Way to the Top of the Corporate Pyramid – Part I – A guide to Executive Success


Way to the Top of the Corporate Pyramid – Part I – A guide to Executive Success

The way to the top of the corporate pyramid is to cross the three levels of management namely the junior level, the middle level and the top level of management, to reach the ultimate pinnacle, the position of the CEO.

On the way to the top, executives need to effectively manage three main things or areas:

1. Functions – covering functional expertise like production, selling and marketing, administration, finance, accounting and other functions for operations of the company.

2. Resources – namely human resources and physical resources like machinery, materials, money and other assets required for operations.

3. Growth – including Long term Business Planning, Strategies and Policies, and other macro issues relating to the Company.

At each level of management, executives are required to engage themselves in more than one of the above areas namely functions, resources and growth. However the content, scope and importance of the respective areas are different at each level.

The following matrix gives a snapshot of the levels of management and the respective areas they manage.


F – Function; R – Resource; G – Growth

At the junior level of management, executives would be required to spend most of their time in managing their respective Functions. At this level they need to be experts in their functions, having the necessary knowledge, experience and skill, to carry out their roles effectively. Their area of operation is limited and so are the resources at their disposal. However they would be required to manage those limited resources. They are not required to manage growth at the macro level for the company, which is the role of the top management.

At the top level of management, executives would be spending their time in managing Growth. They would be involved with the vision and mission for the Company. They would be responsible for business plan, strategies and policies having long term implications. While all the resources would be at their command, they would be required to plan and allocate resources, rather than manage them on a day to day basis. They would rarely be required to use their functional expertise. In fact, top management executives often complain, jocularly, that they have forgotten their basic functional knowledge learnt when they were in college.

At the middle level management, executives would be involved in managing all the three areas namely Functions, Resources and Growth. They are also the bridge between the junior level and top level management. They are involved in giving inputs and analysis to the top management for the long term plans, and once the business plans are made, get the same executed through the junior level management. In that context, they are sandwiched between the top and the junior levels. Also at this stage, generally they are at an age, where their family is expanding and their family responsibilities are also on the rise. At this level, time management is a major challenge.

The ability and willingness required in managing functions, resources and growth, is different at each level of management.  The content, type and extent of knowledge, experience, and skill, vary at different points in the corporate career.

Most Executives do not realise this important aspect of career planning. This is one of the main reasons why executives flounder on the way to the top. As Marshall Goldsmith says “What got you here, Won’t get you there”.

So, how do you plan your way to the top of the Corporate Pyramid?

You can do this by setting SMART goals, preparing an action plan and upgrading yourself to meet the challenges, ahead of each level.

So, what are you waiting for?

Prepare to Rise and Surge in your career.

Sankara Ramnath

Our Services

Fix an Appointment

Our Services

Fix an Appointment

The Success Journey from Unknown to Known (U2K) for Business Leaders


The Success Journey from Unknown to Known (U2K) for Business Leaders

I was intrigued by the title of the American documentary film “The Unknown Known” directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker, Errol Morris, on the former U.S. Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. At the beginning of the documentary, Rumsfeld argues that a major purpose of the Department of Defence is to evaluate “unknown knowns,” or “the things you think you know, that it turns out – you did not.”

 This is so true for business as well.

We think our business is doing well since we are earning profits, but it turns out that they are just book profits and we are actually in cash losses. We think our sales are growing, but the quality of sales is actually going down, resulting in increased ageing of debtors. These are things which we understand, but are not aware of its implications and only realise it later, sometimes too late.

Talking of Unknowns and Knowns, we can therefore have a Rumsfeld Matrix for Business comprising of 4 Quadrants or situations.

Let us look at each of these Quadrants in the matrix in relation to your business and the relevant strategy, that need to be employed, in each of these situations.

Quadrant 1 – KNOWN KNOWNS

These are things you know and are aware of them. You also have the full facts and understand what you know. For example, you know your company, your products, your people, your territory. You also know your present competitors, your market share, your product mix, profitability and all the other measures, and their respective risks. Since there is certainty of information, there is a feeling of comfort and confidence. Hence this is the ideal quadrant to be in, always The strategy in this quadrant is therefore to exploit the situation you are in and play on your strengths, through your current competitive advantage.


These are things which you know and are aware that they are important for your business, but find it difficult to predict its impact. For example, these could be the future health of the economy or interest rates. It would also be the demand curves especially in a cyclical industry and pricing in a competitive environment. These are things you know, which could affect your business, but it is difficult to understand and foresee their implication on your business. These could be tricky; since it involves predicting the future. The strategy in this quadrant is therefore to exercise Caution and explore possibilities and options. There could be a lot of Learning and Development requirements. However if the learning is complete and the prediction of the future implications are accurate, it could be a smart competitive advantage for you.


