Identity Crisis: What Am I?

May 14, 2008 Posted by Tyler Cruz
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A few days ago, I published the post: My Corporate Logo and Stationery in which I showcased the official logo for my the company Merendi Networks Inc.

While pretty much everyone seemed to love the logo, I received a number of comments addressing two issues regarding my business cards.

First, several readers felt that my having used the e-mail address tylercruz@gmail.com was very unprofessional. Let me address that issue first.231 I At the time I had the business card designs done, I had not yet undergone my infamous server crash which eventually lead to a new server and the creation of e-mail accounts on all of my domains. Previously, I only had e-mail forwarding set up, and since I would have had to reply to e-mails with tylercruz@gmail.com anyway, I felt I might as well use it in the first place.

However, I now have pseudo-POP3’s set up on all my domains (I have GMail set up so I can reply from the addresses as well, but they are still actually technically forwarded to me) of which tyler@merendi.com is what I now use for generic business. For example, yesterday I set up a business account with PayPal and attached it to address.

Personally, I view GMail addresses as rather prestigious, at least as a free web-mail provider, and so I had no issues as using it on my business card. However, I can certainly understand people’s distaste for it as when I see companies use a Hotmail address, I go absolutely nuts as it screams unprofessional.

In the end though, GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail – it doesn’t matter. All that really matters is that others quickly deemed my GMail account on my business card as unprofessional, and so anything that I personally feel is unimportant. A business card identifies you and your company, and so if there is something on it that some others may find unappealing, then it needs to be addressed.

On my next batch of business cards, I’ll definitely be changing the e-mall address to tyler@merendi.com, and will change the e-mail on my stationery as well.

The next issue readers had was that I had chosen the title of Owner as my title. This choice was definitely a conscious one, unlike when I had just automatically used tylercruz@gmail.com as my e-mail address.

I can recall an episode many years ago when I was around 15 and was in the process of creating a local web design “company”. I had given myself the title of President and the partner who I was working with, the title of Vice-President. My brother, who is 4 years older than me, told me how ridiculous it sounded to use such professional titles and to just use something simple and realistic such as “Web Designer” or “Webmaster”.

I never forgot about that, and always laugh when remembering it or seeing other very small, unprofessional online sites use similar titles.

I ended up choosing the term “Owner” as I did not want to appear pompous, overconfident, or stuck-up by choosing a title such as CEO or President, especially when considering that I’m the only employee.

However, many readers did not care for this title. Below are two comments that resonated with me:

“… I too am curious about “Owner” for a Corp. Doesn’t that defeat the whole idea of a Corporate Veil? President, Vice-President or Secretary would be great titles for you. Here in California the title Owner wouldn’t fly legally, unless you wanted to have the protections of the Corp. pierced…” -

- PublicRecordsGuy

“I second this point. I have not done business in Oregon for over 10 years but that was the case there. By using the title owner or the like rather than President or the like, you defeat the liability protection of a corporation. Tyler, you had best check out Canadian law.”

Michael

After reading those comments, I really wanted to know what I should be calling myself when referring to the corporation, (I always refer to my self as Web Entrepreneur otherwise) and so I contacted my corporate lawyer asking him for his advice.

Unfortunately, I can’t paste his response here due to the standard legal Privilege and Confidentiality notice stated at the bottom of the e-mail, but he basically told me that I should always refer to the business as the corporation’s and that defining myself as owner is technically incorrect. I own all the shares of Merendi Networks Inc. which gives me the right to elect the Director who runs the company or appoints a a CEO, President, etc. to manage and run the corporation.

He didn’t suggest what title I should use, which leaves me a man without a name: what am I?

230

I Googled this very question (well, not exactly – that leads to a bunch of riddle sites…) and found the following site in which somebody had the exact same question as me, as well as the same concerns of sounding pretentious by selecting a title such as CEO or President.

Unfortunately, while he received a number of responses, all of them were completely mixed and everybody had a different idea of what should be used.

So, my loyal readers, what do you suggest I use? I know that John Chow uses “Founder & CEO” for his TTZMedia corporation (one of the many corporations he owns…).

