LMSM 18 | The Godfather


“Fredo, you’re my brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.”

~Michael Corleone


This is the climactic conclusion of our leadership series on the most famous crime family in cinematic history. We bring this trilogy home in style, all the way up to Michael’s big finish during the baptism.

In this episode:

  • The cold truth about getting a new manager
  • Only fools (like Moe Greene) get emotional when negotiating
  • Has your mentor been through enough battles to be your “Consigliere?”
  • The one time a manager won’t ever give you a second chance
  • It is easy to let power go to your head
  • All new leaders want to put their personal stamp on a business

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

Business Lessons From “The Godfather” (Part 3 of 3)

You’ve tuned in to part three of Business Lessons from The Godfather. If you’ve not read episode 1 and episode 2 of this series, we recommend that you go start over from there. If not, go crazy. If you’re new to this show, hit that subscribe button. If you’re our returning followers, thank you so much for supporting us. Without further ado, part three of the Frank and Ian Godfather Trilogy.

Sonny goes and gets himself killed. He gets shot 1,000 times. The Don is recovering from getting shot a lot himself. The Godfather is not in the greatest shape but there’s a very powerful scene where he comes down the steps and his number two, Tom, his consigliere, is having a drink. No one’s talked to the Don about what’s happened yet. He doesn’t know that Sonny is dead. He taps him on the shoulder and says, “My wife is crying. There are cars coming and going from the house. You’re having a drink. It’s about time you should tell your Don what everyone else seems to know.” Hiding information in business and Tom was going to have to tell him at some point. He was trying to get the courage up, but a lot of times something goes wrong in business.

As a manager or someone new to something, you want to hide it. You want to try to mask it until you can fix it. You hire a manager and they turn out to be a maniac and they’re terrible, or you make a decision to spend a bunch of money in marketing and it turns out to flop. It does nothing for your sales and it blows your budget. There’s a tendency to hide from it and not want to talk about it and hope that you can fix it before your boss finds out or someone else sees it. The fallacy in that is that your boss doesn’t already know a good bit about it. When people tried to hide things from me, I normally already knew enough about it. It was rare that they were hiding something that I didn’t know something about by the time they talked to me. The longer they waited to tell me, the more irritated I grew. It was almost insulting.

You normally can see it in the numbers turning up. You can see it in objective things but you’re also assuming that I don’t have other sources than you to tell me, that I don’t talk to people under you. Part of the reason why I always tried to keep as many relationships as I could on the front lines is, they told me things. I got information from people on the front of how they perceived things were going. As a general statement, this scene was powerful for me because I’ve seen many people try to hide things and assume the boss didn’t know what was going on and they did. The Don handles it well where he says, “You’ve had your drink. Now tell your Don what he needs to know. I’m ready.”

You and I were talking about this. I had a meeting with some counterparts of mine from the Collective Genius. We’re looking to do a new business and we were trying to bring someone in to run that segment of the business. It was being reported back to me that the conversation hadn’t gone well. I was like, “He’s out.” The conversation was like, “Why? He called you?” “No. I’ve been doing this for three decades. He’s out. He’s given us the wrong moves. You can tell he’s out.”

You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. Sometimes it’s best to own up to it and talk it through. If you don’t, you’re going to get called out because the superior is going to know what it is. They’re going to sniff it out so fast. It’s like if you make a mistake, own up to it. The quicker you do, the better off it’s going to be for you. The whole reason for that is it’s going to fester and it’s going to get worse if it doesn’t get brought up. I want to go in a different direction with this. You and I have talked multiple times about the sunk cost fallacy. Do you want to explain it quickly?

Sunk cost fallacy is the mental fallacy in your mind that I’ve spent money on this, so I have to keep driving forward. The simplest thing I can think about is when you’re in a restaurant and you think you’re hungrier than you are. You order way too much food but you’ve spent money on it, so you shove it down your throat and you finish all of it anyway, even though that’s not healthy and it’s not even serving you, whatsoever. That’s an example of the sunk cost fallacy. A lot of times in a career, it’s more about, “I’ve spent three years learning this company and becoming an expert. I don’t want to leave. I should stay to get some value out of it.” Even though it’s probably time for you to leave, you stick around longer because you’ve sunk cost into staying there.

