A week ago I was watching one of Elon Musk’s many interviews. Lots of remarkable insights you can draw from his interviews. Anyways, one of the things that stood out to me regarded the management posts. He highlighted that titles do not mean much in business or entrepreneurship. He even went as far as citing that most titles or management posts are just made up. He added that when setting up a C-Corp, it is 4 posts are required by regulators. These are President, Secretary, Treasurer, and a Director. It is an interesting discussion we can have some other day. Our topic today though is defining common company management posts.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
This is usually the highest-ranking official in a company, though in some cases there can be a President at the top. A CEO is tasked with the role of overseeing and managing the overall operations of a company. They are the visionary who directs which trajectory a company must take. You can even consider them as the chief strategist of the company. This is because they get to define and direct the strategic path the company must take. That is why you can see visible changes when the CEO of a company changes. The CEO wears many hats in executing their duties. They lead, guide, manage, decide, develop, advise, and the like.
Chief Operations Officer (COO)
The COO is mainly tasked with operations planning, quality management, operations team management, budget formulation and cost management. Their thrust is to reduce costs whilst increasing operational efficiency and profitability. They are also focused on product or service improvement. The role of the COO is at best complementary to that of the CEO. This is because the COO’s role entails vision, planning, management, analyses, and overall company strategy.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
The summary of a CFO’s roles is overseeing financial operations, financial management, financial control, and financial performance. That also includes financial policy formulation, financial planning, financial reporting, risk management, and compliance management. They also forge and manage financial relationships. The CFO is central to financial decision-making e.g. investments. KPI development, analysis, business modelling, and overall financial forecasting are also part of what they do.
Managing Director (MD)
They oversee, direct, and control all of the company’s operations. They are entrusted with substantial power or authority to manage the affairs of the company. Thus the extent of the powers an MD has is usually determined by the board. They manage and evaluate employee performance. They play a strategic advisory role to the board. The development of and adherence to company policies is also their responsibility. Business planning and strategy formulation are also something they do. Operations, stakeholder liaison, and company growth are the core focuses of an MD.
This post mainly deals with day to day execution of business plans and strategies. Their main focus is on enhancing business performance. That is why part of what they do involves building systems and SOPs. They oversee team leads, department heads, and other supervisory subordinates. The creation of company culture and instilling it is also their responsibility. All in all, the Executive Director oversees strategic or business planning and implementation plus managing risk.
The day to day operations of the company is their mainstay because they want to align everything with board resolutions and expectations. Depending on the company, they might be assigned a specific focus possibly even with a specific title e.g. Finance Director.
Just to add, there is what is called a Non-Executive Director. Their role includes contributing to strategic planning. They are instrumental in any evaluation or review process. They are also key in decision-making. They are usually part-time, not fully employed as is usually the case for Executive Directors.
A manager is usually responsible for a particular team, department, or even a branch, and so on. Their core responsibilities are to keep track of challenges, figuring solutions, and do what is needful to achieve set goals. This also entails the management of operations, human and financial resources, and other associated stakeholders. So a general manager oversees all of that company-wide, branch-wide, or subsidiary-wide, no wonder the ‘general’ component is there. You will normally find a general manager having subordinate managers reporting to them.
This post is usually necessitated by the existence of aboard. The roles of a company secretary are typically legal aside from them being a representative of the company. They ensure board policies and procedures are properly and legally aligned. You can say they oversee corporate compliance concerning the dictates of corporate governance. They also play an information management role to and for the board. For example, they initiate and manage official communications and information about meetings. They moderate between the board and stakeholders. They also plan, communicate, and convene meetings.
I have just given an overview so that you appreciate what those titles or posts mean. If I were to go in-depth I would need an article for each title to fully unpack it. Plus the needs or specific roles of each of these posts vary from company to company. There are so many intricacies when it comes to management posts. For example, in one company you can find the top-most post being MD. Then in another, you can find the top-most post being CEO. The size of a company will usually inform the nature of roles assigned to a particular title. In some cases, there is not even a board of directors. That is why this article was meant to give you a basic appreciation.