Going Beyond Chief Bottle-Washer
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Going Beyond Chief Bottle-Washer

eco bottles
What’s in a name? A lot.

If, when you introduce yourself and list the name of your position as CEO, you’ll get treated a certain way. If, however, you tell people that you’re the owner, operator and chief bottle-washer, you’ll get a very different response.

The biggest reason is simply because that “chief bottle-washer” crack tells listeners exactly how big your business is, and can drop a few hints about how fast you expect to be able to bring anyone else on.

A CEO, on the other hand, is generally someone to take seriously. The title implies that you’ve got a few helping hands, at the very least, and you certainly take your business seriously.

The danger of not being taken seriously

Whether or not you like cracking jokes in public, you’ve got to go out of your way to be taken seriously as a business owner. You don’t have to turn off your sense of humor, but at least starting with the way you refer to yourself is crucial.

My pet peeve in this situation is the title of WAHM — as much as I think it’s a good thing to build a business out of your home and make it possible to both be an entrepreneur and a mom, I don’t think it’s necessary to advertise.

At the very least, you’re telling potential clients that they aren’t your priority — which makes it a whole heck of a lot harder for them to take you seriously.

Not being taken seriously truly is a danger.

No one wants to trust part of their business to someone who is anything less than professional: think about your own feelings on the matter.

You may be willing to give a little more leeway to someone with similar values (such as another WAHM), but you might not be so excited about someone who describes herself as a student or something else that sounds less than professional.

Making sure that you’re taken seriously can be an ongoing endeavour. But when you can take time to think about how you view yourself and how others view you, you’ll be able to find the sticking points a whole lot faster.

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Image by Flickr user Sonny Abesamis, Creative Commons

Thursday Bram offers content marketing through Hyper Modern Consulting, as well as more traditional writing services. She’s also the co-creator of Constructively Productive, the blog that’s bringing perspective to productivity. You can find Thursday on Twitter.


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  1. First, thursdayb , it’s just great to see you on WIB, period. About your post, this is one of the main things I wish I’d known when I first started out. My main site is Free Traffic Tips. 7 years ago, it was geared to my ideal client, because that segment spent money in their PayPal account on my little guides like it was monopoly money. Over the years though, my idea was not recession proof at all. Luckily I started two other sites and those are the ones I put on my business cards. Tearing down or re-purposing the old site eliminates some of the bragging rights that are major selling points to my business. So it’s a Catch-22. If I’d started out on better footing, it would have been so much easier to make the transition.

    shonali is a better example of what to do. She has a GREAT name that incorporates her flavor and tells people what she does. jillfoster does as well, so does nakeva and allenmireles . But the person whose business name and online setup I envy most is tararodden . She really gets how to position her brand in your mind in a way I wish I did when I first started out.

  2. Hi thursdayb , Thanks for the really insightful and thought provoking post! My branding journey has been a crooked one. And I am still learning! @Tinu was most kind and generous with her compliment! *blushing*

    With best wishes,


  3. Hey Tara! What are you doing here? Crazy, the connectedness! Love it! @Tara Rodden Robinson thursdayb @Tinu

  4. Totally agree with you, Thursday. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to present yourself (and your business) professionally. Image is SO important – all the time – and especially when you’re starting out and establishing that image. Personally, I’m the Chief Executive Rabbit of Zen Rabbit; still establishes the professionalism and stature while adding a bit of personality to it.

    While we’re at it, may I throw in some distaste for the term “small business person”? I mean if you want to stay stuck in that category, fine, but I encourage a bigger vision.

  5. @Tinu thursdayb shonali nakeva allenmireles tararodden Big picture thinking and direct — great post Thursday. And thanks @Tinu for your reference in this context too. Transitioning from social media teacher to public speaking coach has been a welcome but turbulent process. In terms of being taken seriously online – wow LiveYourTalk’s social presence has plenty to develop. There’s a lot I just didn’t facilitate due to bandwidth and cultivating a client base. But it seems that excuse should have a limited lifespan, right?! It’s useful to ask these hard-hitting questions that you and Thursday are asking. Thanks for this.

