The Mafia may not be the first place you’d turn to for tips on getting ahead in business, but former wiseguy-turned-author Louis Ferrante has news for you: Mobsters—at least the ones who haven’t been riddled with bullets or thrown in prison—have a proven track record of success worthy of emulation.
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Ferrante grew up in and around the mob, and although he long ago denounced its criminality and violence, he still believes that La Cosa Nostra (this thing of ours) represents a model of ethical business practice that often outshines modern-day corporate America. In his second book, Mob Rules: What the Mafia Can Teach the Legitimate Businessman, Ferrante offers up a variety of provocative observations that, applied correctly, may not only help you survive big business, but thrive there as well.
Below, a sampling of few of the author’s more provocative tips:
“The criminal means by which mobsters acquire wealth is wrong, but their aggressive spirit is right.”
“Unlike a member of the Mafia, who must follow orders or be killed, as an employee of a company, you can say no to an unethical demand or assignment. You don’t have to deny treatment to an ill person who has no health insurance. You don’t have to pick up the phone and harass an old woman drowning in credit card debt. You can say no. ‘No’ is such a powerful world that Gandhi, a small man dressed in rags, brought the mighty British Empire to its knees by saying it.”
“For all its savage brutality, the Mob has a sense of values. In fact, looking back, I have to credit the mafia for some of my better attributes. The list of what I learned is long: be straightforward, don’t give your word unless you can keep it, paying debts is just as important as collecting them, respect people’s homes, don’t hold a grudge.”
“If dedication to a set of values, however twisted, produces success in a criminal society like the mafia, how much further will genuine values propel you and your company in the straight world?”
“Have compassion for the have-nots. Giving comes back around tenfold, and protects us from evil, like garlic.”
“As part of a major corporation or business, keep in mind you have the ability to do far more good in one day than the Mafia can ever do. And far more evil.”
“Mobsters love the ponies, but they know the odds of losing at the track are far greater than those of winning. Getting involved in office politics is like betting the ponies—odds are you’ll lose. The guy who stays ahead is the guy who watches the races but doesn’t bet.”
“It’s tough to admit you’ve made a mistake, but denial is for dummies. Don’t worry about your ego, you’ll get over it. If Capone did, you can. Admitting you’re wrong, even to yourself, is the single most important step toward personal growth.”
“I hired and fired seven lawyers, including the famed civil rights attorney William Kunstler, before I realized that a lawyer will never care as much about my life as I do. I decided to represent myself and soon discovered I could be just a sharp as any attorney; I reversed a federal case my attorney had claimed was impossible to reverse. Count on yourself and you’ll never be counted out.”
“Running an empire, a Mafia family, or a business is like driving a car. You’ve got to know when to hit the gas, and when to brake.”
(Ed note: Quotes from galley may differ from finished book.)