Business Principle I: The Godfather meets the Water Babies
First published 2012
Mario Puzo’s book and Cinematic hit – The Godfather – dealt with a fictional member of the Mafia – Don Corleone – head of the Corleone Crime family.
Not a good start for a Business Principle, but bear with me.
Don ran a number of ‘businesses’ to bring in the Lire, namely protection, extortion, gambling and union racketeering. All of which are extreme versions of legal enterprises and made to work by the threat of, or actual use of violence, but I am concentrating on a side to him that you see at the beginning of the book and one of the guiding principles of his operation.
The book opens with a party at the Corleone Household. The Don is in his study, receiving visitors, all with one thing in common, they need something from him. It may be a loan or a favour or some help retrieving something of theirs (say, an outstanding debt from a third party). One at a time, the Don receives them, listens to their request and either accepts or declines.
If he accepts, the request is noted and he arranges for it to be carried out. In time, of course, he expects this debt (monetary or otherwise) to be repaid with interest. This could be in a month, a year or a decade. When the Don himself needs something doing, he will check his book and find the most appropriate debtor. There will be Senators, Businessmen and women and people in high office with influence, all of whom are in his debt and all of whom know that a refusal will offend.
Now let’s move this to a somewhat more legitimate business (as well as personal life). Whilst we do do things in expectation of an immediate-ish return (all businesses, profit making or otherwise do), sometimes we do someone a favour, not expecting a return. Holding a door open, baking a cake for a poorly neighbour, giving up your seat and so on. We don’t expect reward, it’s just something that we do. Occasionally, however, this act leads on to a reciprocation some time down the line. Do enough and the chances are high that something good will happen to you at a random point later (in the forelife, not the promised, but not provable afterlife, that is)
People remember things and if you help someone in a fix, or go the extra mile without expectation you will be pleasantly surprised one day.
About a year ago, I was working in my Day Job. A Company that I was working alongside were in a fix. They had a final deadline that day and looked like blowing it, so incurring cost overruns, loss of face with their customer etc. I knew what needed to be done and for the price of a bit of food to keep me going, sorted them out with a couple of hours work. I gave them my number in case there were problems the next day but they never rang.
Until last week, when I got a call out of the blue.
They were in a fix again, had remembered me and still had my number. I was booked, this time on a commercial basis and sorted them out. It should also lead to more work – they were over the moon with what I did and are already talking about passing regular leads on to me.
In my previous blogette, I mentioned Ryanair and its approach to Customer Service. Can you imagine anyone ever rocking up to Ryanair’s check-in and saying “A friend of mine told me that you helped her out when she had a problem and she’s eternally grateful. She suggested I try you”. Me neither.
It doesn’t always work, of course. Even Don Corleone knew that some of his ‘favours’ would never be repaid – the antagonist might die, move on or just not achieve anything worthy of repayment. That was the chance he took. Those that did repay, paid him aplenty. A good friend of mine has recently been ‘stuffed’ by someone she considered (past tense) a friend. She mentored him for months, getting him started with a business idea (coming up with the idea in the first place) creating material, pushing him and generally trying to get him running his own business. He has done, but in the process has cut her off like a displeased Downton Matriarch. No ‘thanks’, no appreciation for the work put in, no invite to the launch and certainly no financial contribution towards the hundreds of hours spent. She wasn’t expecting much, if anything, in return but common courtesy would indicate an acknowledgement at the very least (Don’s recipients were very grateful, of that you can be sure). Perhaps, down the line he could have fed her some new clients for her Training Company as a ‘Thank You’ and perhaps she could have fed him some clients the other way.
It’s not going to happen. That’s life and she’ll move on. She won’t stop doing people favours without any expectations of a reciprocation. Well, maybe just one person might be exempt. We have to live with that. You can be sure that he will not be as successful with that approach than he could have been if he had acknowledged the debt he owes her (and, in all likeliness, others).
The Water Babies? Well, two of the fairies in the book by Charles Kingsley were Miss Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Miss Bedonebyasyoudid.
Be nice and do people favours, sometimes even helping out competitors at times. Trust me, you will be better off than if you didn’t.
Next time. “It’s Good to Talk”