While we don’t suggest sending fishes as threats or putting severed horse heads on your competitors’ beds, there are a lot of insights in business that you could pick up while watching Francis Ford Coppola’s classic film The Godfather.
The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the best movies of all time. We even featured the movie in our must-watch movie list for small business entrepreneurs. And it would always be up there in lists of top movies for a reason.
There are a lot of life lessons to learn from the movie and it merits dozens of rewatches just to catch them all. But for us entrepreneurs, the similarity is uncanny. The experience of Michael succeeding his father as the Don for the Corleone family is very much similar to startups grasping concepts and learning the ropes of starting a business for the first time.
Here are five of the most memorable quotes from the film and the business insight I got from them:
“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Fun fact: this line wasn’t in the script. In this scene, Rocco Lampone has just murdered Paulie Gatto for conspiring with the Tataglia family. Clemenza’s actor, drawing from an earlier scene where his wife asks for Italian dessert cannoli, improvised the now famous line.
My take on the quote is to know your priorities. As entrepreneurs, we often would wear a lot of different hats and it could be hard to juggle diverse tasks. More often than not, all of our resources, financial or otherwise, are limited. Knowing which aspect of business to focus on is a skill that a lot of us may not have mastered as Clemenza does, but do know which are guns and which ones are cannolis.
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
Regardless of how violent the Corleone Family was presented in the film, there is no doubt that loyalty to the family is quite important in the whole Mafia culture. All actions by Don Corleone takes into consideration the best interests of his family. He even asks those who come to him for favors, in this case is his godson Johnny Fontane, if they spends time with their families before granting them favors.
Startups would often fall prey into workaholism just searching for that big opportunity. They spend hundreds of hours in one week just working and working. Modern society awards those who sacrifice their personal lives to get a clean work record after all. Granted, work-life balance may not entirely be achievable. But that extreme workaholism is just plain dumb.
Spending time with your family allows you to build relationships and a better perspective in business. Taking a step-back from all those campaigns and financial reports could give you a fresh view and direction on your next business move. And your family would love you more. That despite all of your hectic schedule, you find time to be with them.
“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
Santino “Sonny” Corleone is known for his quick temper. He reacts impulsively and emotionally, roughing up a photographer and nearly killing his brother-in-law, eventually leading to his demise.
Business involves a lot of decision-making and more often than not, an emotional decision is a bad decision. I’m not saying you stop being personal in your business because, frankly, business is personal and relationship building is quite important in both the mafia world and in the business world. But knowing how to compartmentalize the personal aspect and the business aspect in the workplace is key to successfully leading a business.
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
This one is straightforward and quite useful in negotiations. When negotiating deals, don’t waste your time and the other party’s time. Go straight to the point and tell them what’s in it for them. Make your offer compelling enough to get the other party’s attention.
However, I advise against putting a gun behind the other party’s head to get a positive response. That might get you some serious jail time.
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
Follow you business partners, but also check out what your competitors are doing as well. Business is a race to meet the demands of your consumers better than your competitors.
Competitor analysis is important in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your rivals, and exploiting them to your advantage. Play the business chess game. Learn from your competitors moves and adjust accordingly. It can be surprising how much you can know by taking a different perspective and analyzing their approach.
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Think I missed a business insight from the movie? Share us your thoughts in the comments below.