The other day I was having a conversation over coffee with a colleague of mine about how as people age their corporate identity becomes more important to them. In the corporate world there have always been ways to differentiate one person from another through the use of titles or office settings such as cubicles, shared offices, individual offices and corner offices. I commented about how I’d seen in some corporate settings offices being left unoccupied out of respect to an aging executive who had once conducted business from the suite but who was now semi-retired or retired and seldom or never made an appearance. These individual’s identities were so closely linked to their title and office that to loose either would be mortally devastating.
It made me think about how people identify themselves and why they choose such identities. Is it really necessary for law and accounting firms to provide their managing partner attorneys and CPAs with corner offices? Do titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, President and Vice-President really garner respect? Can firms be managed and business conducted if there were no ivory towers and fancy titles? And, do such trimmings lead to Empire Building and less functionality within an organization? I think these are all valid questions that need to be explored.
I remember my dad telling the joke, question: “How can you drive an attorney or CPA crazy without saying a word”, answer: “Put them in a silo, they will drive themselves crazy looking for the corner office”. Farm country humor at its best but laughingly true. In Denver and I’m sure every major metropolitan area there are legal and accounting firms taking up several floors of office buildings just to accommodate the number of corner office they need for their partners. Perhaps it is a tradition which has passed its prime and will disappear as virtual office become more prevalent. I have to admit that as a real estate broker I’ve received plenty leasing commissions from such firms leasing more space than they can realistically use.
Personally, I’ve not had much interest in titles; however, I know that from a legal perspective the use of titles is sometimes required. My firm is a corporation and as such is required to have individuals in titled positions. As a real estate company we are also required to identify individuals with such titles as Employing Broker and Broker Associate. However, for a small firm like mine titles never define what a person does. I’m the Employing Broker but when I open the office in the morning and brew a pot of coffee am I now an Office Manager? My dad use to tell me I was a “jack of all trades and a master of none”. In my office I’m simply know as Ed.
The real drawback with titles is the propensity towards Empire Building, the act of creating a hierarchical structure with an executive at the top and several layers of staff beneath. This structure is no only inefficient in today’s work environment it is also quite costly to maintain. The best argument against such a structure can be made in two words, “Federal Government”. Enough said?
The question I have for myself and for you is “How do you want to be remembered as you age and retire?” Do you want to be known as the CEO who ran a company or as a hardworking, fair and honest person? I’d prefer the latter. How do you want to identify yourself?
CEO, Employing Broker
Katchen Company, founded in 1962, is an integrated real estate company with its corporate headquarters inLakewood,Colorado. The company offers real estate development, redevelopment, property management, brokerage, consulting services, construction oversight and maintenance services to individual and institutional real estate investors throughout the greater Denver metropolitan area in Denver with satellite offices in Chicago, Las Vegas and Miami market areas.