18 January 2024

9 Entrepreneurs Share Their Views: Do Titles Really Matter in Your Business?

By Ronald Smith

When you have a small business or startup, your team is your most valuable asset. It’s crucial to present a professional image to the outside world while still maintaining a productive atmosphere internally.

But here’s the question: do titles for employees actually help or hinder your team in the long run? Are they only important for big corporations, or can titles motivate key staff members in smaller companies too?

We decided to find out by asking a group of successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for their thoughts on the matter:

How much do titles really matter in a startup or small business? Do you use them (or not use them) to motivate your staff, and if so, how?

So, I asked some folks in the YEC community what they think about titles in the workplace. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Keep It Flexible, But Show Hierarchy

I’m not running a big company, but titles are important to my staff. They help us when we’re looking to hire new team members. Titles let people know where they stand and how much influence they have. But it’s important to be flexible with titles. Job responsibilities can change, so we don’t want to give titles that are too specific. So when you’re thinking of titles, remember to keep it flexible, but still show the hierarchy. That way, employees can see how they’re growing within the company. – Derek Capo, Next Step China

2. Avoid Limiting Flexibility With Titles

When it comes to jobs, too much focus on titles can make it seem like employees only stick to their job descriptions. But the truth is, their value to the company goes far beyond that. So, instead of boxing your employees in with titles, why not inspire them by giving them the chance to take ownership of projects that challenge them and help them grow? After all, this kind of experience is much more valuable than just a job title. – Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

3. Simplify Titles for Larger Teams

In the early stages of an organization, titles that define levels don’t mean much. As the company grows, people’s roles are ever-changing. What really matters is the function they serve, not the level they’re at. However, once your team reaches around 20 members, it’s important to establish standardized levels and expectations within the organization. This is where titles and promotions can come into play to motivate and drive your staff forward. – Trevor Sumner, LocalVox

4. Encourage Leadership Skills

We’ve recently formed a team of leaders that any employee can join if they can show that they can handle more responsibilities and help our business grow. Being part of the leadership team encourages our employees to exceed their regular roles. ~ David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

5. Use Them for Outside Reasons

We only use titles for external purposes. We have a flat structure where everyone respects each other, so we don’t need titles internally. Our leaders directly support the people they manage in their departments. However, it’s important to give higher titles to those who interact with people outside the company. ~ John Hall, Influence Co.

6. Show Value to Clients

I use titles mainly to let our clients know who they should contact for assistance. It also shows credibility to some people in our industry who may think that a ‘virtual assistant’ isn’t a valuable team member. To emphasize our commitment to taking care of every client need, we introduced the ‘client concierge’ position, which goes beyond what ‘VA’ represents. ~ Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

7. Keep Titles out of Meetings

During the first year, my business card said, ‘Director of Player Personnel.’ Later, advisors advised me to include ‘CEO’ on my card so that others would know who they’re dealing with. Titles are important for others to recognize. They’re also important for your team members to feel appreciated. However, it’s crucial to never bring them up during meetings. In a startup, it’s great ideas, not a hierarchy, that always prevail. ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

8. Value Creation Knows No Limits

At Poshly, as a fast-growing startup, we all pitch in to ensure our success, regardless of our job titles. We’re not confined to our roles – we expand our contributions to different parts of the business. For instance, our sales team also works on creating engaging content, and our engineers assist in crafting marketing materials for our B2B partnerships. Together, we form a unified force, where titles don’t hold us back from our work. – Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

9. Embrace Titles, But Don’t Take Them Too Seriously

Titles do have their place, but they’re not as crucial as I initially believed. When it comes to ad agencies, people don’t pay much attention to titles (unless you’re an assistant account executive – then everyone knows you’re just starting out). – Yuriy Boykiv, Gravity Media