What the Don does after learning that his oldest son has been murdered is the opposite of what most people do. Most people hunker down and make the fight worse because they follow the sunken cost fallacy of, “I’ve got to exact revenge. I’ve got to do something.” As soon as Tom Hagen tells him, “Your son had been murdered,” the first thing he goes to is, “Enough. We are bloody. We are murdered. We are being decimated financially. We’re going through all of this horseshit. I’ve lost basically three of my sons. One in Sicily, one in Vegas and one is dead.” That’s what leadership is. In this very moment, he says, “Peace will set us free.” He stops all the crap. He is emotional, pushes away from the emotion and decides, “I will broker a trade that will end this war.” He’s got the biggest bargaining chip. He lost his son. His son is literally still warm with bullets in him. His wife doesn’t even know he’s dead yet. The first thing he goes to is, “Let’s get the peace.” That’s what leadership is. Leadership is let’s get to the conclusion fastest.

Leadership is about getting to the conclusion the fastest. Click To Tweet

Don’t keep pushing something because you’re already bought in on it. Don’t keep going along with a process that is already broken because the process is broken. They already retaliated when he got shot up. That’s what Sonny did. Sonny went and retaliated, killed a bunch of Tattaglia’s guys and all that brought was more pain to the family. “Why don’t we quit this direction and start somewhere new?” That’s awesome that you tied that to sunk cost fallacy because I’ve been a sucker for this over and over in my life. There’s a lot of ego tied up in it. The Don didn’t have an ego. Sonny did have an ego, so he would keep pushing a broken agenda, even though he knew it wasn’t working. He doubles down on it because I’ve already spent so much on it, but if it’s not working, it’s not working. Just go a different direction.

That’s the sunken cost fallacy. I ordered 100 wings. I’ve eaten eight but I’ll eat the last 92 because, damn it, I ordered them. Sonny is going to keep fighting where the Don is like, “It’s over. It’s enough,” but that’s what leadership is.

Think about Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett says if he buys a stock and he got it wrong, get out. If I bought $100,000 worth of a stock and it dropped to $75,000 and I thought the company sucked, whether I lost $25,000 or not is immaterial if it could go to $50,000. Don’t lose another $25,000. Don’t stack more bad decisions onto the first decision because you sunk money into it. Call it quits and find a winner to invest in.

March of 2020 Coronavirus hits. About May, it turns out that Buffett sold all of his airline stock at a massive loss. The reason was two months in, he realized airline travel is fundamentally altered for a significant period of time. I would rather take a short-term loss than a grueling long-term loss with who knows what the bottom is. Right now, in a favorable tax environment, it makes more sense to sell it, take the loss and let that be something that helps me propel forward. The quicker you can admit defeat, the faster you get around the corner to something better. When you looked at it, you’re like, “I either go to the mattresses or I figure out how to be strategic and smart with these new people coming into my business.” What I do is I get strategic very fast. It was like, “We can go get drunk with our buddies or we can go be strategic.” It was a moment like right there. That’s where those decisions are made and lost in a lot of instances.

Go to the mattresses fits in a little bit when there’s a change of control. There’s also a change of control when Michael comes back from Sicily and he becomes the new head of the family. Everyone is going through discomfort. Clemenza is saying, “What do we do?” They’re trying to go to the Don. When the two captains are trying to go to the Don to say, “We don’t agree with Michael,” and the Don says, “I’m not in charge. Michael is in charge. If you respect me, you’ll respect Michael.” He has to keep pushing them back. In that scene where Michael is making move after move, he fires Tom, who is like a brother to him and a longtime consigliere. He’s very cold about it.

In the book, there are a lot of reasons why they need Tom out because they’re trying to protect him. They don’t want him to get killed. In that situation, the previous boss is still around. There’s a new boss in place and this could happen to you anytime in your career. You work for a great manager. He’s amazing. He gets promoted to a bigger position. A new manager comes in. The new manager is going to do what the new manager wants to do. It could mean you’re out. It could mean you don’t have the same clout that you have before, but it works the same way. In this scene, the Don comes over, talks to Tom, who’s been fired. He’s out and in a very cold fashion, in a public fashion. The Don puts his arm around him and he tries to comfort Tom.

