MSP CEOs Reidentifying Themselves


MSP CEOs Reidentifying Themselves

By Special Guest
Stuart R. Crawford


The term CEO, which stands for Chief Executive Officer, is commonly used by executives who run large companies. However, many business owners and entrepreneurs have found the term misleading. Discover what company owners and entrepreneurs in the technology industry have to say about their leadership roles to get to know some alternative terms and how and why they're used.

Anthony Buonaspina, the founder of LI Tech Advisors, hasn't traded in the term CEO. However, he's quick to eschew common synonyms of the word, which include terms such as head honcho, the man upstairs, and bigwig. Instead, he views his position as one that requires him to minimize failures while taking proactive steps to grow the company and reach core business goals. He puts a premium on listening not only to clients but also employees to know what they need and what their concerns are. He actively seeks out suggestions from both clients and staff members to ensure his business is creating the resources to meet their needs. As he points out, his job is full-time; he doesn't clock out and go home after regular business hours. At the same time, he's quick to acknowledge that his position comes with some great benefits, including the ability to make final decisions on important matters.

Joe Cannata from Techsperts LLC looks at things differently. Like Anthony Buonaspina, he runs an outsourced IT managed services company that he founded and got off the ground. However, he doesn't feel comfortable using the term CEO because he feels that it's a bit of an overreach. To him, the term is best suited for a person at the helm of a large corporation with tens of thousands of employees. Instead of referring to himself as the CEO, he simply calls himself the business owner, a term that, in his opinion, grounds him in reality and conveys an honest impression of who he is. It's not a matter of lack of self-esteem as Cannata makes it clear that he is proud of his company and his employees. However, he doesn't feel that he's attained the title of chief executive officer yet.

Cannata and Buonaspina aren't the only business owners who take the time to consider the title they want to be known by. Tim Martin, the chairman and founder of UK-based firm JD Weatherspoon, refuses to be called his official title. Rather, he states that he should be called a "publican" as his business is running pubs. Gene Marks of the Marks Group notes that he may be the president of his firm but doesn't like to go by his title. Instead of stating his official job title when people ask what he does for a living, he tells them about his company's mission and the role he plays in it, and he recommends that others do the same. Naturally, forgoing the job title isn't something that everyone feels comfortable doing, and it's not always the best option in every single situation. However, telling someone how you empower customers or provide services/goods to the business community is not only more descriptive than stating that you are the owner of such and such a firm but also a great sales pitch that can help you bring in potential clients.

On the other hand, there are plenty of job titles a company founder or owner can pick from. President is a common one, albeit one that is often used by individuals who run large corporations. An entrepreneur is an ideal title for a person who runs his or her own business and does not hire fulltime employees. The founder is an ideal title for a business owner who is intricately involved in the day to day business operations as long as the individual in question actually started the company instead of buying an existing business and growing it. Principal, administrator, and managing director are a few other alternative titles one can consider. Some business owners who use the term CEO have modified the acronym, telling staff members that it means chief engagement officer. The term has a friendly connotation to it, making it clear that the business owner is keen on working with employees to grow the business rather than simply telling people what to do and how to do it.

How does a business founder or owner select an appropriate title? The truth is there is no easy answer. As the business owners noted above make clear, a lot depends on a person's perception of him or herself. A person running a business should feel comfortable with his or her job title, be it CEO, director, president, managing partner, founder, or something else. At the same time, a company owner should consider public expectations and perceptions when selecting a title to ensure that the chosen title is an accurate portrayal of who someone is and what he or she does. For instance, a person who is the owner and sole employee in his business may find that the term CEO comes across as arrogant. Alternatively, the title of proprietor may confuse potential customers unless the business owner in question runs a local store. Even so, the good news is that there are plenty of job titles to go around. If you've set up or bought a business, take some time to consider how you want to present yourself to your employees and the general public. Choosing a title with care is important as your title will reflect on your business, giving people their first impression of who you are, what you're like and what they can expect from you and your company.


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