I'm in a bit of a dilemma. First off, we're not technically a startup but have been around for a few years. We're a small software company, 7 people including myself.
I started the company by myself, without funding and without a co-founder. The individual I'm talking about however, I will call him Michael, has been with me the longest however (6+ years), and been an integrative part of the business. When I hired him, he came right out of school and didn't know much about web development, but he learned quickly and is now helping with many parts of the business. In essence, he's almost like a partner at this point.
Michael recently expressed that he'd like some official recognition, in particular to distinguish himself from the other employees, most of which are, well, just employees. His request is more than justified, but I'm having a hard time finding a title. The fact that I could care less about titles and such doesn't help either :-).
The problem however is that we are officially an S-Corp, so I can't call him a partner. He's not running day-to-day operations (e.g. bookkeeping, employee management), so I anything like VP of operations doesn't work either. He's also not managing any employees, though having a title would make it easier to assign such tasks to him.
He recently asked whether it would be too much to call him a "Co-Founder", and I honestly don't have an answer and was hoping for some constructive feedback. He arrived at the business about 2 years into it, and was pretty effective a year after that. The company has been around for about 8 years now. So he was the first full-time employee, and is very important to the business.
Some have suggested VP of software development, but that technically won't work either since he's "only" proficient with web languages (java, RoR, php, CSS, etc.), yet we also do a lot of C++ stuff (that would be the majority of our coding).
Would Co-Founder be appropriate in this case, or is there another title that would make sense?