Sunday, April 6, 2008

Titles Are Meaningless

I learned a long time ago that titles are meaningless. For some reason people get hung up on the small text under their name on the business card, as if that describes their true level of responsibility within an organization. I have seen companies where one assistant (who doesn't even have a business card!) keeps the company running. Don't be fooled by titles: they're meaningless.

Fresh out of college, I worked in the construction industry. Many clients didn't feel comfortable working with me because of my age. The owner of the company solved that by hiring a 50+ year old fellow by the name of Freddy. He was given the title of Vice President, business cards, a per diem for cigarettes and Cuban coffee and a whopping $200 per week salary. Freddy became my partner, but his real talent was the ability to converse with anyone. Freddy wasn't an engineer, he was a B.S. artist.

In my car on our way to a meeting, I would instruct Freddy on his lines. If the client asks about this, you say that. Freddy was the perfect parrot. It was also understood that if someone directed a question at him that I hadn't coached him on, he would look at me and say "Let's see if my protégé knows that answer? Well, Louis?"

We were an enormous hit. Freddy was the Gray Beard that looked imposing in a suit and sounded good, and I was the Young Turk full of youthful ideas and vigor. Freddy and I were a team for nearly two years. Our dog and pony show was a huge success and we won more business for the firm that anyone else. But, when a Vice President is making $200 per week, it just goes to show you that titles are meaningless.

Don't be fooled by what it says on a business card.

I always wanted to be a Super Genius. Just like Wile E. Coyote.


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