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“I’m the Kid.” Naming Key Roles

I’m the kid. – 2 year-old rider on the DART, the Dallas, TX rail system

I was confused one afternoon on DART and a young woman with a talkative toddler was sitting next to me. She offered her assistance and told me to follow her to the next stop. All the while, her daughter was chattering away. The young girl was clearly smart as a whip – I mean ready to take on the world. Her mother told me her name, but the young child had to announce herself to me. “I’m the kid,” she said beaming with pride. Not the princess or the fairy or any other mythical character. In case I didn’t catch it, she said it again loudly and proudly, “I’m the kid.” By now, everyone on our train knew exactly what she was.

Her confidence and character were clear, as was her role in the family.  She was proud.  The kid didn’t need fancy titles to convey that she was important or impressive. The kid was important.  I learned that her family was quite large so I’m sure she’d heard herself referred to as the kid often. But she took the role, owned it and ran with it, making sure that we all knew its value.  She changed an awful morning into a beautiful day.

Keep it simple.

Keep it simple.

What if today’s businesses used the same simplicity in naming? Instead there has been an increase in what some consider vanity titles. The once-reserved titles of vice-president, chief something or director are now bandied about quite loosely. No one knows who has real power any more.

“It is all corporate Kindergarten playtime title-making,” says Mark Stevens, a marketing and management expert and author of Your Marketing Sucks. “It’s a puppet show. These people have absolutely no power.” … So what prompted the trend? According to Stevens, too much idle time and interest in making the company sound “cool.”

Peter Cappelli, management professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says the new titles are meant to signal—internally, to customers or to governments—that a particular function or task is important and that the people at the top are listening. They may also be a form of ego appeasing and identifying who the important senior people are. “The main question,” he says, “is whether there’s any real substance behind them.”  C is for Silly: The New C-Suite Titles, Jenna Goudreau, Forbes

While working to brand small businesses, DORO has noticed that the teams increasingly spend time trying to distinguish themselves by funky, unique titles. For some companies, the quirky title fits perfectly. But for others, it isn’t as simple.

Steve Jobs' business card started with a clear role.

Steve Jobs’ business card started with a clear role.

The discussion typically begins around the design of the business card. Before you know it, the naming process turns into a big time suck that adds little to the company brand. Then there are business cards with titles that take 5 minutes to explain. Spend your time better.

It may be tempting to look for fun names, but don’t fall for it! With many startups or small businesses, there are only two or three folks on staff.  The number of hats that each person wears multiplies, but there’s a distinct accountability area for each person. Hone in on that area and make it plain.

Take lessons from the kid.

  1. Stick to the basics.  Make it plain for people doing business with your company. When you announce yourself, folks will know exactly what your purpose is.
  2. Keep it clear. As you add employees, make certain that the titles reflect the roles accurately.
  3. Leave room for growth. Build in a company hierarchy that allows employees to recognize promotion opportunities.
  4. Celebrate the role. Showcase the value in every single role so that each employee can be proud.



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This entry was posted on 10/05/2013 by in All About the Business and tagged , , , , .
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