20 Essential Business Roles Within an Organization

By Indeed Editorial Team

April 5, 2021

In an organization, there are many types of business roles that are integral to company operations. From executive-level professionals to entry-level employees, these roles involve specific tasks that contribute to a company's success. Learning about the different business roles in a company can help you form a defined career path. In this article, we explore several key business roles, what their responsibilities are and how they help a business succeed.

What are business roles?

Business roles are positions that have certain sets of responsibilities. Business owners typically plan an organizational structure that outlines the different types of jobs and the tasks that each job type is responsible for. Depending on the industry and the nature of the company, business roles can range from executive-level titles, such as chief executive officer (CEO), to more operational business roles like an administrative assistant or customer service representative.

Business roles allow owners and stakeholders to designate specific titles and duties to employees. Setting up business roles allows employers to delegate important tasks to professionals who are qualified to perform these jobs. When employees have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, they can better contribute to the company's success.

Types of business roles

In many organizations, business roles follow an organizational structure, where employers designate executive-level, managerial and operational roles:

Executive

Executive-level roles include senior-level positions and often feature a central executive in charge of an entire organization or large department within an organization. For instance, a chief financial officer (CFO) is responsible for overseeing the entire financial department. Executive jobs typically require extensive work experience in addition to qualifications like education, skills and certifications.

Manager

Managers and supervisors make up many of the essential mid-level business roles within an organization. Executives usually assign these roles and are generally in charge of directing them. For example, a chief operating officer outlines the needs for a human resources department. They hire and oversee an HR manager who is responsible for supervising the human resources staff.

Operations and production

At this level, business roles can encompass one or more professionals fulfilling the responsibilities of the same role, especially in larger organizations. For example, a corporation could have a team of accountants who fulfill the same duties. In smaller businesses, there may be only one professional, such as an administrative assistant, filling the needs of the business within a given role.

Executive and top-level business roles

The following business roles include executive-level positions:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

  • Chief Operating Officer (COO)

  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Controller

  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

  • Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

  • President

  • Vice President

  • Executive Assistant

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The chief executive officer (CEO) of a company is the leading role responsible for making top-level decisions, gathering resources that support the company and driving operational and structural changes that directly influence organizational growth. In smaller businesses, this role can be interchangeable with the president, and it's also common for an owner to hold these titles.

Read more: Learn About Being a CEO

Chief Operating Officer (COO)

A chief operating officer (COO) oversees the company's operations. In smaller organizations, this role can defer to the general manager, a similar role to a COO. These top-level business roles ensure processes run efficiently and often oversee various departments to ensure employees are completing their work properly and in a timely manner.

Read more: Learn About Being a Chief Operating Officer

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Controller

The chief financial officer (CFO), or controller, is responsible for the cash flow and the financial success of a business. Typically, a CFO and controller are two separate business roles within large corporations, but smaller organizations may combine these two roles into one job title. The CFO is usually responsible for finding investors and external funding opportunities for growing their business, while the controller oversees the expenses and assets of the company. When one individual assumes both financial roles, they manage both incoming revenue and outgoing expenses.

Read more: Learn About Being a Chief Financial Officer

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

The chief marketing officer (CMO) directs marketing campaigns, plans marketing budgets and manages the entire marketing department of their company. This role may be in charge of multiple marketing teams, each with their own team leader or marketing manager. Additionally, the CMO usually makes the final decisions regarding the development and implementation of various marketing projects.

Read more: Learn About Being a Chief Marketing Officer

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

The chief technology officer (CTO) manages the technological functions of their organization. They commonly integrate new technology trends and ensure any technology they introduce meets the needs of their company. In companies that have large IT departments, the CTO oversees the high-level functions.

Read more: Learn About Being a Chief Technology Officer

President

Some organizations designate a president instead of a CEO. While many of the responsibilities are the same between these two roles, a president may take on additional tasks that a CEO may not. They could perform some of the tasks that a COO and a CFO are in charge of in larger businesses. As a company grows, though, the president's role may encompass more defined tasks—like handling top-level decisions and directing their management teams—rather than a broad range of executive functions.

Vice President

The vice president initiates the president's decisions and plans by directing mid-level managers and team leaders. They can act in an operational role, overseeing business operations and initiating organizational structures among the other roles.

