It seems there’s always room for one more executive in the C-suite, and as companies focus on growth, the trendy moniker these days is “chief revenue officer,” a role that enjoyed a brief cachet during the dot-com era.
While there are no official statistics on how many CROs exist, it seems virtually every new media company, along with other start-ups and even a baseball team, is adding the title to its roster. Forbes Media recently named its first CRO, while Website operator Demand Media just wooed Yahoo’s CRO to grow the company’s advertiser base. Both Cardlytics, a start-up technology company that analyzes consumer-banking behavior, and the Los Angeles Dodgers hired their first CROs last year.
For the most part, chief revenue officers focus on two areas: increasing advertising revenue and extracting more dollars from consumers, often via new products or services. CROs often report to the CEO, but don’t necessarily infringe on the CFO’s territory, says Chuck Eldridge, an executive recruiter for Korn/Ferry International, whose firm has done several CRO searches.
Experts are divided on how useful the role is. “Having someone wake up every day and focus on ‘where are our revenues coming from?’ is not a bad thing,” says Eldridge. On the flip side, management consultant Stephen A. Wilson of Wilson Perumal & Co. considers the role “clunky” and says “top-line growth should be the concern of the entire executive suite.” If the CRO’s focus is on incremental revenue, as opposed to profitable growth, Wilson says that becomes “one of the biggest drivers of complexity in businesses [and one reason why] many companies woke up to such a hangover during the contraction.”