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Everything you need to know about the C-Suite - Food Recruit

Scott Williams
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What does this mean for you if you want to advance your career and get to a C-level position from the board of directors? How can you get into a C-suite position in this age of disruption and ever-evolving technology? This article outlines the C-suite, the most standard titles at this level, and how to obtain a C-level titles.

From the outside looking in, a business's ‘C-suite executive' can seem confusing and a little mysterious.

However, their ultimate goal is to reach the C-suite level of their own or another company for many working professionals. In days gone by, the pathway was clear: Make the choices for promotions, befriend the right people, get enough time under your belt, and you'll be in the position to do this climb.

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The scope

However, as with most things in business, this pathway and the C-suite itself have changed. The scope of roles, the titles and positions for senior executives, and how you get here is not the same as they once were. Regardless of the industry, even those that have been around for a long time, like food manufacturing, the rules for the C-suite are different.

So, what does this mean for you if you're looking to advance your career and get to a C-level position from the board of directors? How can you get into a C-suite position in this age of disruption and ever-evolving technology? This article outlines the C-suite, the most standard C-suite titles at this level, and how to obtain a C-suite position.

What are C suites

C-suite refers to the highest leadership positions available within a company or organisation. Some companies have titles or choose different words, but the labels are consistent at this level. Typically, the ‘C' means Chief and precedes the particular aspect of the business this person oversees. This title almost always ends with ‘officer'.

Take the chief marketing officer (CMO) as an example. ‘Chief' indicates their level, ‘Marketing' is their responsibility, and then ‘Officer'.

People holding these positions are sometimes called “executives” or " C-level executives”. The members of this business level are responsible for the significant decision-making of a particular department or area of the company and report directly to the chief executive officer (CEO). This group work in tandem to ensure the success of a business and keep operations in line with the values and strategy they have outlined for the company.

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This group will also answer to shareholders or the board in a public company - another major factor in the business direction. If certain activities or operations aren't generating the desired profits, it falls to the C-suite group to oversee any changes and corrections that need to be made. In summary, the C-suite members are responsible for all of the mid, and high-stakes decisions that need to be made.

In business strategies, an old saying goes, "you are paid based on the problems you solve". This perfectly explains why C-suite positions receive the most significant compensation for any other company role in the long term.

What are the C-Suite Positions

The highest-ranking executive titles within a firm are called the "C-suite." The "C" stands for "chief," and it frequently refers to the following C-level job titles:

The highest-ranking executive in a corporation, the chief executive officer (CEO), The Chief Executive Officer oversees the overall strategy and has the highest ranking position, managing the other C suite members,

Chief Financial Officer (CFO): The Chief Financial Officer oversees a company's financial management, which includes forecasting, budgeting, and financial reporting.

Chief Operating Officer (COO): The Chief Operating Officer oversees a company's daily operations and ensures its objectives are achieved.

Chief Information Officer (CIO): The Chief Information Officer (the Chief Technology Officer) oversees the organization's information technology policies and plans.

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO): The Chief Marketing Officer oversees the brand management and firm marketing plans.

Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO): The Chief Human Resource Officer oversees all aspects of the organization's human resources, including compliance, employee relations, and recruitment.

Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO): The Chief Supply Chain Officer oversees the company's supply chain, which includes distribution, logistics, and purchasing.

Chief Digital Officer (CDO): The Chief Digita Officer oversees the company's online presence and digital strategy.

Chief Transformation Officer (CTO): The Chief Transformational Officer oversees and directs the business's strategic projects and change activities.

These are some of the most typical C-suite positions, but others, such as chief risk officer (CRO), chief legal officer (CLO), Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) Chief Learning Officer (CLO) Chief Experience Officer (CEO) Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Chief Growth Officer (CGO) Chief People Officer (CPO) Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) etc., may exist depending on the size and nature of the business. Additionally, tiny businesses might not employ some of these professions.

How can I get a C-Suite Position

If there were a single sure-fire way to reach a C-Level position or the board of directors, there would be a lot more people running these positions. There isn't one single pathway because getting to the part of the C-suite varies so much from company to company and from role to role. What works for one person may not work for another.

Another factor is that the corporate landscape s constantly changing. The arrival of start-ups has seen younger people accelerate to C-suite positions in record time simply because the ladder in front of them is a more minor climb.

The transformation of technology has also seen the creation of new roles that didn't exist 20/30/40 years ago - such as Chief Green Officer or Chief Data Officer, which has seen people obtain these tiles in unconventional ways.

All this being said, there are a few typical paths that remain consistent across industries and businesses:

Founding Business

As the founder of a business, you automatically inhabit a C-suite position by default. Whilst you may have a broader range of tasks and responsibilities and will gain first-hand experience in making the critical decisions to drive a business forward.

This pathway can be limiting; however, there is nowhere to climb when you start at the top. So you can only scale your business or seek a higher position elsewhere.

