There are far too many things for entrepreneurs to learn from The Godfather. Whether you’re the head of the Corleone crime family or leading a project team, entrepreneurs and mobsters have a lot in common. Don Vito Corleone may not have used Excel and Microsoft Project, but he knew a lot about delivering projects and getting results. Here are a few indispensible business lessons you must learn from one of the greatest series of all time:
1) Recruit a trusted advisor:
Everyone in the family respects the Godfather for his experience in the business. He is the subject matter expert in many aspects of the family business, but he knows he has gaps in his knowledge. So, the Godfather wisely sought after a dedicated and trusted lawyer.
Tom Hagen, lawyer and advisor to the Corleone family, advises the Godfather on a varied range of matters. 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 nin-family member which helps him share difficult truths without any concerns.
Lesson: To grow your business, find a trusted advisor outside your organization to give you unbiased second opinions about the challenges you face
2) Start with subtle communication:
Communication is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur possesses. Surprisingly, the mafia world also requires subtle communication skills. Anyone who has watched The Godfather carefully will observe that bullets are rarely the first means of making a point.
Early in the film, the Don had to put a point across to a movie director. He starts by sending his advisor, Tom Hagen, to make a subtle request. When the request doesn’t work, the Godfather has to take radical steps to make his point. 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: You need to perfect the art of communication. You will be communicating with a lot of people on a daily basis and you need to know when to use subtle communication skills and when to take it to the next level to get your work done or to resolve a conflict.
3) Know your strengths:
Taking up new challenges and tasks can be a daunting process. If you are not comfortable treading into new waters, take your time, build your resources. But if you know you can’t handle it, don’t be afraid to say no and give it up. You are the best judge of your strengths.
Don Corleone faced a similar challenge in deciding whether or not to expand his empire to include illegal drugs. Despite the profit opportunities offered, the Don refused to enter the business. In the eyes of some, this made him a traditionalist who was behind the times. In his world, I would agree that the Don made the right decision – expansion into the narcotics trade would attract too much unwanted attention from the authorities.
Lesson: When you come across an activity that requires a new set of skills, think carefully about deciding whether it makes sense to learn them or not.
4) Give favors to build relationships:
When was the last time you did any of your colleagues a favor? It could’ve been a small one like getting them a cup of coffee or teaching them something that could help them out in the future. Giving (and asking) for occasional favors is a key aspect of building relationships.
My favorite example of the Godfather giving someone a favor is one of the least well known. At one point, an elderly lady is having issues with her landlord, so the Godfather steps in and helps her out. This particular relationship won’t really turn out to be profitable for the Godfather but it is a perfect example that shows how to build relationships and maintain them.
Lesson: Life is a two way street. People are going to help you in your time of need only if they know you will do the same for them.