Lessons in Business, Life, and Being a Man from The Godfather films* that don’t include “Never takes sides against the family.”


⦁    Sincere favors and a “good” reputation are priceless and go a loooong way

From his meager beginnings as a young businessman, Vito Corleone (nee Andolini,) knew that everyone has something they want, and everybody has a price, monetary or not.   When Young Man Vito asks Signor Roberto to allow a friend’s mother to stay in her flat after being evicted, Don Roberto is apoplectic and initially refuses to grant the favor, which included a six-month advance on the woman’s rent on her behalf.  (Don) Vito Corleone, while remaining completely calm and genial, politely advises Signor Roberto to ask around the neighborhood about him and inquire about his reputation.

The next morning, hat literally in hand, Signor Roberto visits Corleone at his office, apologizing profusely for his behavior, offers a $10 reduction in the rent, and even returns the money to Corleone that was previously offered as a bribe to change Don Roberto’s mind.
The  Takeaways:  1) Let others be your mouthpiece and your biggest cheerleaders.  You don’t have to brag  about yourself if you have a reputation for getting things done and being respectable, and 2) Never be in someone’s pocket.

⦁    It isn’t worth the money if the business is too dirty

The Corleone family’s official business was in the import and sale of olive oil (Art Van DeLay would be so proud,) but the real strength behind the power was in organized crime, and by extension, politics.  Still, with their involvement in already immoral, unethical, and illegal activity, Don Vito refused to get involved into a highly lucrative heroin distribution operation, citing that drugs are a “dirty business.”  Though Don Corleone did not pass judgement on those who engage in such a trade, he knew that to involve himself in the business would not only lower his status as a businessman, but also open himself and his family to more violence, something of which the Corleone family didn’t need any more.

The Takeaway:  All the money in the world can’t make a disreputable living reputable, so if the work is intolerable, the money won’t make it any better.

⦁    “Never get between a man and woman”

Instructed by Don Vito to his eldest, Sonny, stating that he should not involve himself in a husband and wife’s public argument on a private matter.  This is not solely applicable to married couples, even though this move by the couple is  in extremely poor taste and makes for a very uncomfortable experience.

The Takeaways:  Never involve yourself in a squabble between people that do not involve you, even if they choose to do so in the middle of an important meeting.  That’s their faux pas.  Don’t make it your problem.

⦁    Respect begets respect, and Disrespect Begets a Horse’s Head

Don Vito was always respectful and genial with the people with whom he associated, even when that courtesy wasn’t returned (as with the aforementioned Signor Roberto.)  Later, when a film producer disrespected and berated Corleone mericlessly, Don Vito had the producer’s prized horse beheaded, and the rest is one of the most famous scense in film history.

The Takeaway:  Don’t lower yourself to someone’s level, even when they deserve it.  Simply smile (which will infuriate them–thank you Sun Tzu,) then respond in kind.  Equinicide not advised or necessary.

⦁    The best revenge is massive success…and also bumping off the guy who murdered your mother

Young Vito Andolini had to flee from his Sicilian village of Corleone for his life after seeing his mother killed before his very eyes by the ruthless Don Ciccio.  When he arrived at Ellis Island, “Vito Andolini di Corleone” became Vito Corleone, American citizen.  He eventually builds himself into the patriarch and success that we have come to revere, later avenging his mother’s death and killing Don Ciccio himself when he returns to Sicily as an adult.

The Takeaway:  Nothing angers your rivals more or is more satisfying than you attaining massive success.  Also:  don’t murder people.

⦁    Listen & act like Michael, Fight like Sonny

The youngest of the Corleone boys was, in many ways, his father’s favorite.  A hero of World War II, Michael eventually succeeds his father as capo upon the death of his father, ahead of his older brothers Sonny, a hothead given to fits of rage and having a keen sense of opening his mouth at the most inopportune times, and Fredo, the bumbling ne’er-do-well who eventually breaks the Unforgivable Sin.

The Takeaway:  Listen more than you speak, only fight when it’s absolutely necessary, and never be disloyal.

⦁    “We do not discuss business at the table”

Dinnertime is dinnertime.  A time when the family or friends gather to catch up on each others’ lives.  Dinnertime comes in many forms:  Holiday meals, Sunday dinners, drinks with friends, playing golf, watching a soccer match, or doing a Netflix marathon of It’s Always Sunny –it doesn’t have to mean sitting at the table with three generations of blood relatives.

The Takeaway:  Business is business and personal time is personal time, which is necessary to maintain sanity and maintain the balance of a hectic work life.  Don’t cheapen one by involving the other, or personal time will cease to be. 

⦁    Dress To Kill

No.  You do not need to wear a three-piece twenty-four hours a day.  Nor do you have to have a pocket watch, pocket square, Rolex Submariner, or $750 pair of Bruno Magli shoes.  But you won’t see too many (if any) scenes where a member of the Corleones had a hair or stitch out of place.  Even if the were in the middle of committing heinous crimes, they looked like thirty-seven million dollars.

The Takeaway:  Even if you don’t have a Saville Row tailor on speed dial, ALWAYS look as good as the activity, weather, and social environment dictate or allow.  Being stylish isn’t about wearing a westcoat and top hat everywhere you go, but about showing that you pay attention to the details and that you have pride in your appearance, which ABSOLUTELY matters.  No one ever took points off for someone dressing a notch nicer than they should.

*Manner is based in Jacksonville, Florida and its editors are huge fans of two-thirds of the Godfather trilogy.