Business secrets of the Mafia, Part 2

Michael Franzese was a capo in the Colombo crime family in New York, running rackets that earned millions of dollars a week.

In 1986, he was 18th on Fortune Magazine’s list of Top 50 Biggest Mafia Bosses.


But after he fell in love with a faith-filled woman, he decided to quit the mob and turned himself in. Released from prison in 1995, Franzese now speaks to various audiences around the world.

Just last August, he lectured in Singapore.


Franzese talks not just about faith and redemption, but also practical business strategies we can all learn from.

“Mob executives possess…a street sense that isn’t taught in the classrooms at Harvard or Wharton,” says Franzese in his book “I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse.” “They’re acquired through living a lifestyle where almost every day presents a challenge just to survive, where every friend is your potential enemy, where a board meeting just might prove to be your last.”

CAVEAT: “Play it straight and legal,” says Franzese. The business strategies outlined here can help us in LEGITIMATE businesses. Franzese went to prison for a decade for his dubious activities.

Last week, we discussed Franzese’s first two strategies: Work hard and focus. Choose employees and advisers wisely. Let us look at four more tips from the Mafia.

Listen and think

“Your words can be a greater weapon against you than a gun or a knife,” says Franzese. “Know when to keep your mouth shut.”

Why is listening more important than talking? “It conditions you to gather information before acting or making a decision that will impact your business. Your instincts will be much sharper when they are nourished with information and honed to a fine point through experience.”


“If you want to gain an advantage in life and achieve meaningful success in business, remember to look before you leap, learn before you speak, and never put your mouth before your brain.”

Conduct sit-downs, not meetings

A sit-down is the Mafia version of corporate negotiation and bargaining, where aims are clear and people are ready to bargain. Contrast this with the usual corporate meeting, where “the supposed agenda is never made clear, different voices are clamoring for attention, ideas get rerouted to pointless conversations, and when talking heads try to make themselves look important.”

These things never happen at a mob sit-down. Everyone knows the aims and agenda, and few words are wasted. People come prepared; if not, they suffer consequences.

“Know your position and be prepared to capably present and defend it with materials and evidence. Know the temperament of the people with whom you are meeting. Are they fair or treacherous, even-tempered or bloodthirsty? Adapt your negotiation tactics to the situation. Do your homework. Find out who is on the board of executives, how much revenue they pulled in, why their stocks went down.”

Keep your cool

“At a sit-down, disrespect of any kind is not tolerated,” says Franzese. “Voices are rarely raised, and insults are never hurled, regardless of how serious the issue at hand might be. This policy ensures that business remains business and doesn’t get personal.”

In usual business meetings, matters do not get resolved when discussions get heated. But in mob sit-downs, personal differences cannot stand in the way. People stay focused and always come to a resolution.

Avoid gambling

“As a mobster enriching himself on the habits of gamblers, I helped destroy several businesses,” says Franzese. “I watched as owners lost restaurants, athletes shaved points in games, bankers passed bad checks, casino managers embezzled money, and cops looted drugs from the evidence room—all to feed their addiction.”

Franzese is well-versed in the writings of the Italian philosopher Machiavelli, who thought that gambling was such a huge danger that he advised rulers to use it as a weapon against enemies. “A ruler should encourage gambling among his enemies, and put it down by military force at home.”

An FBI agent once told Franzese that baseball is no longer America’s pastime—gambling is the new hobby. Upon the request of the US government and sports companies, Franzese often speaks about the perils of gambling in front of players, referees and managers.

“Gambling has claimed more victims and victories for the mob than any other weapon in its arsenal,” says Franzese. “A gambling issue, whether our own, your partner’s, your employee’s, can impact your business and your life in a big way. Online gambling drains a business’ resources. Install software to block gambling sites. Be on the alert and watch [employees] closely.”

(To be concluded next week)


(Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the board of directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center. Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press (e-mail [email protected]) E-mail the author at [email protected])

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TAGS: All in the Family, Business, family business, Mafia, Michael Franzese
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