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In the opening chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone it says:

Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills.

Since I'm not British, I'm not sure of the American business equivalent. What does that mean? Is director like the CEO, COO, Chairman of the Board?

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    The term is used in the US as well. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Director_(business) – Zoredache Feb 14 '14 at 4:13
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    Does it have the same meaning? A biscuit is not the same in both countries. The article you cited says: "Companies that use this title often have many directors spread throughout different categories..." The term used in the book is singular so I wasn't sure if it was the same. It sounds like a pretty senior position above the level of department director by the context. I don't believe the books mention if Grunnings is a subsidiary of a larger company or independent. – pleurocoelus Feb 14 '14 at 5:23
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    Not entirely sure about the UK, but I strongly suspect like most business titles, it almost certainly only makes sense on context with the specific business. I met a person had the title Director of Marketing in a 20 person business, and I know of people who are Directors in 5,000 person businesses. There is pretty large difference between the responsibilities and pay of the two jobs. – Zoredache Feb 14 '14 at 7:20
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    Why the downvotes? It seems like a reasonable question for someone not exposed to higher tiers of the corporate ladder, in the UK or otherwise. – Brian S Feb 14 '14 at 14:39
  • @Brian S. Thanks. I had assumed it to be a valid question for this forum as it related directly to the Harry Potter novels. – pleurocoelus Mar 8 '14 at 16:58
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A "company director" has a specific legal meaning in the UK. The company directors are responsible for day-to-day operations and answer directly to the owners or shareholders. They have certain responsibilities under the law -- for example, they are required to ensure that the company's financial records are correct. (See https://www.gov.uk/running-a-limited-company.)

In the USA such a person would be a "member of the board of directors". A small business might have only one company director.

This is distinct from the titles used within a company. In a large corporation, employees well below the "board of directors" level might be called a "director" of something (marketing, research, paper clips, whatever), but that title has no particular legal standing.

Vernon Dursley is described as the director of Grunnings, not merely a director, which implies that he is the only one. So Grunnings would be a small to medium-sized business with Vernon at the top. This may be a subtle hint by JK Rowling that Vernon is used to being in charge, which explains his rather arrogant personality and makes it more amusing when wizards are completely unimpressed by his attempts to boss them around.

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In the UK, the director of a business is basically in charge. It's similar to CEO in the USA.

Note the use of "the", which implies a singular, versus an "a", which would imply multiple directors.

It's also a legal thing, I am joint director (with my Wife) of my own company, our company has 2 employees (me and my Wife!). Under UK law, when you set up a business (Public Limited Company - PLC) you need to declare at least 1 person as a director and 1 as company secretary. Under the law they then have certain responsibilities (such as filing tax returns etc.).

However, when a larger company is involved (such as Grunnings), although we have no idea how large it is, the term 'director' may not mean director in a legal sense. I suspect that in this case it simply denotes that he's higher up the managerial chain than some.

In the United States, however, the term director is typically used to describe a senior middle-level manager, just short of "managing director".

Other terms that can also mean similar things are: Manager, CEO, MD (Managing Director) etc.

  • Yes indeed. Many "Sales Directors" and "IT Directors" are not owners of the company. – Valorum Feb 14 '14 at 8:32
  • Minor correction -- a Public Limited Company is one whose shares are traded to the general public on the stock market. Pat Dobson's is probably a private company. But the role of directors is similar in both cases. – Royal Canadian Bandit Feb 15 '14 at 17:28

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