He says, “You’re great. You were an amazing consigliere. My son was a bad Don. You were not a bad consigliere. This is a change that Michael is making and you still have an important role.” Michael is like, “Tom, you’re out. Get out.” It’s really cold and is exactly how it happens often when a manager is hired from outside the company into your company. The people who brought the new management in may still be warm and friendly with you but you, better find a way to work with the new manager because they’re in control now. Not working for that new manager only insults your previous manager that brought them in. The Don keeps saying, “If you guys love me, you’re going to respect Michael.” It’s the same way in business.

LMSM 18 | The Godfather

The Godfather: Don’t stack more bad decisions onto the first one.


An example of this is most people always look for new. They don’t look behind you to see what has happened already. People in business are not nostalgic. Your mother is nostalgic. People in business are all about what’s in front of us and who’s going to get us there. A lot of the shit that happens that’s new in business has often already been done, but it was by an older voice that is being replaced by someone new. It’s a wave that pushes forward. If you’re not on the wave, the wave is going to wipe your ass out. I’ve seen it many times in business. You and I are both in our middle 40s now. We might have a couple of decks. We’re both in positions where we’re probably not going to get wiped out because we own businesses, but you’ve got to think about that. Where are you in the path of the wave? You need to be ahead of it because the wave is coming no matter who you are and you’ve got to be prepared for it.

This is a sidebar, but a character that Frank and I find amusing. There’s a character in the movie named Moe Greene and Moe runs Vegas operations, which is still a fledgling operation. It obviously became a much bigger operation for the Mafia but it’s still fledgling at the time. Moe Greene does everything wrong from a negotiation perspective. We laughed a little bit about it but like a lot of the other characters who show their cards way too much, it’s interesting that Moe Greene is the Vegas guy. Moe is the easiest dude to read in the entire movie. Michael is out there and Michael wants to buy out Moe Greene’s investment in the casino. They want to buy the casino out themselves. Michael states very calmly that’s what he’s here to do. He was all business and focused on it. Greene loses his mind. Moe Greene doesn’t let this sink in. It’s surprising. This is going to happen to you in your career where someone gives you information that you don’t like that is shocking, that is detrimental to your career, to you.

The way to approach it is the opposite of Moe Greene. Michael says, “We’re here to buy you out.” Moe Greene starts cursing at him and says, “Buy me out? I’ll buy you out.” Michael stays calm and listens and keeps talking. Moe keeps getting worse. Moe shows his cards. He says, “I’ve been talking to Barzini,” who is a big competitor. That would be a major piece of information that Michael wanted to get. Michael needed that information. He gives it up within about four seconds.

He also throws in a zinger of, “I was making my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders,” which isn’t anything in the negotiation but it’s funny.

It also comes back to Woltz’s downside, ego. “Do you know who I am? I’m Moe Greene.” The ego gets in the way but also the emotions, the fire, the right approach would have been Moe saying, “Why is it that you want to buy me out?” He asked no questions. All he does is argue. All he does is give information that helps Michael figure out exactly what he’s going to have to do with Moe. If Moe would’ve been smart, he would have asked why it was happening, asked a whole bunch of open-ended questions, gleaned information, not shared anything, kept his chips close, then went and called Barzini and said, “Here’s what they’re up to.” He started yelling and saying, “I’m working with Barzini.” By the end of the meeting, Michael had all the information he needed to know, which is, “I pretty much have to kill Moe Greene.”

Also, Barzini, who both get whacked at the end. He’s got to kill them both. We can go deeper into this but it’s an aside, it’s a caricature of what you don’t want to be. We talked about this. He’s all the worst things all rolled up in the Vegas strip. He’s emotional and shortsighted. He’s slapping Fredo in the face. He’s doing all of these other things that you should not be doing. When it comes down to negotiating, he’s brash and arrogant and he’s got a knife at a gunfight. Ultimately, he’s on a table getting a massage when the bullet goes through the back of his brain. It’s an interesting summation of the side you don’t want to be on in a mob movie or in business.

Michael is trying to figure out exactly what his move is going to be. He now knows that his time is limited. He knows that they’re going to come after him. He knows that the families don’t have respect and they’re going to test him.

Let’s set this up a little bit. Moe Greene, because he said Barzini, they know that Barzini wants to do the same thing Michael wants to do. He knows that Moe Greene is in bed with him. What happens is Tom gets pushed out because the old man was a better consigliere to Michael because they were going to war and they wanted to be a patriot missile strike. They did not want to go into a big war. They knew what was coming because there was a lot at stake here. Go ahead, Ian. Pick that back up.

