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CEO vs. President: What Are the Differences, Responsibilities & More

Kristin Bachman
6 min read

When it comes to positions that come with a great deal of responsibility and decision-making power, the CEO and President are often among the first that come to mind. 

All too often, these roles are used interchangeably — but it's increasingly rare for a single person to serve as both CEO and President of a company.

In most cases, the CEO and President of a company work closely with each other but take on specific roles within an organization. In this article, we'll cover exactly what those are!

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CEO vs. President: Key Differences Between the Two Roles

The title "CEO" wasn't coined until the 1970s and wasn't commonly used until the late 80s. Before then, "President" was the title used to signify an organization's most senior executive.

Today, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking officer in a company, while the President is typically the second highest.

While there are some similarities between the roles of a CEO and President, these jobs differ in some key ways. While a CEO looks after the entire company, a President generally attends to the day-to-day operational minutiae.

A CEO primarily focuses on seizing opportunities by strategically plotting the company's long-range goals. A CEO is concerned with big-picture projects like building shareholder wealth, acquiring market share, and creating a robust company culture. Ultimately, CEOs are more focused on increasing the value of the company for shareholders with a long-term vision rather than meeting short-term goals.Inline Blog Stephen Goldstein

The President's job, on the other hand, is to make sure daily operations support both short and long-term objectives. Presidents deal with implementing market plans, cutting costs, and other items related to internal operations. The President also has the fundamental duty of reporting corporate activities to the Board of Directors. In some cases, the second-highest level executive in a business is called the Chief Operating Officer (COO) instead of the President.


What Is a CEO?

A CEO is an executive who oversees the vision, strategic operations, and the most important corporate decisions of a company. In a publicly-traded company, the CEO may typically serve as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, connecting company performance with stakeholder interests.

The CEO is often the public face of the company, interacting with the public through community events, chamber of commerce meetings, and more. They may also be the company's top salesperson, responsible for making high-level sales pitches and announcing the business’s products and services that'll elevate the company as a whole.

What Does a CEO Do?

The day-to-day work of a CEO can vary from one company to the next, but in general, CEOs serve as head decision-makers of a company. These C-suite executives are often formally elected by a Board of Directors after being selected by top-level management, serving as the primary means of contact between the board, the rest of the company, and the public. 

In many ways, the CEO is a jack of all trades — making critical business decisions that keep the company moving toward its long-term goals and objectives.

Roles and Responsibilities of a CEO

A CEO takes on a huge level of responsibility, though exact job duties may vary a bit depending on the size of the company. Typically, however, CEOs are responsible for:

  • Working with the Board of Directors and other decision-makers to create long-term business goals and establish plans for carrying out these goals.
  • Reviewing the performance of the company's various operations and departments, ensuring that they're on track with objectives.
  • Presenting regular reports to the Board of Directors and company stakeholders.
  • Carrying out public relations tasks, such as speaking to the public or engaging in community events.

CEO Qualifications

Because a CEO is the highest-ranking position in a company and involves a lot of critical decision-making, the qualifications for this type of role are high. The exact requirements for a CEO may vary from one company to the next based on things like the size of the company, its long-term goals, and the needs of its stakeholders.

However, some common qualifications for CEOs include:

  • Several years of experience in a senior management position.
  • A bachelor's or master's degree in a relevant field (or a master's of Business Administration).
  • Proficiency in finance, budgeting, profit, loss, and cash flow.
  • Ability to build meaningful relationships with members of the board, the public, and other teams within the company.
  • Excellent interpersonal communication, written communication, and public speaking skills.
  • Ability to make informed decisions with the "big picture" in mind, especially under pressure.

How To Recruit a CEO

Recruiting a CEO can be complicated because when you're hiring for the highest-ranking position in your company, there's no margin for error.

You need to find a candidate who "gets" your company values and can confidently carry out its mission not just now, but years down the road as well.

Meanwhile, finding a CEO can also be challenging because the most qualified candidates may already be employed in other leadership roles.

For this reason, many companies rely on executive recruiting firms to help them find the best talent for this critical role. A recruiting agency with proven experience in C-level talent acquisition will understand the nuances that come along with recruiting, interviewing, and negotiating salary and benefits with a CEO.

These recruiting specialists will be able to tap into their own professional networks while using passive recruiting, innovative technology, and other resources to narrow down the best leads for the job. All of this allows you to fill this vital role more quickly and confidently.

During the recruitment process, it's also vital to keep the Board of Directors informed every step of the way. After all, the board will ultimately need to vote and approve the CEO.


What Is a President?

While the CEO is responsible for overall company strategy and execution, the second-in-command President's job is to ensure the company's vision is translated into the day-to-day, nitty-gritty operations.

Sometimes, the CEO, President, and business owner job titles are embodied by the same individual. This is usually when a company is relatively small.

In these smaller companies, the owner or founder wears many hats, executing everything from office tasks to overseeing social marketing and messaging campaigns. The owner (who might also happen to be a CEO and President), certainly has a vested and personal interest in seeing his or her company succeed, and will take on extra responsibilities if resources are limited.

What Does a President Do?

Whereas the CEO is more focused on big-picture goals, the President of a company is responsible for handling the day-to-day operations of a company. These professionals often work closely alongside the CEO to ensure that long-term business strategies are being carried out, but Presidents tend to be more focused on short-term objectives. 

Depending on the size and scope of the company, the President may also serve as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and thus a member of the board — but this is not always the case.

Roles and Responsibilities of a President

In general, the President's role involves:

  • Overseeing daily business operations, budgets, and staffing to follow the company's strategic plans and make sure everybody is aligned.
  • Regularly meeting with board members and other decision-makers to report on operations and other matters.
  • Building relationships with employees, industry leaders, and other business professionals to further the mission of the company.
  • Analyzing a company's budgets and finances with long-term profitability in mind.

President Qualifications

Because the role of company President comes with so much responsibility, the qualifications for this type of position are significant. In general, Presidents should have:

  • A bachelor's or master's degree in a relevant field, such as Business Administration.
  • Many years of experience in various corporate roles, including leadership positions.
  • Strong problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  • Excellent communication skills and the ability to build partnerships and relationships with people at all levels of the company (from entry-level workers to the Board of Directors).
  • Proven leadership skills and a track record for seeing projects and goals to their fruition.

How To Recruit a President

Recruiting a company President also comes with some unique challenges, but it's common to recruit for this position internally.

A Vice President, Regional Manager, or even a current COO may be considered for a President opening. In some cases, it may even make sense to consider current board members as possible candidates.

If these avenues aren't practical for your company, then outside recruitment may be your best bet. Again, working with an executive recruiting firm can make all the difference here because an experienced recruiter will understand the nuances of finding qualified candidates for this type of role. They'll have the resources and pool of talent available to them that will help you find candidates who are an excellent fit for your company and its unique culture.

As with a CEO, it's common for a Board of Directors to vote on a President before they are hired.

With this in mind, be sure to choose a recruiting firm that will work closely with your company's board and keep everybody informed throughout the process.


Looking To Hire a CEO or President? Hunt Club Can Help

Choosing your company's next CEO or President isn't a decision to be taken lightly. The person you end up hiring for the job can and will have a direct impact on your company's future success and profitability, so it's important to get your recruiting right the first time.

At Hunt Club, we understand how much is at stake when you're looking to hire a new CEO or President. With our pool of more than eight million professional connections and our proprietary networking mapping technology, we have the resources and expertise needed to find your next CEO or President.

Let us put our years of executive and C-level recruiting experience to work for you. 

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