Chief Kumquat Officer? What Next?

After Kumquat, What’s Next?

Chief Culture Officer? Chief People Officer? Chief Transformation Officer? Chief Fun Officer?

Chief Kumquat Officer

In the 1970’s, someone who was a company vice president worked for the CEO and was likely next in line for that job.

Then there came regional vice presidents, area vice presidents, group vice presidents—everyone was a VP. Why such title inflation?

Everyone wanted to be seen as significant in their business—and after all, titles are pretty much free. And they wanted to hand their cards to their mom, who would be so proud.

Today, with even sales reps called area vice presidents, there needed to be another gauge for self-importance.

The actual company president, seeing all his minions called vice presidents, then many of them retitled into area presidents, promoted himself or herself to—Chief Executive Officer. CEO.

Does have a ring to it.

Chief—well that pretty much says it all—they must be really important. Like Sitting Bull was a chief, right? Pretty important to mom.

Then, the deputy stood up and said “…hey, I want to be a chief too.” “OK, pal, you are the Chief Operating Officer.” “Wow, I am the chief decision maker but you are the chief operations person.” “I decide stuff, you do stuff!’ “Thanks, Max, I feel more important now.”

A chief reporting to another chief. Pretty cool.

“Hey, wait there just a minute!” “I run all of IT, and it is really strategic” says the IT director. “OK, well, then you are the Chief IT Officer CITO”. “No, that’s not really it, I want to be the Chief Information Officer—the CIO.”

OK, even thought you just run the IT shop and about 90% of all corporate information has zero to do with you, we will call you the Chief Info Officer. Happy?

Now we have not only CIOs growing on trees, we have CIO Magazine, CIO events, CIOs for the local Kinko store. And in many companies, this person is now “president” of information technology.

And the schlep who writes the checks? You guessed it, the Chief Financial Officer. Here we go again, CFO Magazine, CFO events.

And who gets fired first when the bad guy steals all your data and posts it on the dark web—the CISO–Chief Information Security Officer. Just check out the poor guy at CapitalOne when they found out the Amazon AWS cloud tech person was posting CapitalOne’s info on the dark web.

We are only a few years away from a sales rep calling himself the Chief North Plano, West of 121, Business Development Officer. How far away can that be?

We have the Chief Revenue Officer. That is the VP of Sales, often the 4th or 5th to inhabit that company. The company is on its E or F finance round and could not pay the guy in real stock because it’s probably worth 25 cents a share, so, hey, give him or her a Chief Whatever title.

What does the Chief Revenue Officer do today that the VP of Sales did not do yesterday? Show a spouse a business card, one may suppose.

And there is the Chief People Officer, that absurd title for the head of HR who is chief of about zero.

Chief Compliance Officer—here we go again! CCO—well, doesn’t roll off the tongue, so maybe we skip the acronym and just keep the title.

The most preposterous titles are the Chief Culture Officer, the Chief Values Officer. We even found someone who is the Chief Dreaming Officer.

When we dug a bit deeper she turned out to be one of the life coach losers inhabiting LinkedIn. Chief Dreaming Officer was actually accurate as she can dream away waiting for business. Doubt much coming her way.

OK, you are the Chief Values Officer. So, what do you do first thing in the morning when you show up at work? Do you serve values to employees? Do you build values into a product manufacturing cycle? Well, anyone with this title probably lives in daily fear of the next layoff round as they try to actually show value rather than its title.

And, hey wait, there must be the Chief Marketing Officer as well, that former VP of Marketing in charge of SPAM to prospective buyers. Why not call them the Chief SPAM Officer? Because that would be the CSO and that title is taken up by the Chief Service Officer!

At, we call on those who can make decisions for our portfolio companies. We understand that titles are deliberately misleading. They mislead the owner as to their importance and they mislead the sales rep as to whether this person can make something happen.

If you are the Chief anything at a crappy company, everyone knows it and you are pretty much career-screwed. Your mom may be proud but the headhunters know the score.

Misleading titles, while pleasant for that person’s mom, result in long sales cycles.

This past week we were face-to-face with a telco VP. He did not have a particularly luminary title. He did not have a big office and he paid for our lunch himself. But, he is personally leading the transformation of one of the largest companies in the world.

And he is not doing the nonsense transformation one hears about in DevOps or cloud management or other new IT buzzword. That stuff is not transformative it is just the next thing mid-level corporate bureaucrats do to stay busy and offer venues for software vendors.

He is leading a multi-billion dollar, bet the company march into a business that does not exist today.

And he is not the Chief Transformation Officer—he is Jim.

He is a true change agent with a history of making transformative changes in his industry.

We did not cold call him and did not SPAM him. We went to a trusted third party who knew him and we told this trusted advisor the story of one of our portfolio companies. We mapped what the telco needed in an IoT area to our quite unique capabilities.

We had the meeting and are now well into the start of a proof process which the telco is more than happy to fund.

Did we call on the Chief Whatever Officer?

No, we called on the person who did not really care about titles but everyone around him knew him to be a person of action and if he wanted to move with our technology, things would happen.

So scrap the Chief Kumquat Officer stuff.

Find the person making things happen. And remember, they almost never have the nonsensical titles.