A dreamer, a businessman and a son-of-a-B…

Read this interesting quote on a tweet from P Tarkonnen (one of the best motivational business Tweeters I have come across). “Every successful enterprise needs 3 people – a Dreamer, a Businessman and a Son-of-a-B (let’s call him the ToughMan for this article)”. Was amused and later on intrigued by it…enough to check if this really applies.

 The roles

I find lot of relevance of this troika to most of the businesses that I have been part of –

  • The Dreamer is the one who will build the vision for the business, define the scope, look at inorganic growth opportunities, add or kill business lines, form strategic alliances.
  • The Businessman is the one who will draw the blue-print for implementation of the vision, develop a detailed Business Plan and a set of Project Plans, hire the management team, set up processes and systems – for the scope defined by the Dreamer. As and when the scope expands, s/he will enhance the Plans, Systems and Processes for the new scope.
  • The ToughMan is the one who will see to it that the processes and systems laid down for the defined business scope keep on getting executed day in and day out – as per defined targets. People are hired to complete the teams, are made to perform as per their objectives and if need be, taken out if they are not performing well. All this to be done at the Budgeted costs or lower.

 Coinciding with P-I-E-R framework

These three “roles” also coincide with a framework introduced to me by Sarvjit S Dhillon, then-Group CFO of Bharti Airtel (2004) – the P-I-E-R framework – Plan, Implement, Execute and Review. He used to follow this framework to get roles and responsibilities of different people clear in his mind, and I too continue to follow that till today.

The Dreamer Plans, the Businessman Implements and the ToughMan Executes. All 3 of them Review – their respective areas – the Dreamer reviews if the Vision has got implemented well and is getting executed along the planned contours – this Review could be once a year or once a quarter. The Businessman reviews if the Business Plan is getting executed as per the targets and objectives, and is utilising the company-wide systems and processes efficiently – this Review could be once a quarter or once a month. The ToughMan reviews if all teams are delivering to the targets given to them – this Review could be done once a month or a week or depending on the size of the business (and the level at which ToughMan is operating) even daily !

 Are these roles or are these basic nature of people ?

For those of us who would be snickeringly scanning our companies for “who’s the SOB in my company ?”, sorry to disappoint, but the above three descriptions may not pertain to the basic nature of the people involved. These are roles, and the same person may play all these roles at different points of time in his career. An example of these 3 roles being played in typical companies could be the Chairman / CEO being the Dreamer, the CEO / COO being the BusinessMan and the COO / Sales Head being the ToughMan. Please note that the Sales Head today could become the COO tomorrow, CEO later and possibly the Chairman. S/he has to understand the different expectations from each role that s/he has to play and suitably modify oneself to play the new role. This is one of the bigger issues in larger organizations, viz, that of internal promotees taking time to leave the baggage of past roles.

Ideally, there should be different people playing these roles at any given single time. But for smaller businesses, many times the CEO has to play two or three of these roles himself. This is not impossible, but in my mind, not sustainable. Short-term will tend to get mixed with long-term; strategy may get mixed with tactic, eventually.


In the real world, there may not be a 1-0 division of these roles. Every senior manager may have some of the characteristics of each of the 3 types of people described above. However, the pre-dominant characteristic should be clear for each person and in sync with the required role given to that person.

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