People in business are not nostalgic. They’re all about what's in front and who's going to get them there. Click To Tweet

Michael is now talking to his father. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the Don is on his last legs. He knows he’s not terribly healthy. He’s in a place in his life where he cares more about his garden than he does about the family business. This is where it is important to have advisors that have been through some wars, have been through some recessions and have scars. At this point, the Godfather is in his 80s. He’s got 60-some years of mafia work under his belt. Michael is now in a tough situation and he would be a fool not to listen to what his father has to say.

The Godfather tells him, “They’re going to come after you. They’re going to try to set a meeting and tell you it’s safe. Whoever comes to you with this meeting is the traitor. Whoever comes to you and says they’re going to set a meeting with Barzini to have peace, it’s going to be an assassination, but whoever of your people, it’s going to be someone that you trust who is going to come to you is going to be the person who sets you up.” Ultimately, the Godfather dies. At his funeral, one of Michael’s lieutenants comes up to him and asked him if he wants to have a meeting. That little bit of intel is what helps Michael set up the big bloody three-minute ending of guns blaring and Michael taking control of everything. To me, I’ve been blessed with some very good mentors and some of my favorite mentors have been through multiple recessions.

I can remember I was a year out of college when the tech bubble blew up. I didn’t know anything. Everyone was like, “It’s a recession.” I didn’t know anything, so I didn’t care. I was selling. My job was hard before this. It’s still hard, so no big deal. I remember at NVR, when we went through the big housing downturn, how fun it was to watch Bill Inman work because he had been through the S&L crisis. He sat through all the bankruptcy meetings. He had seen entire mortgage companies come and go.

It was fascinating for me to watch someone who had been through many recessions go through. He told me everything that was going to happen in the financial crisis before it happened. There were some things he said where I was like, “No way. That’s fantasy. That’s not going to happen.” The majority of everything that happened came through and it taught me a lesson about who you listen to and the importance of experience in your mentors. If you’re going to listen to a coach, the importance of someone who’s been through some tough stuff, then you should shut up and listen to them when things are about to get hard again.

A book that won many awards is on the shelf in my office at home. Ian and I have both read it. I don’t know if it won a Pulitzer, but it’s an incredible book. It’s called This Time Is Different. The under title to it is Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Ian and I have both read this book like a business bible. What it tells you is history repeats itself over and over. The wise sage Don had been through three other wars that the book goes into much more than the movie. He knew there was a new territory to be fought for. The territory of drugs, it’s a real business, but the families wanted to avoid drugs but the casinos was the future and it was hotly contested turf.

Since it was hotly contested, there would be people inside of the business who were looking to move up that could be lured away like in regular businesses. Not only that, they would do something to show their hand and tip. That was what has included Michael in. Ian and I both love Buffett but we also love Charlie Munger because nobody delivers an incredible point with more of a cantankerous attitude than Charlie Munger. It’s because he’s got an incredibly good memory from 75 years in business because he’s seen it over and over.

The Don’s information ends up saving Michael’s life, even after the Don is dead and gone. That advice helped out. If you have a chance to have a mentor that’s been through something tough, that has been through something hard, you want to do everything to cultivate that relationship and stay as close as you can because a lot of times, you don’t know what you don’t know, especially when you’re young. You think this time it will be different. You don’t understand I’m closer to it. It’s a different market. It’s a different generation. All of that’s garbage. Things keep repeating itself. Frank, there’s a great line in the movie where they say, “Every ten years or so, this happens. We’ve got to have a war to get all the bad blood out.” That’s largely the way markets work. About every decade, there’s a recession. Every 15, 20 years, there’s a bad one, a bloody one. If things have been good too long, that’s when you should start being a little bit cautious that there’s going to be some type of a clear-out at some point.

LMSM 18 | The Godfather

The Godfather: The quicker you can admit defeat, the faster you get around the corner to something better.


One of our favorite lines is when everybody is greedy, be fearful. “When everybody is fearful, be greedy.” It’s the truth. There are a few things here that are non-sequential that I want to talk about. The fun thing is that when the trader comes in, the guy who was on the taxi and his name’s Tessio. He comes in and he goes, “Tom, can you get me off the hook for old time’s sake?” That’s not how it works. He’s trying to pull at the emotional strings. When I was young, I was optimistic. You think that Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards is going to be Michael Jordan dunking from the free-throw line. Those days were over.