Executive assistants

An executive assistant usually reports directly to the CEO and handles much of the CEO's administrative tasks. A business often relies on an executive assistant to organize and maintain the CEO's schedules, agendas and appointments.

Read more: Learn About Being an Executive Assistant

Managerial business roles

Several managerial business roles are important to overall business operations, including:

  • Marketing manager

  • Product manager

  • Project manager

  • Finance manager

  • Human resources manager

Marketing manager

A marketing manager oversees the entire marketing department, depending on the size of the company. In large corporations, there can be multiple teams within the marketing department, each with their own marketing manager. Each manager reports directly to the CMO. In smaller businesses, the marketing manager may be the only top-level business role in charge of directing marketing efforts.

Read more: Learn About Being a Marketing Manager

Product manager

Product managers analyze product markets and streamline processes related to product development. A product manager may focus their efforts on researching customer markets, evaluating in-demand products, assessing manufacturing processes for making products, analyzing competitor products and collaborating with marketing teams to develop strategies for promoting products.

Read more: Learn About Being a Product Manager

Project manager

Project managers oversee many of the planning and development processes for business projects. These professionals initiate, design, monitor, control and finalize projects. This business role may have the added responsibility of analyzing and mitigating risks to various projects, and they commonly work with other department managers—such as marketing and product managers—to plan and develop each aspect of a project, including budget, resources and timelines.

Read more: Learn About Being a Project Manager

Finance manager

Finance managers usually analyze costs and revenue and use this data to prepare financial reports. In smaller organizations, this business role may oversee several financial aspects of business operations, such as calculating and projecting incoming revenue and company expenses. In larger businesses, the finance manager may be responsible for managing staff accountants and bookkeepers, and they rely on the work of these professionals to create accurate financial reports and forecasts.

Read more: Learn About Being a Finance Manager

Human resources manager

Human resources managers direct the human resources department. They oversee large teams within the human resources department, or in smaller organizations, they may be in charge of only a few staff members. This business role is crucial for operations because they recruit, interview, hire and onboard employees. HR managers commonly consult with top-level executives to initiate strategic plans and act as a liaison between upper-level management and company staff.

Related: What Does a Human Resources Manager Do? Career Description, Duties and How to Become

Operational roles

The operational business roles within a company are essential for day-to-day processes and include positions such as:

  • Marketing specialist

  • Business analyst

  • Human resource personnel

  • Accountant

  • Sales representative

  • Customer service representative

  • Administrative assistant

Marketing specialist

A key role in the marketing department is the marketing specialist. Specialists perform several functions, such as gathering customer data, researching target demographics and optimizing content for SEO purposes. Many organizations have more than one marketing specialist working in the department, and this role typically reports directly to the marketing manager.

Read more: Learn About Being a Marketing Specialist

Business analyst

Many companies employ business analysts who are responsible for evaluating the growth and development of the business. This role analyzes market trends, projects future revenue and develops plans that help businesses track profitability, product viability and the overall success of operations.

Read more: Learn About Being a Business Analyst

Human resource personnel

The human resources department is an essential component for any business, and the employees in this department work under the supervision of the HR manager. The staff in these business roles commonly handle payroll tasks, employee schedules and performance reviews and evaluations. In large companies, the HR department can consist of several HR managers and many staff members under their direction.

Read more: Learn About Being an HR Assistant

Accountant

An accountant oversees the day-to-day transactions of companies, including sales transactions, expense payments and tax reporting. Accountants in smaller organizations may have responsibilities that finance managers or CFOs handle in large business environments.

Related: 10 Types of Accounting and 5 Important Accountant Careers

Sales representative

Sales representatives connect with customers to sell their business' products or services. Successful sales teams use effective communication and interpersonal skills to build relationships with and maintain loyalty among their company's customers, which directly influences the revenue stream of the business.

Read more: Learn About Being a Sales Representative

Customer service representative

Customer service representatives help customers solve problems, handle product returns and refunds and resolve issues when customers are unsatisfied. These operational roles are essential for building a reputation for their company and fostering long-lasting customer relationships.

Read more: Learn About Being a Customer Service Representative

Administrative assistant

The administrative assistant, office assistant or receptionist serves as the first point of contact for visitors and clients entering the business. They may perform many essential tasks such as managing the phone lines, communicating between clients and business partners and keeping staff schedules organized. They may even have tasks like data entry to help keep company documents current and accurate.

Read more: Learn About Being an Administrative Assistant

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