These could be information that you have, but is based on wrong facts or assumptions and hence could be a Pandora’s box. This is what Mr. Donald Rumsfeld referred to. In Business, the “unknown known” could be wrong metrics or assumptions on the basis of which decisions are being taken today, which are actually detrimental to the company. These could also be competitors, technologies, services and trends, which are out there in the world, today, but you have not discovered or given adequate attention to them. These could affect your business significantly. The strategy in this quadrant is to carefully dig deeper, to expose the wrong assumptions. It is also necessary to do environment scanning and data analytics, to cull out information out there and then take necessary corrective action.


These are the real Unknowns. These are unpredictable events, which happen and end up disrupting everything. They come out of the blue, unexpected. For example, a terrorist attack, the irrational behavior of a competitor or an unexpected new law or new government, departure or fraud by key people, or natural calamities like floods, earthquake or a tsunami.

The unknown unknown is something, which you do not have control over and hence there is this feeling of Fear of the Unknown. The strategy in this quadrant is to do a Risk Analysis and prepare for Disaster Management. And in case disaster happens, you need to be quick thinking, and innovate to turn problems into opportunities to enhance business. There is a need to be flexible and nimble in this quadrant.


All Unknown therefore present the following challenges,

  1. Dealing with uncertainties and unforeseen circumstances

  2. Managing interpersonal relations among the different stakeholders

  3. Taking advantage of opportunities, as they come.

 The key to Success is tackling these challenges and undertaking the journey from the Unknown to the Known, by closing this gap. A successful organization is one which accepts that there will always be “unknowns” and is able and willing , to respond accordingly.

 For a Successful Business, it is therefore about transforming and converting

  • Unknown Audience into a Known Customer base,
  • Unmanaged Risk to Planned Strategies
  • Hard Challenges to Huge Opportunities
  • Wastage to Savings
  • Unknown Losses to Known Profit.

So, what are you waiting for?

Prepare to Rise and Surge in your business.

Sankara Ramnath



Our Services

Fix an Appointment

Our Services

Fix an Appointment

Parenting is the ultimate test of one’s leadership skills – Leadership lessons from my Parents


Parenting is the ultimate test of one’s leadership skills – Leadership lessons from my Parents

Date :Wed, 08-Jun-2016

I have learnt my earliest and the best leadership lessons from my Parents. My Father is the face of the family and the “Chairman”, and my Mother the “CEO” and behind the scene worker. However they functioned as Equal Stakeholders. Together they formed a formidable TEAM and created a “Family” which is now over 60 years and running.

The first and the most important lesson of leadership which I learnt is TRUST. They trusted each other and all around them. This enabled them to take our mistakes and blunders in their stride, because they never doubted our intensions. When somebody trusts you, it becomes your responsibility. That’s how we became responsible.

While they trusted and gave us freedom, they knew what was going on and had a grip on what was happening. They had a system of Feedback and Review.

They are eternal OPTIMISTS. They never talked ill of anyone, complained or blamed. For them there is a second time to rectify even if something went wrong. They were always in the Circle of Influence trying to do something about the situation and moving forward, rather than staying put and lamenting. They are willing to forget and forgive.

Their decisions were always unanimous for us. Even if they had differences, we could never see it. We could not complain one to the other. Their answers to our questions regarding their decisions were the same.

They always had and have a genuine INTENTION TO HELP, not just their family members but all those around them. They were “there” for all important events and occasions – happy planned events or unplanned crises or misfortunes. They never missed a marriage or a funeral.

They are “HARD WORKERS”. They had great work ethics and were disciplined. Whenever required they put in long working hours. They epitomise commitment.

They are LIBERAL. They are open for new ideas, careers and just wanted their members to be happy in whatever they do. They would throw doors open for whoever was in need. Our house was always streaming with people. They were people centric.

They took RESPONSIBILITY for whatever they did. They are always willing to take more than their share of blame when things went wrong, and give more than their share of credit when things went right.

They enjoyed what they were doing for the family and others and were happy doing it.

They are emotional, but are emotionally strong. They have shown Character. They have overcome financial difficulties, taken on the burden of a large family and gotten over personal tragedies.

As I write this piece and reflect, the numerous occasions and examples, where they demonstrated leadership qualities are in front of me. I have been fortunate to have parents, who taught me a lot about effective leadership, both through their words and deeds.

My parents are now over 80 years young and continue to inspire us with lifelong leadership lessons. Being a parent myself, I realise that Parenting is the ultimate test of one’s leadership skills.

I dedicate this, my first blog, to my parents – NRS, as my Father is affectionately known and Sundari, my Mother.


Thank you.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog. Feel free to share this blog, if you think this blog would be of interest and /or use to your social and professional circle.

You are most welcome to visit us www.u2kconsulting.com. Please send us your views on our website and comments on the blog by using the box below to reply.

Sankara Ramnath


Our Services

Fix an Appointment

Our Services

Fix an Appointment

Why Financial Modelling is important for Start-Ups


Why Financial Modelling is important for Start-Ups

Date :Thu, 17-Aug-2017

For most early stage entrepreneurs, a financial model a standard spread sheet template that helps them prepare the financials slide of their Investment Pitch Deck. Start-ups find it difficult to simplify a complex business into a template spread sheet and end up with inconsistent numbers across the Deck and other documents. They fear that if don’t show a rosy picture, they may not get funds for business and hence the financials end up in the investment pitch deck, with cooked up figures and “hockey stick” projection, to show that the business can be a great success. The pity is that, more often than not, for the same reason an entrepreneurial idea gets rejected, because the financial model is not in sync with the business model. Many feel that the financial model is a work of fiction.