As you get older, you realize that, but you want to see it. You want to see Mike Tyson knock the shit out of Spinks but that Mike Tyson is gone. What you start to realize in business is if you don’t realize that, you do get replaced. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s reality there. We talked to the analogy of the wave. There’s a new wave coming and you want to ride as many of them as you can but you also don’t want to get wiped out.

Tessio is trying to play to the heartstrings. Tessio is the one who was the traitor. He tried to sell out the Don. He went behind his back and that’s about as bad a thing as you can possibly do. I’ve had situations where you’ve had a breach of integrity. You’ve had someone sign for a customer or initial or outright lie that put the company at risk. I’ve had people use company email for some dirty, bad things. Our software caught it and it’s shocking. I’ve had to fire them.

I’ve sat in rooms with people that have worked with me for years and they’ve begged for their job. At that point, there is no sentiment. There’s black and white. Just like Tessio sold out the Don, there was no getting him off at that point. You knew where Tessio was about to end up. It’s the same in business. If you’re going to cross a line, you’re not going to be able to beg for your job no matter what kind of relationship you think you have with the person who is there to tell you you’re gone.

We’ve talked about this before. My mom is a schoolteacher and I’m raised to be someone who has a heart. In 2006, what I realized was if I didn’t fire a bunch of people, someone would come and fire me because I wouldn’t be performing. If I didn’t replace those people with better people, my job would be in jeopardy. We talked about Bill Belichick a lot. He cuts people all the time. He’s fucking ruthless. He’s always early instead of being late because in the end you’ve got to stay ahead. You have to win or your opportunity goes away.

The last thing I’ll say on Tessio and you’re the same as me, is there are a lot of things that I can look past as a manager. I can watch you perform poorly for a while. You can maybe have a bit of an attitude, a little bit too much arrogance and if you get results, I can work to coach you. You cannot be as fast as everyone else. You can be maybe a mid-level producer for a long time and there’s still value in that if you’re a good teammate. You can be someone who makes mistakes or you’re unorganized. One thing I can never, ever look past is a breach of loyalty. If you went and said something behind my back, if you tried to play politics in a way that helped you and hurt other people, if you breached my trust, if you lied to me, that’s not something that I can recover from. It’s not something that you’ll be able to recover from.

We’ve used this before on this show. It’s Warren Buffett at Salomon Brothers. If you do something where we lose an ounce of integrity, I’m going to be ruthless. For me, I’ll overlook a ton, but if it’s is morally and ethically wrong, it’s not in the gray zone, it’s wrong. It’s like you swing a hammer and you swing it fast. That’s what that was. Tessio could never, ever be trusted again, and because of that, you’re better off killing the person in the Mafia movies or firing them in your business. What ends up happening with someone like Tessio is if you give them a second chance, they hurt you worse.

What message does it send to the rest of your organization if you let Tessio stay? You’re saying, “Don’t ever breach my trust but once. I’ll give all of you one chance.” Everyone now thinks there are no ramifications if you do that. With things like integrity, it’s important. I used to say this all the time at meetings in front of people, “I want to make it clear. There are no second chances on doing the right thing. Let me define some of the things that you can never do or I will find someone to replace you with. There’s no question. You do it once and you’re gone.” When it happens, even if it’s someone you love, even if it’s someone that you care so much about and that you have a good relationship with, you have to say goodbye to them on the spot. You have to. There is no old time’s sake.

No matter who you are, you have to be prepared for the wave. You have to be ahead of it, or you’ll be wiped out. Click To Tweet

My dad has an incredible saying, “Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me.” Let’s do this. There are a couple of fun things to talk about. It doesn’t fit with any of the themes but there are a few things that are worth talking about. The Don in his garden is about to die. He says to Michael, “I spent my time trying not to be careless. Men cannot be careless.” I thought that was an incredible line. Careless can probably be substituted for a different word in a non-underworld, mob type of a world. When you hear him say that, what do you think?

