4 Lessons Businessmen Can Learn From The Godfather

4 lessons Businessmen can learn from The Godfather

In business, as in life – learning, education and lessons can come from various, different sources. The important thing is to keep an open, curious mind and constantly ask – “what’s in this for me? What can I learn”? Possibly it was this attitude that propelled great businessmen to the forefront – they were eager to learn, implement those learnings and prepared to start over if they made a mistake. There are pointers, signs and lessons all around us. All it takes is a curious, willing heart and an open mind. Even from fiction, cinema and iconic figures of history – there are many useful lessons to be learnt and applied to personal lives or business.

Let us look at Don Vito Corleone – from the famous book by Mario Puzo and subsequently, a cult classic movie: “The Godfather”. The Don has had humble beginnings, and rises to build his own “empire” of people, “soldiers” and “family”. With immense influence in the judiciary, police, the underworld and in business also. 

What Could Businessmen Possibly Learn From The Don?

#1 Always Have a Trusted Advisor

Every single person in the family is in awe of the Godfather and respects him for his role in building the business – he has done it single-handedly. As the domain expert in most aspects of the family business, he knows everything there is to know. But he knows he has gaps in his knowledge. And so, he was clever enough to seek out a dedicated and trusted lawyer – he has himself helped in the grooming, educatio0n and laying the experience-base for Tom Hagen, lawyer and advisor to the Corleone family. Tom advises the Godfather on a wide range of issues. Though not a Sicilian or from the family, Tom is one of the few non-Corleones admitted into the inner circle. His trusted advisory status combines with the expertise and the detachment of a non-family member which helps him share difficult truths without any concerns. Lesson: if you want to grow your business, find a trusted advisor outside your organizational circles – to give you unbiased second opinions about the challenges you face.

#2 Begin With Subtle Communication 

As a businessman, you should know – Communication is where it begins…it is one of the most important skills to have. Most surprisingly, the mafia world also requires subtle communication skills. Those who has watched The Godfather carefully, will agree that violence or bullets are rarely the first means of making a point. Quite early in the movie, the Don had to put across a point to a powerful, sadistic movie director. He starts by sending Tom Hagen, to gently discuss and make a subtle request. When the request is not granted, the Godfather takes off the glove and uses the mailed fist. Hence, knowing when to escalate a situation into a confrontation is a delicate art that the Don mastered over the course of his long career. Lesson: Master and perfect the art of communication. As an entrepreneur you will be communicating with a lot of people daily and you need to know when to use subtle communication skills & when to escalate to the next level to get your work done or to resolve a conflict.

#3 Do Favours To Help Build Relationships

Do you recall the time when someone got you an appointment with a banker? Or gave yopu a vital lead about a job offer? The giving and taking of favours is a necessary lubricant that makes relationships run – it helps, sustains and builds relationships. Giving (and asking) for occasional favors is a key aspect of building relationships and something useful for businesses to network in new normal. The Godfather uses tact, persuasion and humility to deal with people and dispense favours. Indeed, it is one of the building blocks of his power. Once, he helps out an elderly lady having issues with her landlord – he steps in to “convince” the landlord. This particular relationship would not be profitable for the Godfather – but as an example of how to build and maintain relationships, it is perfect. Lesson: life is a two way street. People will help you in your hour of need only if they are sure that you will reciprocate when required. 

#3 Know Your Strengths

It is wiser to judge, evaluate and then take a plunge, rather than rushing into something. For any businessman, taking up new challenges and tasks can be a quite demanding. However, if not comfortable about this, take your time, build your resources. But after a careful recce and evaluation, if you feel that you cannot do justice to it, or don’t want to go for it, just say no and give it up. You yourself are the best judge of your strengths. Don Corleone faced a similar challenge when Sollazo “The Turk” asked him for his help to expand his empire to sell into illegal drugs. Though the profits that would have resulted ere astronomical, the Don refused the deal and to enter the business. For some people, maybe he seemed like too much of a traditionalist who was behind the times. But truth be told, the Don made the right decision — expanding into the drugs trade would attract just too much unwanted attention from the authorities. Lesson: when you happen upon an activity that requires a new set of skills, consider carefully before deciding if it makes sense to learn them or not.