  • I’m not big on Director as I feel that I should be in Hollywood directing a movie.
  • Founder sounds much too passive and detached for me; to me it suggests that I created the company but may no longer run it.
  • I like the sound of CEO (Chief Executive Officer), but to me suggests that there is an actual board of directors, of which obviously there is not.
  • That leaves me with President. It certainly sounds like overkill, but perhaps it is the right one for me. However, I feel like I should be called Prime Minister since I am Canadian.. ;)

 

I really value your opinion on this, so please speak up and share what you think I should use! I’ll most likely be choosing whichever gains the most votes…

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Posted: May 14th, 2008 under Miscellaneous  

47 Responses to “Identity Crisis: What Am I?”

  1. You are forgetting a few others. There is General Manager, Executive Director, Managing Director and CEO/Treasurer.

    I use ‘Executive Director’ for my C Corp. There is only three of us but it gives clients the impression that we are bigger.

    I do think that President and CEO is a bit of a stretch for a corporation with less than 20 employees.

  2. Q3 says:

    I personally like ‘CEO’. ‘President’ always just sounded arrogant to me for some reason, ‘Founder’ keeps reminding me of really old businesses (like “Founded in xxxx”), and ‘Director’ doesn’t seem to fit at all. ‘CEO’ is simple, short and sweet, and I look at your concern for it as such; there may not be a board of directors, but you do always take the opinion of your readers and community members very seriously, instead of some higher-ups. It can make you seem more down-to-earth.

  3. sadakosan says:

    In my country it’s common for business owners to use the word “Proprietor”. “Chairman” is also common.

    Nobody uses president, founder, or CEO unless if they have executives within their company. I hope my suggestion helps :)

  4. Harmony says:

    Hi Tyler,

    I think Founder & CEO sounds very appropriate for your title. You founded your company and are it’s top man. I think of President as an assigned position. Founder & CEO is putting credit where credit is due.

  5. I second Harmony. Founder & CEO sounds good. Self Made Millionaire could be another one :)

  6. jake says:

    You have always referred to yourself as a “web entrepreneur”. Having “Merendi Networks” as a business name isn’t very descriptive. Worst of all, you don’t sound overly comfortable with any of the choices you’ve listed above.

    so why not just use “web entreprenuer”? any title I have used I have tried to ensure that when someone receives my card, they know what it is I do. a company tagline/slogan would also help clear that up. why is your phone number listed twice?

    from looking at your card, i have no idea who you are let alone what you do. that imo, is not professional and makes you look like small and undefined. have to ask yourself what is the image you are trying to portray and whether or not that is achieved with the design of the card.

  7. Martin says:

    Hi Tyler,

    I was in the same position recently and decided on using ‘president’. It’s a bit over the top but us webmarketers have a tendency to hype things up anyway :o). As your business takes off you’ll grow into the title.

    I’ve had my own C Corporation for about 13 months now and am only really getting to grips with it.

    One book that I suggest is “Own Your Own Corporation” I can’t remember the author but it’s part of the Rich Dad Poor Dad series. There’s a lot of stuff in the book that won’t be relevant to you but a lot of stuff’s explained clearly which I appreciated.

    The thing you need to get into your head is that you and the corporation are very separate entities. This is a good thing because it means that you Tyler Cruz can protect yourself if your corporation get sued or otherwise get into legal troubles.

    The concept of ‘piercing the company veil’ refers to the problem you can get into if you do not stick with the rules. Basically if you forget to sign your emails as “Tyler Cruz, President of MyCompany Inc.” then you could find yourself personally liable if something in the emails you send cause upset to somebody. The same applies if you use your personal bank accounts to receive business funds etc.

    Please get in touch if you’d like some support, I’m certainly not an expert but I faced similar questions a year back.

    Best wishes and good luck,

    Martin

  8. Chris says:

    Managing Director :)

  9. Fred Weazle says:

    “Principal” is often used for small firms and consultancies.

  10. john says:

    well well this has gotta been one of the worst posts you’ve ever made.

    not only do you not care what anyone on here will tell you, more than likely this post is just a filler so you can not post for about 2 days because it seems like your running low on ideas for new posts.

    Oh and its not like your gonna be using those business cards anyway. Hand them out to people? for what? you don’t offer any services. You might as well just got a bunch of cards with your name and email on it. And you never attend anything to do with your business because everyone would most likely laugh at you.

  11. Michael says:

    You are the Chief Executive Officer of your company, simple as that. The individual responsible for the overall operations of a corporation. President is just referring to an executive of an institution, so on emails and stationary I would refer to myself as President of XYZ Inc.

    Be sure to include a tag line expressing what your company does. It is not clear based on your contact card. I wouldn’t personally worry about the Gmail address, some people might have a complex about that but you aren’t going to see very many successful business people even thinking about it.

