CEO vs. President

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking executive and head decision-maker in a company. The president is a top-level executive who is usually the second in command, below the CEO.

The CEO’s and president’s duties may vary depending on a company’s size and needs.

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Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The CEO is the head executive in a company. They are one of the c-suite executives. The c-suite also includes:

  • The Chief Operating Officer (COO)
  • The Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • The Chief Information Officer (CIO)

Small companies might not fill all the c-suite roles. It will depend on the business’s size and its needs. Large companies usually have at least a CEO, CFO, and COO.

The CEO is the top c-suite executive. They have the final decision-making authority in the company. Their main duties are to make big-picture plans for the company. They pursue long-term goals while avoiding risks. Increasing shareholder profits is another one of their key objectives. They may even make plans to expand and acquire other businesses.

The board of directors elects the CEO, and the CEO acts as the main contact person between the board and the company. The CEO may also need to act on the board’s advice when appropriate. At times, the CEO may need to speak to the media and act as the public face of the company.


A president’s duties may vary from company to company. Sometimes the president also holds other titles like CEO or COO. This depends on the corporate structure, culture, and size.

Often, one person will be both a president and a COO of a company. As the COO, they will be responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations. They will also be the right-hand person for the CEO. Overseeing and implementing the CEO’s long-term strategies will be key responsibilities for them. The CEO will decide on the COO’s other different roles. This will depend on the CEO’s needs and preferences.

In the corporate world, a president sometimes leads one segment of a company. Companies that are made of many separate businesses may need multiple presidents. There is often a president leading each of the separate businesses that make up a conglomerate. Below each of those presidents might be vice presidents of the company’s segments.

The duties of CEOs and presidents can take on a variety of forms depending on the needs of the company. However, certain key differences between presidents and CEOs are usually consistent.

Key Differences Between the President and the CEO

  • A CEO focuses on wealth maximization. This means increasing the value of a company. The goal is to bring the stock prices up and increase shareholder value. Presidents have shorter-term objectives, mainly focusing on profit maximization.
  • In companies with both a CEO and a president, the president is the second in command after the CEO.
  • The CEO manages the overall direction of the company and makes the final decisions. The president manages daily operations.
  • The CEO forms a long-term vision for the future. They are often planning business strategies over a period of years. The president implements this vision and focuses on short-term strategies.

Board of Directors

The CEO reports to the board of directors. The board of directors represents the shareholders, who are the ultimate owners.

The CEO is the top executive in a company and reports to the board of directors. One of the CEO’s duties is to be the main contact person between the board and the company. They also may need to act on the board’s advice. The CEO is often a member of the board of directors. Sometimes they will even be the chairman of the board of directors. The president may also have a seat on the board of directors. However, they are less likely to be a member of the board than the CEO.

Non-Profit Organization Presidents

A non-profit organization has an educational, scientific, or religious purpose — or another charitable purpose. It also has tax-exempt status. Not all non-profit organizations need presidents or CEOs.

Like in the corporate world, the number of executives and their titles may vary from organization to organization. Smaller non-profits may not have a president or a CEO at all. Instead, the executive director will have the top position. Larger non-profits may employ both a president and a CEO.

If a non-profit has a president, they are often the head of the organization. In those cases, the president will have some unique responsibilities. It will be their duty to ensure that the organization is pursuing its mission and doing work that aligns with its vision. There are also certain tax laws that the head of a non-profit must be aware of. To avoid losing the non-profit’s tax-exempt status, it is important to follow these laws.

CEOs and Presidents in Small Businesses

The corporate governance structure can vary from business to business. In startups or smaller companies, there might not be a need for a COO, CFO, or CIO. Instead, the CEO might take responsibility for the day-to-day issues that arise.

In fact, the president and the CEO might be the same person in a small company. The person who started the business might fill the roles of CEO, president, and business owner. They may also be the only shareholder. As the business grows, the owner may become very busy pursuing the company’s vision and planning long-term strategies. In that case, they might choose to incorporate. They may also hire people to fill the roles of COO, president, and more.

How a Business Organization Lawyer Can Help

It is not always necessary to hire an attorney when starting a business, but it can help if you have questions.

If you have concerns about employing a CEO or president, or concerns about starting a business, you should contact an experienced business organizations lawyer near you.