Most of us have lofty goals for our businesses. Among them? To serve our customers with integrity and value – certainly not qualities that we attribute to the mafia. While we wouldn’t usually think of the mob as an inspiration for getting ahead, Hollywood’s most notorious gangsters had their moments of wisdom. Here are some of the most famous lines spoken by movie mobsters, and how they can motivate you to be more successful in your daily business dealings.
1. Learn to Take a Beating
Movie Quote: “Every once in a while, I’d have to take a beating. But by then, I didn’t care. The way I saw it, everyone takes a beating sometime.” – Henry Hill (Goodfellas)
Building a business isn’t for wimps, and if you’re not conditioned to take a hit every now and again, you probably won’t last. Some of the most successful industrialists had more than a few failures before they struck it big. Even Virgin mogul Richard Branson had some embarrassing missteps to overcome; before he could succeed with airlines, he had some lackluster dealings in flowers, soda, and even lingerie.
2. Get to Know the Competition
Movie Quote: “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” – Michael Corleone (The Godfather: II)
It can be dangerous to lose your focus by always worrying about what your rivals are up to, but there is some value in scanning the competitive landscape on a regular basis. Knowing what other companies are doing to keep customers happy and services relevant isn’t just smart – it’s necessary. Get to know many on a first-name basis, and you’ll have no choice but to stay on trend with the industry you hope to succeed in.
3. Be Prepared to Fight
Movie Quote: “It’s all-out war: we go to the mattresses.” – Sonny (Godfather)
There are times to let things go… and then there are time to really dig in your heels and fight for your business. Do you know the difference between these times? Many companies have learned too late that a never-give-up attitude is the only way to succeed in this cut-throat environment. These same small-scale businesses are surprised when they are met with the challenges of unfair legislation, higher taxes or fees, and an oversaturated market. They continue with business as usual, hoping that the situation will pass and things will work themselves out. A good business owner knows that being passive rarely ends conflict, however. Meeting your challenges head-on is good practice for future troubles and is usually the only way to address the most crippling small business headaches.
4. Keep it in the Family
Movie Quote: “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” – Don Corleone (The Godfather)
Many small businesses start out as family affairs, but this advice isn’t limited to flesh and blood relatives with shared DNA. There is merit in putting fierce loyalty at the front of your business plan. Rewarding the long-term players in your organization with promotions and partnerships isn’t just more effective than bringing in an outsider for every open position, it can save you thousands in training and culture adaptation costs. Before you do that outside search, ask yourself “do we already have the best man or woman for the job?”
5. Celebrate Your Growing Pains
Movie Quote: “This country’s still growing up. Certain diseases, you’re better off having when you’re still young.”– Max (Once Upon a Time in America)
It’s nice to set goals to expand your earnings and become a bigger business, but it’s silly to dismiss the merits of being a scrappy start-up. In fact, there are just some things that are easier when you are young. Mistakes are simpler to navigate and correct; new ideas can be implemented without yards of red tape. A lean structure and family culture can also help you be more adaptive to your customer needs.
6. Follow Words with Action
Movie Quote: “You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.”– Al Capone (The Untouchables)
There may be nothing more frustrating to a customer than an unrealized promise. Unfortunately, in the time of social media, lip service may have never been more common. This makes it an ideal age to start following up your marketing campaign with the kind of service and quality offerings you strive to be known for. Forget solely using buzzworthy Facebook ads to build a legacy; deliverables are a concrete way to differentiate your company in a time when it’s just too easy to disappoint.
7. Give the People What They Want – Again
Movie Quote: “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – Don Corleone (The Godfather)
If your customers are trusting you with their money, you’ve already done much of the hard work. Don’t lose that trust by not continuing to offer value. What special add-ons, services, or perks can you easily give that will improve your customer’s perception of the brand? Take some time to really assess why they come to you, and then strive to give them 5x that benefit. Loyalty clubs, exclusive offers, and “thank you” gifts still work in a time where everyone is competing for repeat business. Use this period leading up to the holiday season to brainstorm something that’s too good to ignore.
Most of us will never know the real-life particulars of money laundering or hiding bodies, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have something in common with our hitman counterparts. A clever, adaptive business follows many of the same principles that a typical movie mobster does. In what ways do you channel your inner Corleone?
This article was originally written on October 12, 2017 and updated on January 29, 2021.