  12. Well, since you’re asking I would propose Vice-President or Director. I understand your “Director” phobia, but in reality if you are directing the day to day operations, why not? You hire independent contractors, you direct advertising campaigns, etc. I also like Vice-President because it gives you the appearance of major authority, but also you can easily utilize the title as a way to avoid entering into an agreement spontaneously. You can say, “well let me look into that and discuss it with the others.” “Others” being your girlfriend, mentor, etc. If you have President listed people may make a judgment call on the entire Corporation based upon a single meeting or telephone call with you. Vice-President is a safe upper-level title. You can make decisions and defer without anybody asking “why” or “why not”.
    Also, consider “Shareholder” since you truly are the sole or majority shareholder. Now as for the legal mumble-jumble on the bottom of your attorney’s message to you, it’s your privilege. You can waive it. You can recite it, You paid for it. NOTE this is not legal advice, check with your lawyer…ha ha ha…. The privilege remains with the client, and you are the paying client. It’s yours… I respect the choice to not share it, just as long as you know you can, and choose not too.

  13. Franck James says:

    Oy Tyler, (I’m French with fresh english)

    I suggest “no title”. It’s appropriate for companies with more than 2 persons, but if you are alone, you are an entrepreneur, you are an internet entrepreneur.

    I had the same interrogation last year for a brick and mortar company that i owned and work on with an employee. Titles sounds so pompous. Now it’s far from me but an entrepreneur is a multitasks worker, you don’t need a title (and write “business man” is worst, very pretentious)

    Just give your card to keep contact without any title and if someone ask to you what is your job on the company, you respond with humility ” i’m the founder of Merendi Inc, i created the company and it’s a real pleasure to develop this business”

    —-

    Your blog inspire me. Thank you for writing. It helps me to improve my english too :)

  14. Sean Morris says:

    I personally like no title on cards. It gives you some freedom when giving them out.

  15. Technorino says:

    VERY nice post. Keep up the good work!

  16. JJDW says:

    The CEO is the highest officer/official and in charge of total management of the company.

    The board oversees the best interests of the company, shareholders and private investors. They are technically servants of the CEO and advise him, even though they are almost always on the board as well.

    In the absence of private investors, employees or being a public traded company you are technically the CEO and Board.

    There is nothing wrong or arrogant about listing yourself as the CEO; it is the truth when it comes to your company.

  17. Hi

    Why bother including a title at all? Also, why have you duplicated your phone number?!? If you only have one number, then just put it on the card once.

    Glad to see you’ll be including a company email address on the next run.

    – Martin Reed

  18. Hey Tyler! I actually think that “owner” is just fine… I struggle with what title to use as well… But “owner” sums it up for me… It’s YOUR company, YOU created it… YOU own it… Otherwise possibly Founder/CEO
    By the way, thanks for purchasing an EC spot on my site! I added you to my EC faves list… You’ve got some great info here… =)
    By the way, who created your caricature image for you? I love it!

  19. Chetan says:

    CEO or Managing Director might have worked!

    Btw no issues with the email address as i love gmail :D

  20. Flimjo says:

    Tyler, you’re the President. It’s not pompous. It’s reality. Who cares if anyone finds it pompous or arrogant. It is was it is. You have to protect yourself legally. “Owner” is a bad call, but any other title works. I like President.

  21. KushMoney says:

    I would use the title “Founder & CEO”

    I am a real estate investor and sooner or later I have to form a S-Corp to get the tax breaks that I will need for next year.

    Since I will be the only employee like yourself, I found this topic full of information from your readers. Most of them say the same thing.

    Use “CEO” and have a tagline saying what your business does.

  22. smemon says:

    I’d agree ‘Founder & CEO’ is the most neutral option..

    It sounds like you’re heavily involved in the business and suggests you are indeed the ‘main man’.

    ‘President’ does sound cocky as does ‘Managing Director’ – certainly for a one man business.

    ‘Founder & CEO’ won’t get any backs up yet it perfectly describes you’re role.

    To me it says “I started this business, I run it and will continue to run it”…

  23. Anthony says:

    I have the same problem Tyler. I can’t decide what to call myself as I too am the sole owner of the business. But I think I’m going to go with Founder, simple because I like the sound of it. On Digg it’s written that Kevin Rose is the “Chief Architect”, but he only refers to himself as the “Founder”.

    One question however, why do you need business cards anyway? You work for yourself, you are the only employee, you don’t do design work for other clients, or do you? Why would you need to hand out cards?

  24. Owner is not so bad, but if I had to choose something other than Owner, I would go with CEO.

  25. I would suggest you get a card with no title at all. That way when you need to be President you can. Then when you need to be Owner you can. Then when you need to be receptionist you can.

