I’m not the CEO of Wholegrain Digital

Written by Tom Greenwood - March 1, 2018

I’ve seen a trend in the UK over the past few years to move towards American-style job titles, such as CEO, CFO, CTO, COO or VP.

I’ve also noticed that people have started to refer to me personally as a CEO. I’ve run Wholegrain Digital since 2007, an ethical web design agency that works with forward thinking organisations. We might be pioneers within the London WordPress agency scene, we tend to shy away from unnecessary frills and trumpet-blowing, instead relying on our work to speak for itself.

We’re not one of those agencies that tries to show-off to clients by using fancy terms like “synergize”, “EOP” and “MVP”.

OK, well I might have used MVP.

Because we’re a design agency in a niche but competitive industry, we tend to resist this corporate shift in business culture, avoiding complicated jargon and corporate tech-speak whenever possible.

We’re not perfect, but try to be clear and only use acronyms and industry terms if our audience is guaranteed to know what they mean. If you catch us doing otherwise, please give us a slap on the wrist.

So what’s wrong with CEO?

I would bet that many people don’t know what the letters CEO actually stand for. Even if they do, why would I call myself the Chief Executive Officer? I run a web design agency, not the HMS Victory.

The same goes for other C-level job titles that are sometimes referred to as the “C-suite”. The C suite sounds to me more like a drab hotel room than a management team.

As for the title VP or Vice President, I don’t think it is appropriate to an organisation of our size.

Keeping it simple

At Wholegrain Digital we try our best to keep our job titles simple. To do this we follow a few guidelines.

Job titles should:

  1. Be formed of real words and not acronyms
  2. Describe what the individual does, simply and without jargon
  3. Include terms such as Director only as a reflection of legal responsibilities and not for grandiose effect
  4. Avoid unnecessary hierarchy and ego

I’m sure that we could come up with better titles within our team, but titles like Project Manager and WordPress Developer seem to tick all the boxes without unnecessarily complicating things. These titles also resonate closely with our identity as a transparent and ethical company.

Regarding my own title of Managing Director, even this feels a bit awkward to me, but it does the job in stating that I’m the legally appointed Director with overall responsibility for the management of the business. As for a role like Alex’s title of Sustainable Designer, it clearly communicates the importance of sustainability in his design work, both to others within our company and to other clients.

The Wholegrain way

Our ultimate goal is to create a company that has a genuinely positive impact on the world, and we always look for find elegant, long-term solutions to the business problems we face; from these basic, internal details, to serious global issues.

That’s why our job titles are as sustainable as our page-loading speeds.

Maybe we’ll change our job titles in the future, but only if it makes things better. Whatever happens, I won’t be the CEO.


P.S. We’re hiring! If you’re after an easy-to-understand job title in our diverse team, and have skills, experience and interests that will not only add value for our clients, but will help us to create a more sustainable and equitable world, then get in touch.