I thought about my father-in-law. I thought about the burden of a business owner. People come and go in your organization and they all have ideas and they all have strong feelings about things that you should be doing to change. Money you should be spending in places, business lines you should be getting into, new markets you should be entering, people that should be coming and going. None of them have the burden that an owner has. I feel that burden every time I talk with Ted, my father-in-law. He’s got twenty-something employees and he feels very responsible to make decisions that keep all of them employed and do things well. That means he says no on a regular basis. It can frustrate people that work for him that he’s created a box that he knows works and he has to frustrate some people and not changing because he can’t be careless. He’s not such a big organization that he can spend anywhere or get into every line of work. That line made me think of Ted, my father-in-law.

Tessio and having to fire him, it comes back to that for me. If I have someone who makes moral and ethical errors, not only am I at risk if I keep them but so are the careers of all the people who’ve been trusting me as a business owner with their careers and their family’s livelihood. That is a heavy responsibility and burden. It’s one that I take a great deal of pride in executing, but I also take very seriously that these people have not just said yes to a job, they have entrusted me with their careers. That’s to me what that line is like in its most meaningful. That’s what it is. If you’re embarking upon a career and you’re going to start hiring people, you have to think of it that way. You were doing a disservice of anyone you hire if you can’t look them in the eye and say, “You are better siloing up with me.”

It’s one of the things that you and I have talked about of my employees are so much better now than they were five years ago. My business is more stable. I can pay more, I can do so many different things but that to me was a line that we couldn’t miss. That sets this movie, to me, the way it ends. I’m sure you’ve seen it. Everybody gets killed, inclusive of Connie’s husband. Michael, Connie is his sister and he kills his brother-in-law and her husband. All you can say is she’s hysterical, which my dad and I both love. It’s so fucking heartless. You become godfather to her kid. She’s got a couple of kids at this point and it’s heartless. It’s detached from reality. You realize this war hero is now a monster in the arc of a couple of hours and he’s embraced this new life, which I don’t know if there’s a business parallel but I thought that part was incredible.

There is a point that you can get to with power where we’ve talked a lot about the arc of personal and business. There is a point with power where you feel like you’re above everything and you detach yourself emotionally that you can lose part of who you are if you let power get to your head. I’ve certainly been in big executive positions where it’s easy to start buying into. Everywhere you go, everyone’s nervous and excited that the boss is in town. They want everything to be right from who picks you up at the airport to where we’re eating lunch and dinner.

Everyone’s desk is cleaned off when you get there. It is easy to buy into some of that power and to lose some of your humility and lose who you are. Ultimately, the story of The Godfather and Michael’s arc, he loses who he is as a person. He was a good person who became infatuated with power and nervous, always stressed and anxious. He loses a lot of that in the whole trilogy. That can easily happen to you in a career as well, especially if you have a career that does well and one that affords you some level of authority and power. That’s my take on that.

The morally corrupt side is inarguable. The other thing was fascinating about the way the movie ends is it’s Michael’s business now. The Don is dead. He does a bunch of shit because the Don is dead that he probably couldn’t have done or wouldn’t have done with him alive. The regime change is official. The movie’s title is The Godfather. He’s becoming a godfather. Simultaneously, he shoots and kills a cop. He shoots and kills his brother-in-law several hours after. He shoots and kills Moe Greene. He shoots and kills his rival who wants to get into the same business. That is a regime change.

LMSM 18 | The Godfather

The Godfather: When things have been good too long, you should start being a little bit cautious because there’s going to be some type of a clear-out at some point.


Although despicable actions, the thing that’s to be admired about it in the business lesson you learn is when you do a takeover, you set the table so you can win. He set the table so he could win in an ethically depraved way, but he set the table so he can win. He’s building his legacy on this new foundation and that’s how the movie ends. There are two more movies after it where that foundation gets bigger and then it eventually crumbles. The whole entire thing is framed there. My dad’s business is no longer my business. I’ve got my new foundation.

The only thing I’ll add to that’s well done is I’ve rarely taken over a business or an office and kept all of the managers as was. Normally when I’ve been asked to take over a business or an office, or consult or advise, people are not doing that because things are running well. If you want me to run it and you want it run the way I run things, I’m going to bring in my people to do it. I’m rarely taking something over where I’m not replacing a good chunk of the cohort of managers who are already there.

I’ll tell a funny aside to this. I’ll do an analogy. Most managers leave and they think their team is perfect. Most new managers come in and think the team is terrible. Have you ever either gotten your car fixed? You and I might take a car to a dealership now but when we didn’t have any money, I’d always take my car to a shitty mechanic or I take my laptop to an IT guy. What was the one thing the IT guy or the mechanic always made you think?

