Why Some Small Business Owners Shouldn’t Introduce Themselves as CEO

I go to networking events fairly often and while at these events, I run into several CEOs of small businesses.   While the title of CEO looks good on a business card and is probably a source of pride for the owner, it can be a dead giveaway that your business is small or even a one person operation. Let me explain why.

CEOs of large companies have a lot of layers of people and staff. It is usually difficult to get in touch with the CEO of a large company, and they probably wouldn’t be at the networking event you’re at unless it’s a high profile affair.   CEOs of big companies tend to network at exclusive events, charity benefits, and other high end galas.  They probably wouldn’t be at a networking event at your local bar.  If the company’s presence was needed at a networking event at a less exclusive event, they would probably delegate the responsibility of attending to someone at a lower level of the organizational chart.  To sum it up, CEOs are exclusive and hard to get in touch with.  So, if you’re at your run of the mill networking mixer, and you’re actually able to approach the CEO, his or her company probably isn’t that big. 

So what does this mean for you and your business presence?   While the size of a company does not matter in some industries, in others like professional services (consulting, web development, law, accounting etc.) a potential client from a large organization may question your ability to handle the work. Therefore, they may not even bring up an opportunity in your initial conversation with them.  Remember, we all make decisions and judgments within minutes of meeting someone. So how do you get around this? Below I’ll share a “People Hack” that can help change people’s perceptions of your business size.


People Hack: Say No to CEO

Instead of putting CEO on your card or introducing yourself as one, use a functional title.  If you own a consulting firm, list your title as “Consultant”, or if you own an event planning company list your title as “Event Planner”.    When you use a functional title, it subconsciously makes your company look larger to your prospective client.    They don’t know who the CEO is, which opens up the possibility that your company is larger.  In addition to functional titles, “Associate” is also a good title to use.    Remember, CEOs of large companies are difficult to access, so if you don’t introduce yourself as CEO, you don’t give away the size of your company.    Introducing yourself as CEO and putting it on your card is fine for high end events, as other CEOs of large companies are usually present.   But in all other circumstances, say no to CEO.