    Even my largest company – I had 30 full time employees – I had a card with no title. And it worked, because I still played many roles.

    It’s not always good to be (or seen) as King.

  26. go for the gusto, ur the CEO, so why be shy about it? don’t worry, you’ll grow into the title and eventually will have people working for you anyway!

  27. Fed says:

    “I would have had to reply to e-mails with tylercruz@gmail.com anyway”

    not necessary, Gmail facilitates using a ‘From’ address from a different domain.

    To enable this go to Settings, Select the ‘Accounts’ tab and click ‘add a new address’ link, Enter your preferred address.

    After verification the email address you given also appear on the compose page. Now you can use either your gmail address or the newly added address as the ‘From’ address.

  28. Carol says:

    After reading all the comments and suggestions, and having been an equal partner in a S Corporation at one time, I think I would opt for Founder and CEO. It’s not pompous, and states your position as it will be (hopefully!) for a good long time. The other option would be to just have your name and no title, but then it looks like you could just be an employee.

    Seems like everyone is trying to out-cool everyone else. Who the heck cares if you have a gmail address, or one with your own name? As long as you answer your emails in a timely manner. Good luck no matter what you decide. :)

    • Jonk says:

      Carol, every time I see a free email address I think “rank amateur.” If they don’t have the expertise to set up email at their own domain, they probably don’t have much expertise.

      But then again it’s not like Tyler is trying to sell anything off to the people he gives his card to.

  29. Jacob Bager says:

    I would go with CEO.

    But is the title that important ? Why not just remove it from the Card?

    Why does it has to be so formal?

  30. Matt says:

    Emperor

  31. serge says:

    Just a suggestion, why not just put your name with no tittle? People will ask who are you anyway. I am the owner/partner of a business. All my cards Just have my name.

  32. Tyler, just remember that “owner” send the message that your company is a “one man band”.

    And a company using yahoo, gmail, hotmail etc as an email address is also a “one man band”.

    – Richard

  33. I would suggest using the word “Founder” as it presents an image of somebody who has built the company from the ground up and who is passionate about his business…

    John Metcalfe

  34. David Cheong says:

    The word “Founder” is nice, but second thought, is there a WEO available word for our current title?

  35. Best Videos says:

    How about Director ??

  36. I think principal or director would be good titles. I used CEO on a business card once, and it felt so cheesy handing it out to people since I was the only one in my company. It’s a total ego-boosting title, but in the end you don’t feel that great because you and everyone else know that it’s just you running your one man show.

  37. Rob says:

    I like the suggestion above about just not putting a title on the card. I also like the idea of using a “fun” title, like the founders of Yahoo did – Chief Yahoo.

    Given the level of copywriting on the Merendi site (classic Tyler conversational blog-style, anything but corporate “proper” formal style), I think going with a more casual title fits.

    Also, I forget – I’m not a regular reader – did you end up getting a mortgage? If not, then showing that you’re just an employee and not an owner is a BIG benefit. I went through this a few years ago. Appearing to be self employeed is BAD for mortgages in Canada.

  38. Rubio says:

    Hi Tyler,

    don’t bother at all about a title on your business card, pick it incorrectly and you can even get legal trouble for misrepresenting.

    Do like I and some previous posters did, don`t put any title at all.

    If you do want to show off a bit you can always add a tagline to your company name such as: ¨A Tyler Cruz company / venture / enterprise¨

    -Rubio.

  39. Children says:

    In my opinion,i think that YOU should choose in which category you fit best. Afterall, it’s all about feeling at ease with the name that you deem right!!

  40. Luke Beale says:

    Emperor is a good one.

    Could always try GOD as then you would get noticed.

  41. Jonk says:

    Couple of questions.

    1. Who exactly is going to sue you for misrepresenting yourself on your business card? All these legal ‘experts’ running around your blog and the only problem the _actual_ lawyer could raise was the the term was “technically incorrect.” Lawyers massively hedge their bets with all their advice so if that’s the strongest language he could use, you’re safe.

    2. History is littered with examples of big shot owners putting stupid titles like “Evil Grandmaster” on their business card.

    3. CEO or President does make you sound like a pompous ass.

    Although I’d personally go without the title as well.

  42. Joey Logano says:

    I would go with Founder & CEO

  43. It sure can be a struggle to identify the main purpose one serves in their organization. Putting down the wrong label can result in others viewing the person incorrectly, as far as the function they perform.

PeerFly

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