a title, but unless you earned it, it really means nothing, and everyone will think you're petty and shallow.
It's okay to shoot for being the CEO of a multi-national app-development company, and take your marching orders from a real board of directors. Your likelihood of success are very small, but I will cheer for you as you strive for that goal nonetheless.
I want this to be a wake up call. That which is earned is always worth more than what is taken, or given.