• Entrepreneur of the Month

What Can the Mafia Teach You?

NOVEMBER 2013: WISDOM FROM A WISE GUY

By Hope Katz Gibbs, Publisher
Be Inkandescent magazine
Photo by Jerry Bauer

Who says crime doesn’t pay? Not Louis Ferrante, an associate of the Gambino family, who by age 21 had netted millions for his employers.

“My natural talent for management led Mafia bosses to rely on me,” explains the man who went on to pay a big price for the crimes he committed—more than eight years in prison.

While in prison, Ferrante realized there was more to life than what he knew, and he decided to go straight. He also realized that the Mob’s most valuable business lessons would allow him to survive—and thrive—in the real world. He was right.

In the years since, he’s written two books. “Unlocked” is a memoir of his criminal life and his time in prison. His most recent book is the 2011 bestseller, “Mob Rules: What the Mafia Can Teach the Legitimate Businessman.”

It has been translated into 15 languages and read by millions around the world. And his work has landed him a TV show, “Inside the Gangsters’ Code,” which is currently airing in 217 countries on Discovery Network International. The show—along with several others that Ferrante is developing—will air on TV networks in the United States in 2014.

Talk about a turnaround. What made the former heist expert change his ways—and want to share the lessons he’s learned with entrepreneurs?

Click here to read our Q&A with Ferrante. And click here to listen to our podcast interview.

But first, scroll down to glean insights from Ferrante’s top lessons, including why it’s important to be a pizza egg roll.

Lessons for a Soldier (Employee)

Turn Garbage Into Gold—Learn to Sniff Out Opportunity

Mob Rules: “Business-minded mobsters aren’t wild and reckless. They prefer the shadows and dress like Mister Rogers. But they’re street smart and know how to give people what they want. It’s a different side of mobsters, one we’re not used to seeing, and they’re quite happy not to be seen. They’re sated with money, power, and success; who needs notoriety?”

Ferrante’s take-away for legitimate businessmen: Look around your current business for areas of untapped profits—jobs others turn their noses up at, markets people don’t bother trying to appeal to; there’s opportunity everywhere.

For example: If the Mafia had been in ancient Egypt, they would have supplied the stone for the pyramids, unionized the slave labor, put up a sausage and pepper stand, and turned the Sphinx into a casino. They also would have robbed the gold from the pharaoh’s tombs; Napoleon later did.

Lessons for a Capo (Middle Manager)

Toss the Dice High—Deal with Unreasonable Ultimatums

Mob Rules: When John Gotti was a capo, his brother, Gene, and close friend, Angelo Ruggiero, were members of his crew. The authorities recorded tapes of Angelo making drug deals, and the tapes also implicated Gene. Copies of the tapes were given to Gene and Angelo as evidence in their upcoming trial. Gambino boss Paul Castellano demanded Gotti get the tapes so he could pass judgment. Gotti was faced with an unreasonable ultimatum: deny his boss’ request and die for his disobedience, or hand over the tapes, which would lead to the murders of his brother and friend. What would you do?

Ferrante’s take-away for legitimate businessmen: Gotti took a page from Caesar’s playbook and executed the hit of the century—he killed the boss and underboss in a hail of gunfire, thus decapitating the Gambino family in one night. None of us likes to take such big gambles with our livelihoods, but sometimes your only real option is to toss the dice high and see where they land.

Keep this in mind: If you are a good person, the loss of your job usually means a better one awaits. If you’re a person with little faith in destiny, this may seem outrageous. I assure you, everyone has a destiny. Don’t let cowardice interfere with yours.

Lessons for a Don (the Boss)

Don’t Build Yankee Stadium, Just Supply the Concrete—Spot New Rackets

Mob Rules: Yesterday’s Mafia wore pinstriped suits and fedoras. Today’s Mafia can be seen wearing T-shirts and Levis. Considering the original business approach of Levi Strauss, founder of Levi Strauss & Company, his blue jeans are an apt metaphor for the Mafia’s methods because he could spot a real nugget. But Strauss never sought the glitter of gold. Smart mobsters use the same principle. They may not get a big contract to build Yankee Stadium, but they set themselves up to supply a million ancillary needs.

Ferrante’s take-away for legitimate businessmen: Think about Yankee Stadium for a few minutes and let your mind open up to the profit possibilities. Sod. Dirt. Plastic seats. Electronic boards. Flagpoles. This list is long, and we’re just getting started. And, construction can take years.

The bottom line: Like Levi Strass, the Mafia can spot gold that doesn’t glitter. Today the Mafia operates worldwide in more than 40 countries. Levi Strauss & Company still sells blue jeans, now in more than 60 countries. Essentially, he’s outdone the Mob 3 to 2.

Don’t stop now! Be sure to read our Q&A with Louis Ferrante here. And listen to it on the Inkandescent Radio Network.

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