The Godfather and Your Business

“Why do you have to send the draft of our post to someone who doesn’t belong to our company?”

I had to wait to get to the United States to see the film “The Godfather”, that masterpiece written by Mario Puzo. I remember that I was too young when it premiered in the only cinema in my home town and was not suitable for minors, in addition I  never had the good fortune of seeing the movie on TV, however I must admit that several times I read and enjoyed the book in Spanish and also in English. I saw it an endless number of times after my arrival, I do not get tired watching this classic film that is “The Godfather” again and again. However, now I don’t look at it for the exquisiteness of the script, nor the performances, nor even to see how used to operate that underworld of the Cosa Nostra of the past century. Now I watch the movie as a free lesson of Financial Education, an invaluable didactic material.

Everyone will see the world in a different way based on the angle of his or her own life. A geologist will see a stone as study material, an architect will see an element of construction and a sculptor as a masterpiece waiting to be carved, this happens to everyone according to past experiences or necessities. “Each man has his own destiny,” was quoted by the character of Vito Corleone.

Making mistakes is a common factor in humanity, nobody was born knowing anything and we forget that, even the first steps that we took were based on mistakes and tumbles. Myself, I have committed countless mistakes along my living years but I try to take them as lessons, sometimes learned in the hardest way, the way that you will never forget anything at all. Nevertheless it’s a good thing to extract the best lessons out of our mistakes, you can also learn a lot from the mistakes committed by others and that’s much better if you analyze it seriously and professionally because some mistakes have catastrophic consequences, including irrecoverable fatalities. Fortunately the wisdom of humanity is being collected from ancient times using the technology that mankind had at the moment, from writing on the walls of a cave, books, audio recordings, movies, other multimedia, saved time capsules, etc.

I want to address The Godfather as a business lesson. If we describe the book or the movie from a purely Entrepreneur point of view, we are not questioning or judging the legality or humanity of the business or any actions taken. This analysis can not be done without the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) matrix analysis. I consider that it must be an essential ingredient of a business plan. Keep in mind that if you do not know where you are going, you could end where you do not want to.

Don Vito Corleone (The Godfather, the main head of the totem pole), meets his cabinet (The Family) prior to the negotiation with the seller and potential client/partner (Virgil Sollozzo, The Turk). The business proposition on the table consists of the collaboration for a (dirty in this case) very lucrative business. There was a study of the market made by a specialized team, there are no detailed references of it in the film or in the book, but an exhaustive description is made of the seller (Sollozzo) and the product (narcotics) that he is offering. Their advantages (Opportunities), scenario, competition and projection of the future (profits “Potential of at least 30% in the first year”). The possible losses are also meticulously detailed, whether the business is performed or not (short and long term Weaknesses) of the corporation (family) as an entity. A similar analysis is concluded about the competition (the other families). Current status and strengths of the corporation at the time is mandatory, as well as an estimate of the most imperative needs (conditions of sale) of the seller and his allies (partners). A risk assessment is done, there are risks associated to each and every business transaction, very important because it calculates the benefits and detriments of negotiating and also in case of not negotiating (Threats). Don Corleone, commander in chief of the family, listens to all the parties (sensitive data collection) and thinks (the CEO is an executive position), he takes “note” of the opinion of his loyal and efficient advisers with voting options (the Capo-regimen do not vote in this case). Afterwards, the Godfather and his top commanders negotiate directly with the seller (Sollozzo). Using a subtle and diplomatic but at the same time strong and determinant, the Don makes the decisions of the corporation (the executive response). The response to the proposition is a “total turn down”. However, The Don convincingly explains his reasons. Is it over yet? The word of the chief must be be “the last word” without any type of argument after the final decision has been stated by the supreme head. Unfortunately, an amateur movement made by the potential substitute of The Godfather (Sonny Corleone, ‘his son’) uncovering another Weaknesses of the Family in front of the seller, showing off a crack to the other party. “Never let anyone outside the family (Corporation) know what you thinking. Never let them know what you have under your fingernails…” the Don tells his obtuse-minded son. That phrase is the genesis of the subsequent events unleashed afterwards caused by that “fatal” negotiation.

I honestly must accept that the actual reason why I’m writing this post is because something similar occurred to me. I almost made the same dummy mistake, this time with the draft of one of my tasks. I usually send it to several members in the Corporation to which I belong for revision, however breaking that protocol and almost sending it to another person who has nothing to do with the corporation… Luckily my son stopped me (who is my boss and CEO of the Corporation) and he snapped to me: “Why do you have to send the draft to someone who doesn’t belong to our company?”. Suddenly I came back to reality and all the aforementioned passage, as well as its consequences, passed through my mind giving birth to this post.

Life is unique, we all have one and we all run our own race. The destination and the ways to reach it are different and changeable. Sometimes the opportunity of success is disguised in different ways, for that reason sometimes it costs our lives to discover them. But there are a lot more hidden messages throughout the plot of “The Godfather” that can be studied from a business perspective. There are eyes and ears watching all your moves. Who dares to doubt it? Just to mention two of the heavy weight members of the exclusive Dow Jones Industrial Average club: Apple and Microsoft. Apple “took” the ideas about its graphical interface and the use of the mouse from Xerox in order to develop the Macintosh and an old plunderer known as Bill Gates stole it also from Apple to create his Windows Operating System¹. In fact, we can conclude that the competition does not sleep, not even a second…

 

  1. Apple and Microsoft eased their issues with all the parties involved and/or affected. With this example we just illustrate what we previously said about those who can see a masterpiece in a rock and those that won’t see beyond the rock.

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