Time Served

The most tried and tested method for obtaining a C-Level title. Many professionals take this traditional pathway. By starting at a low-ranking position with a company, you can network and slowly climb the organisation's ladder. Although predictable, there is logic to it. As you work your way up, you'll gradually understand the business and industry more deeply. You'll also be seen as trustworthy and loyal, depending on your performance.

You should spend at least 15 years at a company to achieve this level. This general rule of thumb will vary depending on the company and the industry. A barrier to this pathway is predictability. When you spend this time with a company, it's easy to fall into patterns and ways of thinking.

To reach the C-suite and succeed, you must adapt and change as the business does. If you can't, you may go down with the ship. This makes a nice segway to the next pathway.

External Recruitment/Free Agent

External recruitment is another common pathway to reaching executive positions. There are several reasons a company may choose this method of recruitment, but typically it comes down to one of two reasons:

- Lack of internal candidates or talent management

- The desire for change/fresh ideas.

If you cannot climb further at your current company, the grass may be greener at another business. You may be hired straight into a C-suite role or be required to serve some time under someone before taking the next step.

Choosing this path can be a double-edged sword. To a new company, you're excited and fresh. You'll be empowered to bring your ideas and make your mark on the business.

However, you are a relatively unknown entity, which can be seen as a risk as an outsider. This may result in higher expectations of performance, and you will need time to establish the trust of your colleagues.

What qualities do I need for a C-Suite Position

You need various skills and experience to succeed in a C-Suite position. However, there are four core qualities you need in a C-Suite place. If you don't develop these qualities, you will struggle to reach the C-suite level:

You need to have a proven track record of success.

This will not be your first management position. So, you need to b able to demonstrate that you have been successful on various projects and with multiple teams in the past.

You need in-depth knowledge of and experience in your industry and department.

If you have no marketing experience, you can't expect to be made the CMO of a business. Likewise, if your experience is entirely in retail, it will be hard to jump into the software sector (as an example). Although you'll have transferable skills, you need this knowledge and experience as a foundation for decision-making.

Strong Leadership Skills.

This is a leadership position above all else, so you need to identify a clear and achievable goal. You then need to be able to develop and execute a strategy to achieve that goal - even if you are delegating many of the tasks required to achieve it.

Strong business acumen.

Simply being an expert in one area of the business is not enough. You need to understand how the various departments and functions of the company work together and impact each other.

Final Thoughts

To summarise, the C-suite comprises of C Level Executives who are all crucial in accomplishing the company's overall goals and objectives. Each C Level Executive inside the C-suite, from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who determines the company's overall direction and strategy, to the Chief Operating Officer (COO), who oversees day-to-day operations, is distinct and plays an important part in the company's overall performance. It is necessary for anyone who wants to progress their career in corporate management to have a solid understanding of the tasks and duties associated with each position in the C-suite.

In addition, it is essential to keep in mind that the tasks and responsibilities of the C Level Executive may change from company to company based on the sector in which the business operates, its size, and the organisation's particular requirements. However, the primary roles and responsibilities of the executives that make up the C-suite have not changed, and that is to assure the continued development and expansion of the organisation as a whole.

It is also essential to emphasise that the C-suite functions as a team and that every member plays an essential part in the decision-making process and in accomplishing the company's objectives. To efficiently manage the business's operations and resources, the executives in the C-suite need to have a strong sense of teamwork, excellent communication skills, and strong leadership abilities.

Next steps

Consider looking into executive leadership development programmes if you are interested in pursuing a career in the C-suite or want a better understanding of the tasks and responsibilities of these high-level executives. These programmes are designed to help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to excel in the C-suite and progress your career in corporate management.

Please get in touch if we can help you, whether to add to your board or help you secure your next C-level appointment.


What does the C-suite mean?

A: The highest-ranking executives within a firm are called the "C-suite." CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CMO, CHRO, CSCO, CDO, and CTO are typical positions that begin with the letter "C," which stands for "chief."

What duties fall under the purview of the CEO?

A company's CEO is its highest-ranking executive in charge of making important business decisions, overseeing its general operations and financial resources, and serving as the primary conduit for information between the board of directors and corporate operations.

What distinguishes a CEO from a chief operating officer?

A: The primary distinction between a CEO and a COO is the scope of their responsibilities within an organisation. A CEO is in charge of the company's overall strategy and direction. At the same time, a COO ensures that business operations are efficient and effective and that the company's objectives are being reached.

Aside from those stated, are there any more C-suite positions?

A: There may be additional positions, such as Chief Legal Officer (CLO), Chief Risk Officer (CRO), etc., depending on the size and structure of the organisation. Additionally, tiny businesses might not employ some of these professions.

How do the executives in the C-suite collaborate?

A: The C-suite executives work together as a team, and each member is crucial to reaching the company's objectives and making decisions. To effectively manage business operations and resources, C-suite executives must have a strong sense of teamwork, communication, and leadership.

How can I advance my career in the executive suite?

A: It's crucial to gain the abilities and expertise required to be successful in a senior executive position if you want to further your career in the C-suite. Consider enrolling in an executive leadership development programme or getting a graduate business management degree.

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