7 business lessons from The Godfather

Maybe it’s because my last name ends in a vowel, or maybe it’s because my family’s roots are firmly embedded in Sicily, but I binge-watched The Godfather series for the umpteenth time last week.

As with any of the great flicks, one tends to garner new insights that were missed before.

In my case, as the last of the credits appeared, I found myself thinking that once one got beyond the shootings and stabbings and so forth, there were some valuable lessons that anyone in business could most likely profit from taking note of and then taking to heart.

So, here’s my list of seven business lessons, compliments of The Godfather:

+ Don’t be afraid to make decisions, even unpopular ones. Watching Don Corleone was like attending a seminar on how to be decisive.   He knew his business, he knew the capabilities of his team, as well as the shortcomings. When he was approached by a rival family and asked to get involved in distributing illegal drugs, the Don listened and knowing it was not what he wanted for his business, politely but firmly declined.

+ Have a trusted adviser: You don’t have to be mobbed up to know that every one of the crime families had a consigliere — a counselor and adviser to the head guy. In business, an adviser who is intelligent, informed and has the well-being of the business as a main priority is essential.

+ Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. To me, this underscores the importance of keeping close tabs on your competitors.  And while one certainly should not hope to win by mirroring a competitor’s every move, not paying attention to your competitors can be a fatal error.

+ Never respond purely on emotion. There is a great scene where after the Don is shot, one son, acting on pure emotion, wants to wipe every competitor off the face of the earth. His younger brother walks him down off the ledge by telling him that the shooting “was not personal … it was strictly business.” When we make critical business decisions on pure emotion we run the risk of hurting the business. 

+ Leave the gun, take the cannoli. To me, the business takeaway from this line is to know what your priorities are. On somewhat of a deeper level, it also suggests that we need to be disciplined enough to not only know our priorities, but to follow them. Some days, even though we know better, we want to take both the gun and the pastry.

+ Have a plan of succession, but make sure it is the right one! After Don Corleone passes, the tradition would normally have been to have Sonny, the oldest son, take over the business. But Sonny, who was impulsive and had definite anger issues, was not suited to take over.  Ultimately, Michael, the Don’s youngest, but more capable son takes the reigns. The takeaway for me here is that tenure with a company should not automatically equate to promotion.

+ The best deal you are going to ever make is the one you can walk away from. This gem came from Hyman Roth, another mobbed-up guy. I shared this one because I think it has two lessons. The first one is that in business, you need choices from more than one supplier.  For example, if a bedding supplier only has one source for foam and then that source has a disruption in production, that bedding supplier is stuck. The second takeaway I got from this is that in business, one should never make a deal then try to negotiate a more favorable price.

I could probably go on and find lots more, but the pizza delivery guy is here, and I am not a fan of cold pizza.


3 thoughts on “7 business lessons from The Godfather

  1. Ray:
    As a daughter and granddaughter of Italian immigrants from Naples and Sicily, I too, grew up watching The Godfather – all of them – several times. My brothers would quote the actors’ lines as we sat around the TV and ate popcorn. Thanks for sharing the “business lessons” that can be gleaned from the movie! Also, I found myself smiling as I read your article because of the happy times with my family during that time. Thanks for that!

    1. Donna, thank you so much for taking the time to write. The series (minus the people getting wacked, lol) really did. underscore the fact that family is everything. Be well, or I guess I should say, Ciao, paisan!

  2. Only Ray Allegrezza could write an article like this. Excellent analogies from what some call the best movie of all time to our industry. Keep ‘em coming Ray!

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