CEO, CFO, OMG: Understanding Corporate Officers

Corporate Officers

Officers of a corporation are generally appointed by the board of directors. Officers, most startups begin with at least a CEO, CFO, a treasurer and a secretary, are responsible for overseeing the day to day operations of the corporation.

To keep things simple and to streamline processes, startups generally combine the roles of CEO and president, because the roles are so similar and to establish a clear leader in the fledgling firm. The CFO and the treasurer are generally a single person as well for the same reasons.

There are no hard and fast rules about who is appointed as an officer. For example, there is no limit to the number of offices an individual can hold. This allows for solo founders to typically take on all of these roles simultaneously.

Although it varies from state to state, normally corporations don’t need to define the roles of officers overtly. It is often enough to have the roles assigned for the purpose of filing complete documents with the state.

Early on in the life of a startup, the most important offices to fill are those of the CEO and President — again, often the same person. Beyond this, startups are small and nimble enough that multiple people can execute roles associated with the other offices if need be. This tends to be the case as the structure of the corporation tends to evolve as the firm matures.

It is common practice for officers to be added by the board of directors as the need for additional leadership develops. However, it is worth noting that simply because a person has officer in his or her title — “Chief IT Officer,” for example — does not mean that this person is now an office in the corporation. Titles alone don’t amount to an appointment.