You’re not a CEO. Stop saying you are.

 

At BIKLOPS, we work primarily with new and mid-stage businesses—in annoying biz-speak, SMBs. Thanks to a huge rise in entrepreneurship in Kansas City and a couple of great startup clients, 2014 was the ‘year of the startup’ at BIKLOPS. We worked with a half-dozen start-ups, met dozens more and found ourselves designing, strategizing and consulting for a lot of newborn companies.

The work was fun. We met a lot of smart innovators that I hope to work with again. We also met a lot of “CEO”s. A lot. The title felt a little off and off-putting. To quote The Kernel’s Milo Yiannopoulos, “What, precisely, are founders of a company with no revenue, a handful of staff and possibly even no funding the chief executive of?” The self-appointed title was telling: founders are taking a huge risk, and afraid of failure, they often wrap themselves up in the emperor’s clothes. CEO feels successful—and the appearance of success breeds real success, right? Well, yes and no.

Nice hairpiece, buddy.

There’s a solid business reason to avoid the “CEO trap”—this is the age of the authentic brand and you’re telling a lie. People can smell it. Other businesses and investors can smell it—and I’ll let you on to a little secret: being honest about your company and your role is an advantage. Potentially a big one.

Think of it this way—there are two potential audiences for your service or product: the people that would like to hire the services of a big company manned by a “CEO” and the people that would like the services of a hungry entrepreneur—an alternative to the slow-moving dinosaurs they’re currently working with. That unnecessary title just alienated those open-minded, CEO-hating rebels that respect a “business owner,” an “entrepreneur”. To make a long story short: it’s best to earn it before you claim it. You’ll benefit and feel more honest. It’s a win-win.

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