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Business Owner Titles: How to Pick Yours

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Content was accurate at the time of publication.

Picking a suitable business owner title depends on factors like your company’s size, industry and management structure. Having concise and well-defined job titles can help employees, clients and partners identify who is who within your company.

Here are some of today’s most popular business titles and how to choose the best title to describe your situation.

What is a business owner title?

A business owner title describes your primary role and responsibilities within the company. Picking the right title can help employees and contract workers know who you are and how you can help them succeed. 

Additionally, implementing clear and well-defined company titles can help clients, customers, shareholders and outside businesses identify whom to reach out to with specific concerns or networking opportunities.

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12 common small business owner titles

While you could refer to yourself as a shareholder, member, partner, sole proprietor or the owner, using something more descriptive can help establish authority and credibility. 

Here are some popular corporate titles to consider:

1. Founder

Branding yourself with the founder title lets people know you had the vision and fortitude to help bring the company to life. While this title can convey a deep connection with the business’s roots and overall success, it doesn’t describe your day-to-day responsibilities or your current involvement with the company. Often, this title is used in conjunction with another title so others know and understand more about what you do.


The ownership role indicates you play a critical role in making high-level decisions to shape the organization’s brand, strategies and future goals. Often, owners are involved in financial management and strengthening business relationships.

However, like the founder role, the ownership title might feel a little vague. As your company grows, consider adding a secondary title to better describe your primary duties within the organization, such as chief financial officer.

3. CEO

A chief executive officer (CEO) is a top-ranking position within a company, typically focusing on the company’s long-term direction and financial health. In a corporation, the CEO usually reports to a board of directors representing shareholders.

There’s nothing to stop you from using the CEO title with a different type of entity, say a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Some business owners like it for the authority it lends, while others believe it’s an overly large title for what may be a small, even one-person, shop.

4. Managing Director

Similar to the CEO title, the managing director is typically in charge of the company’s most critical short- and long-term decisions. This title carries significant authority since managing directors are generally at the top of the company’s hierarchy — usually with only the owner or founder above them.

Often, smaller companies opt to use this title instead of CEO. Larger corporations, on the other hand, might have a CEO at the top, using separate managing directors for individual departments. 

5. President

The president also holds a top-ranking position within a company. But while a CEO often focuses on the broader long-term vision of a business, presidents tend to spend more time focusing on day-to-day operations. Additionally, the president’s title doesn’t necessarily indicate ownership since some presidents are employees with high-level responsibilities. 

6. Vice president

A vice president is a senior position that oversees specific departments, divisions or functions within the company. Their daily responsibilities could include making essential decisions, implementing strategic planning and managing teams to keep the company moving forward. Owners wanting to use this title could use it in conjunction with owner, co-owner, partner or founder. For example: Joe Smith, Owner and Vice President of operations.

7. Principal

Some business owners refer to themselves as principals of a company. While there isn’t a specific definition, identifying yourself as a principal can signal you’re a crucial decision-maker and hold a top position within the company to help foster efficiency and growth. 

8. Director

Director titles within a company can mean different things. With corporations, a director will sit on the board, acting on behalf of the shareholders. In other settings, the title can refer to a hands-on job. For example, a director of operations might be responsible for hiring, training and overseeing department managers.

9. General manager

General managers, or GMs, typically hold a high-level role within the company, focusing on strategies to keep operations running smoothly and improving the business’s bottom line. GMs can also manage and supervise lower-level managers within the company.

While this title comes with significant authority, it typically signifies you report to higher-level executives. 

10. Managing member

The member title is often used to describe owners of an LLC. For members with managerial roles within the company, using the managing member title is common. However, there are no official rules on what you need to call yourself within an LLC, so you and the other members could create titles based on your specific roles. Examples include creative director, treasurer, marketing director, chief information officer and more. Some LLC members also pick the title of co-owner to go with another more descriptive title.

11. Administrator

Administrators typically manage the company’s daily operations while implementing short- and long-term goals to meet annual benchmarks. Some administrators work exclusively within a specific department, while others might oversee multiple parts of the organization. 

Business owners might consider adding this title to their job description if they are a key player in keeping the company’s various systems on track.

12. Proprietor

The proprietor title could be a good fit if you’re a sole business owner juggling multiple roles within the company, including overseeing daily operations, financial management, customer relations and future projections. 

