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Does a job title matter?

I was recruited for a CFO position which morphed into a Director of Finance position at the time of the offer. Reasoning relates to the risk/size/ownership of this small ($75MM) financial services company. There are no VP titles in the Company and they are reluctant to change their structure given the other Directors in the organization. I have previously held the titles of Division Controller, VP Corporate Controller, and most recently Consultant. What are your thoughts on the importance of the Director of Finance title? Any ideas on what other title we might consider?

Answers

Phyllis Proffer
Title: Owner, Investor Relations Counselor
Company: The Heights Company, LLC
(Owner, Investor Relations Counselor, The Heights Company, LLC) |

The responsibilities and span of control of the position are more important than the title. However, titles should appropriately reflect those responsibilities in order to avoid confusion within the organization as well as with banks, vendors and the investment community, if applicable. If there is chief executive officer, it seems as though there should be a chief financial officer regardless of whether other very important functions hold a vice president title or not. Of course, it depends on the responsibilities and span of control of the position.

K W
Title: VP Finance
Company: Montg
(VP Finance, Montg ) |

Title matters more than just ego. 1) Your position at the table. You are included in sn mtgs. 2) If you are CFO, they can't hire in someone above you. 3) Perks. Often time perks and stock options etc are issued by level. There is frequently a range, for eg EVP level will get options ranging from X to Y number.

However this is a double edge sword. If you insist on the most senior position, than you have to perform to that level. And if you don't they have no option but to fire you. They can't hire an "Executive CFO" above you later if you need help. Sounds like maybe they were interviewing you for the CFO role but thought you needed more experience so they morphed the role to a more junior level. The positive is they like you but are concerned you may need more seasoning. So either insist on the CFO role and prove them wrong, risky proposition, or take the junior role but set measurable achievements by which you can then be promoted.

Gregg Kimmer
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Humana
(Director of Finance, Humana) |

I always instruct people who work for me to leave their titles and egos at the door. I also don't hire people who concentrate on titles, as their egos are typically too large to work with.

Mark Stokes
Title: CFO
Company: Private
(CFO, Private) |

Once inside the company, titles should be left at the door. But titles do matter to others looking in from outside. I don't think anyone should be faulted for caring what their title is on the way into a company since it will go a long way towards determining their comp, reporting relationships, job content and more not only for the current position, but also for other positions down the road.

Behshid Amini-Rad
Title: Manager Treasury Operations
Company: Zodiac Pool Systems, Inc.
(Manager Treasury Operations, Zodiac Pool Systems, Inc.) |

I agree with Phylis the content and responsibilities are more important. VP of a small company could be the same as Director title of larger compan

Konrad Sosnow
Title: Revenue Recognition Guru
Company: Konrad M. Sosnow & Associates
(Revenue Recognition Guru, Konrad M. Sosnow & Associates) |

I agree that the responsibilities and span of control of the position define the position.It appears that you are not going to be a corporate officer. That is, you will not be primarily responsible for managing the financial risks of the corporation. Be sure that you understand your role.

Brian Roche
Title: CFO
Company: Scalise Industries
(CFO, Scalise Industries) |

Title obviously does matter to you (or you would not have posted this question). Unless you have no other option, do not take a job where you are not confortable with the position, or in your case the title. It will impact the way that you perceive your position and authority are viewed by others in and out of the company. This will in turn effect your performance and attitude.

Good luck to you in whatever your decision is.

Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

Ask for the title. You will regret not getting it when you get into the position. I accepted a role at a lower title once and it still impacts how I am viewed in the organization.

Dipak Bhakta
Title: Controller
Company: Private Company
(Controller, Private Company) |

In my experience Title has mattered in different ways:
1) for future opportunities, doors open up much more easily at the appropriate level for you if you have held the title that accurately reflects your responsibilities and authority level
2) At larger companies, where it is impossible for everyone in the company to know you by your performance and impact, title helps you get things done. Sometimes, even the title might not help unless people know what it means. For example, many non-financial people do not know what the Controller title means or at what level it fits within the organization.

