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What is a good title for an early hire at a startup who is really the CEO/Co-founder's right hand person?

chief of staff vs chief operating officer


Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Chief Administrative Officer; Chief of Staff. Suggestion - do not worry about the title too much in this early stage. After six months your true role will be clearer.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Many small companies are actually moving away from titles, or using titles that are non-standard.

Sometimes mystery in a title can bring on a conversation, which ultimate direction can be very rewarding...

Topic Expert
Doug Thompson
Title: Director of Revenue
Company: Castlight Health
(Director of Revenue, Castlight Health) |


Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

Concur with that suggestions. Alternatively, in a "small" startup, the earlier hires can be referred by the sequence in which they started with the company, #1, #2 etc.. no titles. As part of onboarding, new employees should understand the roles of the individuals (absent titles).

Topic Expert
Randy Miller
Title: Partner
Company: CFO Edge
(Partner, CFO Edge) |

Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Operations Officer. The disadvantage of not having a title is that if you are the "right-hand person" of the CEO/founder, you are going to be dealing with a lot of key outside individuals and companies; and the proper title lets them know that you have the authority to make decisions and enter into business relationships.

In start-ups and small companies, titles are more for the outside world than internal use.

Andrew Dinsmore
Title: Managing Director
Company: Elmscroft LLC
(Managing Director, Elmscroft LLC) |

I agree with Doug and Randy, COO is the better title. While it may not be as important within the firm, for external suppliers, potential clients, investors, etc., the title signifies your position within the firm and authority to make decisions and enter contracts. Funky titles make it harder for outsiders to understand your role in the firm.


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