The term sole proprietor is also commonly used to describe a self-employed individual who is the legal owner of a business. While it’s not the most popular title for small business owners, it can help create a more professional image for the solo entrepreneur. 

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How to pick your business owner title

Ready to dive in and pick your business job title? Here are some ways to brainstorm a title that best fits your company now and as your business grows.

Determine your business structure

If you’re starting a new business, you will need to register your business with the proper authorities and pick the best business entity that fits your needs. From there, you can consider whether the entity gives you an idea for a title. For example, if you and a friend start a partnership, you may both want to use the title of partner.

But if the legal title doesn’t truly represent your role within the company, you might not want to use it. For example, if you start an LLC, calling yourself a member when meeting customers or vendors doesn’t give the impression that you’re highly involved in running the business. A more accurate LLC owner title might be founder or principal.


Understanding the different types of business entities

Your business entity determines your company’s overall structure, affecting legal protocols like your business tax rateand what kind of paperwork you need to file.

  • Corporations: You can open an S-Corp or C-Corp business where each shareholder claims a percentage of ownership. However, not all owners work in the business’s day-to-day operations.
  • Limited liability company (LLC): The LLC structure protects your personal assets in case the company faces lawsuits or bankruptcy. An LLC may be owned by a single member or multiple members.
  • Partnerships: As the name implies, partnerships are owned by two or more partners. Depending on how the partnership is structured, it can have general partners and/or limited partners. General partners have personal liability for the business, while limited partners have limited liability.
  • Sole proprietorships: If your business has a single owner (you), you might be best off going with a sole proprietorship. You have several options for naming your business, such as using your legal name, a “doing business as” (DBA) name, a trade name or fictitious name.

Differentiate by areas of expertise

If you plan on hiring other people to help run your business, using specific business titles can help differentiate areas of expertise. For example, CEO, CFO and COO are all top leadership positions within the company, but they each have a specialty.

  • CEOs set the vision and long-term strategy.
  • CFO, or a chief financial officer, oversees the company’s finances.
  • COO, the chief operating officer, manages business operations.

You could consider other C-suite roles, such as chief technology officer (CTO), chief marketing officer (CMO) and others, depending on your field.

Create company hierarchy

When you envision your company growing, how do you see yourself delegating new responsibilities? Most companies are organized based on a hierarchy, and job titles should indicate who reports to whom and how specific roles work together.

If you’re planning to bring on additional senior executives, like a CFO or a COO, you might want to give yourself the CEO title. If you plan to retain greater control, you might want to use principal or founder and hire more junior roles to make up your team.

Thinking about where your company is going can help you pick the best corporate title for you today.

Consider future company needs

It’s worth considering the big picture and future goals as you create your company’s roles and titles.

Let’s say you’re a chef preparing to start a restaurant. Your passion might lie in creating menus and making food, but you will likely need to cover multiple roles during the early startup-phase. You could use the founder title while you get things rolling, then later bring on a manager who can run the operations side of the business. 

Calling yourself a founder (and chef) makes it clear that you’re the company owner, even as the business grows and others are brought in to perform high-ranking roles.

Keep it simple

While creative job titles might energize employees and reduce stress — especially when the employees choose their own titles — it can also lead to confusion if responsibilities are unclear.

For example, calling a digital marketing manager a “digital prophet” or a Java developer a “Java ninja” might confuse prospective employees. 

So before you get too far into your brainstorming, think carefully about the most influential titles that are professional and to the point. Remember, the above titles are popular for a reason — they work.

Although business owners are free to pick whatever title they want, it’s best to consider your ultimate goal. Do you want to convey that you’re the top person in charge? Or do you want to describe your versatility and range of duties within the company? 

Some owners include multiple titles in their descriptions. For example, you could list founder and CEO to establish your history and current role.

As we’ve seen, you can use a wide range of words to describe a business owner. Shareholder, partner, founder and member are examples of how to show ownership.

Choosing between owner versus CEO depends on your company’s structure, size and overall hierarchy. For example, small businesses or solo entrepreneurs typically use the more straightforward owner title since it’s clear who is in charge. However, larger corporations with multiple owners might want to differentiate between roles, allowing the CEO to stand out.