Jeff Taylor
Title: CFO
Company: Communications Co.
(CFO, Communications Co.) |

Title matters in a big way and you are getting shafted (IMHO). You came in and it was an executive level title and now you are a non-exec title. There is a vast gulf between a Director of Finance role and a CFO position. Now you have to ask yourself if you have the background for a CFO role, but if you do, this will be tough to recover from.

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

Title matters less than what you do with the position. I have worked in a number of small to mid-size companies where they either did not use the CFO title or it belonged to a family member who had no function. Regardless, everyone (inside and out) knew that I ran Finance and Accounting (and sometimes other departments too) and that I was the CFO in terms of function and authority. What you do and how you represent yourself determines how you are perceived.

Topic Expert
Paul Benedetto
Title: CFO, Director of Finance, Consultant
Company: Nextwave Software, Rethink Fabrics
(CFO, Director of Finance, Consultant, Nextwave Software, Rethink Fabrics) |

I wholeheartedly agree with Randy's position on this. I recently took a role with a company and to maintain consistency and politics with the rest of the executive team, my title for now is financial controller. When interacting with outside investors, banks, etc., the CEO refers to me as the company's CFO.

If there is no adjustment in pay with this title revision, I would leave it alone and run the position as the lead accountant. On the other hand, if there are financial related staff above or below you, evaluate further their roles and how you fit in.

The size of this company $75MM has me leaning towards a CFO or VP title though...

Sally Brandtneris
Title: VP and CFO
Company: Stefanini TechTeam
(VP and CFO, Stefanini TechTeam) |

Thanks for your comment, Randy, and others. Essentially the family member will retain the CFO title and I will manage the internal organization and external relationships. I have been working over the last year to build a 1-person consulting firm, with limited results, but my goal is to return to an "inside" role. I have enjoyed working with smaller firms - less bureaucracy and great opportunity to work across all areas of a company. While I am concerned about the Director title, at this point I am leaning towards jumping in and doing a great job in a small firm. Unless someone else has a better idea for a title? Does Finance Director make a difference?

Peter Lyons, MBA, CMA
Title: Finance and Technology Enthusiast
Company: Currently Looking
(Finance and Technology Enthusiast, Currently Looking) |

I'm starting to see a shift away from the word "Chief" in titles to "Head" (i.e. Head of Finance, Head of Operations, etc.). Maybe something like that will work for you. Good luck with your new role!!

Sheila Saffold
Title: Manager of Accounting
Company: Hospital
(Manager of Accounting, Hospital) |

I have to agree with Randy. Titles may set some initial expectations, but your performance determines how people perceive you. I have known VP's who brought no value to the company, and senior accountants who were changing the company's future.

James Finn
Title: Consultant: Finance, Internal Control, ..
Company: Finn Consulting
( Consultant: Finance, Internal Control, IT Systems, and Compliance, Finn Consulting ) |

From my perspective as a compliance specialist, a title is like a "sign-off" or approval signature. It must represent something in order to be of real value, or it is just a gimmick. A title should serve the interests of the person, the corporation, and the employees reporting to the "Title".

So if the capability, responsibility and compensation are represented accurately by a title it is essential and productive.

However, as everyone knows, most titles represent compensation and frequently credit for accomplishments that may not have been contributed to. The name we give this is "Politics", and it seems to be a contributing factor to title "misrepresentation". In too many cases a title represents working for less than deserved, or just a lot of money for little contribution, and insulation from criticism.

So "Whats in a title? ?? Whatever the Boss puts in it !!!

Jim Finn

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

I think the impact is longer term, Sally. If your goal is to be a CFO in a future position, it's always easier to make that move if you have been a CFO in the past. Without that title on your resume, it's much more difficult.

It sounds to me like you've been hit with a "bait and switch." What did your signed offer letter say about your title?

