What is the owner of an LLC called?

What is the owner of an LLC called?

by Jane Haskins, Esq., May 2019

Limited liability companies are designed to be flexible in their ownership, taxation and management. If you’re the head of an LLC, you’ll find that there are also several options for the title you give yourself.

You aren’t required to call yourself President or CEO – a fact that’s appealing to startup founders who don’t want their business to sound like a big corporation. But with few hard and fast rules about LLC owner titles, it can be difficult to know what to use instead.

Here are some guidelines to help you choose a title that’s appropriate for you and your business.

Official Names for LLC Owners and Managers

If you own all or part of an LLC, you are known as a “member.” LLCs can have one member or many members.

In some LLCs, the business is operated, or “managed” by its members. In other LLCs, there are at least some members who are not actively involved in running the business. Those LLCs are run by managers. When you formed your LLC, you probably had to specify whether your LLC was managed by members or managers.

If you are member who also has management responsibilities, then you’re a “member- manager.”  Thus, if you’re the head of the LLC, you could correctly refer to yourself as either a member, a manager or a member-manager.

The problem with these titles is that they don’t mean much to the people you do business with. A “member” sounds like an employee; a “manager” sounds like a mid-level employee rather than the head of the company, and a “member-manager” sounds like someone in charge of membership.

Because they can be confusing to outsiders, these titles may not be the best choice for someone who’s running the business.

Good Choices for Titles

There are two rules you should keep in mind when choosing a title for yourself. First, your title should let outsiders know that you’re a person who likely has authority to sign contracts for the LLC. Second, business owner titles should never be misleading. Here are some acceptable choices:

  • Owner. If your LLC has one or only a few members, “owner” is a simple and clear way to indicate your role in the business.

  • Managing member. This title is better than just “member” because it shows that you’re in charge.

  • CEO.

  • President.

  • Principal. This title is particularly popular among service firms.

  • Managing Director, Creative Director, Technical Director. Creative or technology companies sometimes use these sorts of titles as a less stuffy alternative to titles like LLC CEO or LLC President.

Titles to Avoid or Use with Caution

Some LLC titles are inappropriate or could cause you trouble. Among them:

  • Managing partner, or any other title with the word “partner” in it. Although LLC members may think of themselves as business partners, a partnership is legally different than an LLC. Specifically, a general partnership doesn’t offer its partners any liability protection, and if you sign contracts as a “partner,” it could lead to confusion and increase the chance that you could be held personally liable.

  • Proprietor. Many solo LLCs like the sound of this title, but, like a partnership, a sole proprietorship doesn’t offer liability protection. Avoid confusion and use “owner” instead.

  • Made-up titles, like “lead coordinator.” Entrepreneurs sometimes invent titles to avoid using traditional corporate names like “president”, but these sorts of titles don’t help outsiders understand your position in the company. Avoid them, or combine them with a traditional title, such as “lead coordinator/CEO.”

  • Fearless Leader, Supreme Overlord, Head Elf, or other humorous titles. Use these with caution. They might go over well with your customer base of 20-somethings, but you might wish for something more traditional when you’re negotiating a multi-million dollar contract with foreign investors.

So, what is the head of an LLC called? It’s up to you to decide which LLC owner title feels right for you and the image you want to project for your company. Just be sure your title is clear, doesn’t mislead anyone, and is appropriate for everyone you might do business with.

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