Result: Nobody believes the financial model.

So, do we throw out the financial model?

On the contrary. Throw out the standard template spread sheet if you must.

What is a Financial Model?

A Financial Model is the story of your business in financial currency. It is a mathematical representation of your business model that can be used to understand your business. It has a set of inputs and outputs. Inputs are the assumptions that go into the financial model and the outputs show the projected performance of the company, based on the assumptions.

The input assumptions are based on metrics that drive your business and consequently the model. Since every business is different, the assumptions and the metrics could be different.

Some common inputs.

  • Burn Rate and fixed cost per month
  • Per unit or per transaction cost
  • The marketing funnel including the market potential, the customer acquisition cost, sign ups,
  • User economics – churns, average order size,
  •  Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Business milestones

The outputs are the outcome as a result of the play of input metrics and their related assumptions. They are the projected performance of the company in financial terms or the currency of the land and represented by Income Statement or Profit & Loss Account, Balance Sheet and Cash flow statement.

Since the input assumptions can be different, one financial model can produce multiple set of projections. The input metrics and assumptions act as levers to produce different possible business results. The financial model, thus, shows how the company will perform going forward, under various scenarios.

Why do Start-ups need Financial Modelling?

1.    Funding: Early stage entrepreneurs generally start preparing the financial model when they need to borrow funds from investors for their seed money. A good FM lets your potential investors know why you are asking for funds, when do you need it and what’s in it for them.

On the face of it, a financial model might seem as a tool purely intended for obtaining funds from investors However that’s not the only purpose. On the contrary, investors realise that forecasting for a new business is difficult and that your actual results can be different from your projections. At the seed stage especially, they bet on your business idea and on YOU.

2.    Core information system: The investors and other stakeholders expect that you understand how your business operates and you will be able to kickstart it. A good financial model will help you do that. It’s an opportunity to show with numbers the very potential of your business and your capability to proactively manage growth. It is a reflection that you clearly understand your business and the levers that drive it. A good well implemented financial model can be the core information system to drive your business.

3.    Understand and Manage Cash Flows: The biggest purpose of the financial model is to help the entrepreneur understand his cash. For most start-ups cash outflow precedes cash inflow A good FM helps you match you cashflows and understand when and how much tomorrow. You should be aware of your burn rate and know how long your money is going to last. It will help you understand the real economics of the business. This can be frightening sometimes, but it can tell you how deep is the well before you plunge into it. Once you are in, it is an indispensable cash management tool. Tracing the flow of cash within the company will help you to identify where money is locked up and improve efficiencies.

4.    Performance Management System: A good FM is built bottoms up and therefore it forces you to think through all the variables that affect the operations and give insight into your business model. It helps you dig deeper into operational metrics.

It can be used to identify measurable key result areas (KRA’s) and Key Performance Indicators(KPI), which can be used as the basis for a Performance Management System. It helps you understand how sensitive your business is to the assumption levers and accordingly do a risk assessment to take proactive steps.

5.    Create Benchmarks: A financial Model is not a one-time exercise. As you grow in business, the financial model will track history as it is written with the projections made earlier. It will give a financial trail – where you were and where are you now. It will help you create benchmarks and baselines for the future.

Start-ups need a rolling forecast that serves as a decision-making tool for a dynamic business in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment. The financial model should be able to do that. When any of the underlying assumptions of the input metrics change, the model must be able to change the forecasts.

6.    Decision Making Tool: A financial model can help to understand how certain decisions might affect the future health of their company. It can thus be used to make smart decisions by playing with the variables to leverage for better performance.

The financial model helps in various decisions

·      Arriving at the Break-even point which is how many units you have to sell or customers you have to get, to pay for your fixed costs

·      Make or buy

·      Product mix

·      Pricing Strategies

·      Understanding your cost structure

·      Find out how effective are your marketing strategies.

7.    Big Picture: Your financial model is much more than a mere accounting exercise. It is forecasting as well. A good Financial model provides the big picture. You take the various components- income and costs statements, cash flow summaries and the Balance sheet and piece them together to get a consolidated and comprehensive financial picture.

I have been building financial models with a lot of early stage entrepreneurs and seen them reap enormous benefit when it is built bottoms up, as it complements the business model and gives valuable information to improve profitability.

In my next instalments of Financial Modelling, I will cover “HOW to build a good financial model for Start-ups”

Do let me have your feedback on this instalment of “WHY Financial Modelling is important for Start-ups”. In case you have used Financial Modelling, do share you experience.

Sankara Ramnath

Founder & CEO

U2K Consulting LLP


Helping Start-ups Scale Up

Our Services

Fix an Appointment

Our Services

Fix an Appointment