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An Overview of C-Suite Roles and Responsibilities


Does your organization need C-suite executives? Whether you already have a C-suite or are considering adding one, it’s important to know exactly what these roles mean: CEO, COO, CTO, CFO, CMO, and CIO.

A company’s C-suite is one of its most valuable assets. While the person in each of these roles is typically paid at least $100,000 per year, they can add at least double that to your company’s bottom line - in some cases, much more. They offer expertise that helps you limit risks and boost profitability.

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Here are the responsibilities of each of these C-level executives and a closer look at how their role can help shape a company’s structure.


The CEO, or chief executive officer, is probably the C-level role most people are familiar with. For business professionals, it’s commonly considered the pinnacle of achievement - becoming the CEO of a big, successful company.

A CEO is the most senior officer and serves as a powerful leader and decision-maker. They sign off on major financial moves and do things to advance the company’s interests, like court new investors and work with leaders of industry.

In a smaller company, the CEO is often the owner and/or founder. When businesses grow and expand, the board of directors usually either hires a CEO from the board itself or seeks outside candidates. Together, the board, the CEO, and the C-suite executives guide the direction of the company.

A CEO also serves a crucial role that goes beyond decision making. They’re the personification of the company’s vision, there to inspire each worker to maximum productivity. In fact, when a CEO fails to fulfill this critical motivational role, they may be ousted in favor of a CEO who seems to be a better fit.


The COO, or chief operations officer, works closely with the CEO and acts as their deputy. Traditionally, this role was used in succession planning as a way of training a future CEO. However, in recent years this habit has fallen out of favor, with the COO’s role becoming more specialized. Today’s COO’s don’t necessarily dream of being CEOs, because the role of COO is quite prestigious itself.

COOs handle day-to-day operations that the CEO tends to be less involved with. They’re familiar with the operating budget and can balance the many details of day in, day out decision-making with the overall impact on the big picture.

A COO often has a background in management or accounting that gives them special insight into the financial structure of a company. Still, not all COOs have these backgrounds - a great COO can be hired away from a nonprofit charity, for example, because the company believes  in their personal integrity.

Trustworthiness is an important personality factor in hiring a COO. They’re privy to confidential company information and must always operate in a fair and ethical way.


A company’s CTO - chief technology or technological officer - reports to the CEO and is in charge of scientific and technological decisions. They may also handle data-driven planning, like research, product development, and infrastructure investment.

CTOs must stay on the cutting edge of technology at all times. A great CTO uses forecasting and contingency planning to protect the company from risks and set the stage for future success.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of U.S. CTOs is expected to grow significantly by 2022. A major reason is the rise of cloud computing and remote data storage, which makes the CTO’s role more important. Even the White House now has its own CTO who oversees the use of technology in health care, security, and public internet access. This has inspired many other organizations to hire a CTO too.


Your company’s CFO is the guardian of its financial status. No major financial move will be made without input from the CFO, who ensures the business complies with IRS guidelines, stays within federal and state laws, and follows all the standards of accounting.

The CFO acts as the top treasurer or controller for the organization, overseeing cash flow and ensuring people get paid on time. They almost always have a strong background in accounting and may be a certified public accountant (CPA). When the company needs to liaise with investors or government officials, the CFO will be involved.

In terms of personality traits, a CFO must be extremely detail-oriented and reliable. They should also be tenacious, willing to pore over documents filled with numbers and facts. A CFO should be confident in the face of challenging situations.

The number of CFOs at U.S. companies is predicted to grow between now and 2024 because CFOs are increasingly needed for high-level financial forecasting. While automation may eliminate the jobs of some lower-level accounting employees in the coming years, CFOs are critical for the complex decision-making of strategic planning.


The CMO, or chief marketing officer, heads up the company’s marketing and promotion division. They report to the CEO or COO and handle advertising, marketing, pricing, market research, strategic planning, and sometimes customer relations.

While a talented CMO can add tremendous value to a company, hiring the wrong kind of CMO can waste a huge amount of money with little to no return on investment (ROI). For this reason, some small businesses are wary of hiring a CMO until the company is large enough to justify it.

Today’s best CMOs have a firm grasp on emerging trends and new technology - things like customer satisfaction research, inbound marketing, search engine optimization, mobile messaging, and social media marketing. With a great CMO at the helm, your company can navigate an evolving marketplace to maximum benefit.

A CMO should have a solid background in marketing, understanding of new technology, and customer-focused orientation. Personality traits should include being flexible, sociable, and open to new ideas.


CIOs pay the valuable role of managing your company’s data security, technology infrastructure, and the tech-related decisions that will impact the future of the business. In the same way that a CFO guards your finances, the CIO guards your information.

This is a vitally important role in a world where data breaches and cyber attacks are rampant. Every 40 seconds a U.S. company is hit with a ransomware attack, and 140,000 hard drives crash every week. Your CIO is in charge of understanding these kinds of risks and making the big decisions it takes to protect your company.

The are currently more open CIO jobs in the U.S. than qualified CIOs to fill them, which means companies actively compete to attract the best candidates. This also keeps CIO salaries high - a trend expected to continue for at least the next 10 years, as tech jobs remain in high demand.

A CIO’s personality should reflect trustworthiness, openness to new ideas, and an ability to communicate well with others. The CIO typically works closely with the CFO and CMO to successfully accomplish company objectives.

Hiring the Right C-Suite Exec

Wondering whether someone is the right fit for a C-suite role at your company? SelectOne specializes in job suitability - making great matches between executives and companies. Get in touch to schedule a consultation today.

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