Big Wigs and Job Titles

When I was young the president of a company was the top dog. When did CEO’s replace them? And what’s with the proliferation of all the COO, CFO, CTO titles?

There’s no fixed set of rules on who reports to whom, and not all companies use the same titles. In many companies, the president and the CEO (chief executive officer) are the same person. The “Chief ____ Officer” nomenclature just makes it easier to see who is responsible for what in the business. The CFO handles the money, the CTO handles the technology, the COO handles production, and so forth.

C suite titles have become more fashionable in the corporate landscape over the last decade or so. It recognizes the top level person for their particular field of work…finance, operations, information systems, etc. within the organization.

Also, the larger the company, there may be many presidents of sub-businesses. The CEO in many cases is also the president of the entire company…but not necessarily so.

This is just how it works in the company I work for. We have the CEO, who is based in the head office in France. Then we have Presidents for not only global regions, but different product lines. The office I work in has two Presidents - they are regional, but each is for a different product line.

The CxO system is simply a way of defining who has particular authority, where titls may not be clear.

In one company, the Chairman of the Board of Directors may be somthing of a figurehead, who presides at a single quarterly or annual meting where the Board of Directors rubberstamps th President’s business plans, etc. At another, the Chairman may be the guy who actuzally runs the company, delegating day-to-day specifics to the President or Comptroller, but in firm charge of overall policy. Or aything in between.

The Chief Executive Officr (CEO) sets overall policy on an ongoing basis. The Chief Operating Officer (COO), who may or may not be the same person, is in charge of implementing that policy. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is in charge of ensuring the business stays financially sound and has necessary rcords to prove it is operating legally and in the black. And so on.

In any given company, the CEO, COO, CFO series may match up with any set of othr titles. Indeed, in some NFPs, both Chairman and President may be inactiv in day-to-day operations, being sparkplugs of what started the NFP but dzevoting their daily activities to the businesses, organizations, etc., they actually head, while the COO is the “Executiv Vice President”.

The CxO nomenclature has a legal meaning in most countries. It denotes an “executive officer” who has liabilities and responsibilities that ordinary employees do not. Presidents and [usually] Vice Presidents are also executive officers. In Ontario, Canada, for instance, an executive officer of a company is personally liable for payroll should the company be unable to meet its obligations. The SEC in the United States has strict definitions for what an executive officer is and what their obligations are in public companies.

Remember when Fred Flintstone who works for the Slate Rock and Gravel Company, switched places with the President and boss Mr Slate. Then he found out the “boss has a boss?”

And the shrimpy little board of directors was bossing him around