When you go to get your oil changed?

No matter what you do with the mechanic, the only thing I ever felt certain of is he was going to tell me the last guy that touched this car was an idiot. That was the one takeaway. “Whoever did this was a moron. I’m going to fix it, but that guy is a moron.”

Every new president does this. They blame the last guy as long as they possibly can until they get some results going their way.

If you’re ever in a position where you are a new manager, you don’t have the luxury to shoot everybody and start over. It isn’t that way. What you do is systematically in the business world or in your own business, you look at what are the pieces that were, what are the pieces that don’t and you prioritize the decision-making. You find the people who are terrible and morally and ethically wrong and get rid of them. You find the people who are decent, you put them on performance plans and you push them along. You find the people who are great and you champion them.

You can lose part of who you are if you let power get to your head. Click To Tweet

Together, you establish a new set of goals, desires and directives and you push forward. Michael’s was leaving New York and going to Las Vegas and getting into the casino business. Ian and I have started collectively 5 or 8 businesses. It’s always the same recipe. Sometimes you wish you could murder. You can’t. You clean the slate, you start over, you take what you can and pull it along. That to me is what the end of that movie looks like. That’s how it’s applicable to business.

You make it uniquely yours. At some point, you have to put your stamp on it. You don’t do it right away. Michael did it the right way. He listened. He paid attention. He was deferential to his dad for the most part. At some point, here are the changes I’m making in the organization. Here’s the new market we’re going into, here’s the attack we’re making on our competition. It’s going to work or it’s not going to work, but one thing I’m certain of, it’s going to be mine.

There’s one other thing I’ll draw a parallel and then wrap this thing up. He was deferential to his dad until his dad died. When his dad died, he’d done the work. He listened, he’d done the things. He was ready to fly the coop and the nest because he’d done all the work. The nice thing is he had an incredible person behind him to learn from. You often see people who want to go too fast. What happens in some instances is you go too fast and fail on that next job and then you get pushed back, you don’t go back to where you came from. Usually, you have to take several runs back further. Watch this with coaches. You see NFL coaches who are incredible coordinators. They become coaches and then they get fired and they don’t go back to the coordinator, the quarterback coach or offensive line coach because they went too far.

That’s the thing that Michael did well. He embraced, “I’ve got this incredible guy to learn from and I’m going to do incremental things until the time is right.” The other thing he does and it’s in The Godfather II is he kills Fredo. When he kills Fredo, his mother had died. He won’t kill his brother until his mother is gone. As soon as his dad is gone, he makes changes to go to one level. As soon as his mom is gone, these are people that he respected, he does something else. We don’t want to condone murder. It’s dominance. This domino falls. This is the move. The second big domino falls, this is the next move.

I have exhausted all of my thoughts of business on The Godfather. More than anything, I’m excited that I learned how to do a sepia background filter to make this look like the grainy Godfather filmmaking of the ‘70s. This looks like Coppola put together the episode, which is pretty exciting.

If you look at the scene where the Don dies, they’re filming it. It’s 1971 or ‘72 when they’re filming it. There’s traffic driving in and out of New York City. It’s a split second, top of the screen. You don’t catch on your 103rd viewing. What was fascinating to me and seeing that, it’s like these people are driving to work, sitting in traffic. That was a world that The Godfather did not exist. Thankfully for you and me, the Godfather existed our entire life.

We put more work into preparing for this episode than Marlon Brando did. It was probably his most famous movie and he did zero prep for it. He rolled up and read cards the whole time. We prepped a little more than Marlon did.

LMSM 18 | The Godfather

The Godfather: Most managers leave, and they think their team is perfect. Most new managers come in and think the team is terrible.


He’ll be remembered more for the role than us.

I’m looking forward to editing this one, big guy. You look dapper in that Italian suit. I hope I looked Italian enough for you.

Ian, let’s make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Let’s do it. I’ll see you.

It’s good talking to you.

Thank you for reading our trilogy on Business Lessons of The Godfather. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed making it. We had an absolute blast making this episode for everyone. If you liked it, leave us some comments and a five-star review. Let us know if you want us to do another movie series or music or anything. We’re open to new ideas. We’re a fledgling startup. All of your support means a lot to us. Thank you so much.

Important Links: