What do you call yourself on your business card? This is a challenging question for many entrepreneurs, especially those in the early building years. And for many people in business, at every stage – tasks are always changing. Sales call in the morning, manage a staffing issue over lunch, make a decision about production or inventory in the afternoon, bookkeeping at night. So what to put on that business card? What’s in a name?
Over the years I’ve tried different names on my card, and each one elicits a different response from people. I’ve tried “Owner” and “President” which seemed clear but still didn’t give the whole picture. My card got passed around to people who then left me a heartfelt message about how to care for their cat when they are away next weekend, or share details about why they are unhappy with their current housecleaning service. Since my role doesn’t involve booking services, I ultimately had to get them talking to my staff, or my franchise partners. This left them with the sense that were passed along, fobbed off. To avoid such feelings of disappointment, on my next card I tried “Franchising and Marketing”.
This stopped direct calls to me to book services – people instead would visit the website and call the office nearest them. But now there was confusion about what I did, and who I reported to. I got questions like “so, what do you mean by marketing?”
On my latest card I’m trying “Founder & CEO” because it covers all aspects of marketing, franchise development, branding, and coaching which takes up most of my time. It has only been a few months, but so far the reaction has been good. No confusion. I thought I’d finally picked the right words in the arbitrary process of sticking a title on a business card.
Then, recently, I had very unusual experience. In a coffee meeting with a businessman, I was asked for my card. When I handed it over, he read it out loud in a voice of incredulity. I can’t be totally sure, but I think he may have snorted a little bit.
I brushed it off, because what’s in a name? And just got down to discussing the agenda. But his reaction lingered with me. I can’t help wonder if that man would have had the same reaction to my choice of title if I was a man.
Do titles mean more to men than they do to women? I normally interact and network with women. As mothers and business people, we tend to wear many hats. I think we have more tolerance and understanding of the flexible nature of titles. We understand that the card we carry or nametag we wear only has enough space for a few characters, and we are not defined by the limitations of that word. After all, what’s in a name?