  6. @LoriSaitz I’m proud-and-say-it-loud to be a small business person and see it as quite a progressive, expansive means to leading this economy. That’s the vision to which I subscribe. And it resonates with my professional esteem in the most invigorating, results-driven way — in a way the phrase “stuck in a category” does not.

  7. Thursday, I think you make points that many women need to hear and then hear again and again. I’ve been in business for myself since 1993 and I remember how difficult it was to describe myself as an owner and CEO or Principal. I just didn’t have the self-confidence in those days. And, I think I’m not alone in that.

    Presenting your business seriously and with confidence gives your customers (clients) and prospects the assurance that you take them and their businesses (or consumer issues) seriously. It also communicates pride in your work and self confidence that come in handy when you are “selling” or promoting your products and services. Having said that, we are all works in progress and learning in every moment. But each post like this helps lead the way for others, which is cool.

    @Tinu is a dear for listing me in her comment and I thank her and agree with her views of @Jillfoster , shonali and @Nakeva. And I love (and envy) @LoriSaitz ‘s title.

    Thanks for starting the conversation. 🙂

  8. @allenmireles @Tinu You both will make my head swell!

  9. thursdayb Personal branding starting with the name, title, appearance, business card and 140 character pitch speaks volumes. It has been a trial and error process deciding how to introduce myself as a small business owner that is not incorporated with a full board of directors yet thinks and manages like a CEO. The use of “Founder” or “Owner” just doesn’t have the same zing. I chose to go with what best fits my business and personality and will build on that as things grow. In networking introductions I have seen numerous times where someone will exchange their title and it either missed the point or exaggerates. Tough call but best to know yourself and your business before accepting just any title. Thank you for writing this, perfect timing for some quarterly business practice reviews.

  10. @Tinu thursdayb shonali jillfoster allenmireles tararodden Its certainly a life learning experience Tinu. I admire you and everyone you mentioned (and blush that I’m included, thanks) because I see them as the ladies of change and distinction online and offline. Thursday’s key point that it matters what’s in a name hits the target of your knowledge and my thinking. Amazing to know great minds vibe from across these Internets 😉

  11. @LoriSaitz I believe the SBA defines “small business” as one that is “s independently owned and operated and which is not dominant in its field of operation.” It goes on to qualify these as having “500 employees for most manufacturing and mining industries and $7.0 million in average annual receipts for most nonmanufacturing industries” – there are a ton of definitions here: http://www.sba.gov/content/guide-size-standards

    Color me crazy but I’d be pretty happy to be a “small business” with $7M in annual receipts. @Jillfoster

    I’d love to know what jmpineda thinks…

  12. @Tinu Blushing blushing blushing! And now I think I have to rebrand “Shonali Burke Consulting” (bland, boring) as “Waxing UnLyrical”… ! Right rajmalikdc ? I agree with you that @Jillfoster has a killer name for her business.

  13. @Shonali @Tinu rajmalikdc Thank you about the business name! …Waxing Unlyrical is so good, strong, with a strong community behind it too.

  14. Yes @Shonali , I wasn’t so much referring to the SBA’s definition (I too could totally be fine with $7M in revenue!) as the average biz person I’ve run into at the Chamber for example. Guess it’s more a comment on the small business person as, in Michael Gerber’s label, a technician. To me the two can be synonymous, and confining. I’ve no issue with the “small business person” with a big vision (as @Jillfoster describes). Maybe it’s just my personal issue or belief.

  15. @LoriSaitz So more the self-perception, you mean? OK, I gotcha. 🙂 @Jillfoster

  16. Hey there!! Small world, huh? Great to hear from you @LoriSaitz ! It’s been a while–hope you’re doing well!! 🙂 Lotsa zen love to you!!

  17. Excellent point!

    When I started out as a full-time entrepreneur over five years ago, I initially thought it sounded pretentious to give yourself a fancy title.

    But I’ve learned that it is not only acceptable–but preferable–to claim your position as CEO. It not only helps other people to respect you but also helps you to think of yourself in that light.

    To your brilliance!

    Elizabeth Saunders


  18. @LoriSaitz @Shonali Hey Lori – Gerber’s book is great and one I revisit. Thanks for emphasizing his ‘technician vs leader’ principles here.

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