Sally Brandtneris
Title: VP and CFO
Company: Stefanini TechTeam
(VP and CFO, Stefanini TechTeam) |

I agree that this is a "bait and switch" situation. The current CFO (family member) said he was going to be the COO and the owner advertised the position as CFO. They claim to have been evaluating organizational options/changes and have decided that the brother in law will remain CFO, but have minimal responsibility for finance, and I will report to him. The offer letter says Director of Finance - unless I can come up with an alternative that does NOT include VP. Any ideas?

Paul Schaffer
Title: CFO
Company: Alterna Capital Partners
(CFO, Alterna Capital Partners) |

While a title may or may not matter to the individual, there is certainly a perception within many organizations (especially larger companies) that title signifies expectations, responsibilities and influence. In the long run what matters most is performance; in the short-term you may face an unfair perception by others if you do not have a title congruent with your duties.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Similar to Randy- I joined a small company and my role was the senior finance person. I did not get the title on joing (due to politics) so I simply performed in a way that it soon became apparent that I was the CEO's right hand person. Aboyt 6 months after I joined, I had to run the business in his medical absence; after 3 months doing that I was appointed to the divisional management board of directors. The pay and benefits, plus the responsibilities and role, reflected my value. So...decide if you want to earn what you desire by producing results, results and results so they see your value.

Scott Gunn
Title: CFO
Company: In-Transition
(CFO, In-Transition) |

It is a nice thought that only results matter and not title, but unfortunately this is not usually (if ever) the case. If nothing else having the right title opens up doors for you as recruiters will give you a look, and you will have a much easier time building a professional network of CFOs. I would argue the smaller the firm the bigger the title you should command given that you are doing even more than someone with a CFO title at a large company. I would venture to guess that anyone who says that title does not matter has never had doors closed on them because of not having the right title.

J. Ed Neufer CPA
Title: Consultant
Company: CONSULTING
(Consultant, CONSULTING) |

Title DOES matter, and think the comments here have covered virtually all concerns. Seems like a bait and switch unfortunately. VP/CFO helps with perception w/i the org., every step up helps with future opportunities (internally and/or externally), there are officer risks that go along with being a corporate officer, and actually I had a dating relationship with a corporate officer (VP) once (the only time I dated someone in a work environment), but title certainly meant a lot then, as I was a Director while she was VP. That's probably irrelevant to you, and a whole other topic, but certainly there are times when it completely matters! Did not get promoted from Director although at times doing Corp. VP role, COO role, sub. CFO role. Eventually other roles, but didn't have the full range of responsibilities like heavier positions--sub. CEO, corp. CFO, etc. (i.e. leading regular sub. Leadership meetings, signing/negotiating provider contracts, earnings calls, etc.).

Michael B. Hutchison
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Pine Island Chemicals
(Chief Financial Officer, Pine Island Chemicals) |

I share the opinion of several of the prior posters that it does in fact matter what your title is. In this day where you have to depend on yourself more than being able to depend on a company, the title matters. If you have to market yourself at some point down the road, being the CFO of the company is a much bigger selling point than being the director of the company.

Within the company, it generally should not matter, as relying on your title is mostly an ego thing.

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

If we were in a normal environment, I would agree with you. But right now, being employed is the most important thing. Titles are nice, but recruiters and employers now have a strong focus on accomplishments. If you expect to retire in your next job, the title is most important; otherwise you need to show that you built something better than what you inherited.

Larry Brees
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: One Earth Energy, LLC
(Chief Financial Officer, One Earth Energy, LLC) |

I would suggest that the title should reflect the level of responsibility, not necessarily job duties. I believe a director and a CFO has more responsibility than a controller, although in some firms the controller is the source of the CFO's information. In non-finance peoples' minds, controller, CFO, and director of finance are in a lot of cases interchangeable. I am a controller by title, was a CFO at one time, but fellow employees here refer to me as the CFO.

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