I love mobster movies (and TV shows). The Godfather, Goodfellas, Boardwalk Empire… Mob movies give a glimpse into a world that many of us do not encounter.
I think one of the things that we like about mob movies is that the backstory is often the same, and it’s something that resonates with us: Someone who started out with nothing (impoverished, recently immigrated, etc.) rises to new heights to become a kingpin.
Of course, I definitely do not endorse how they got there — like scheduling assassinations while their child is being baptized…
But there is a lesson we can learn about mobsters… usually from the period in their life just before they really hit the bigtime.
Many mobster movies show the soon-to-be-godfather visiting various local establishments, shaking hands, kissing babies, getting to know the locals. They get their hair cut at the barber shop; they buy pasta at the local restaurant.
Before he traded favors on his daughter’s wedding day, we know that Don Corleone “walked a beat” and made friends with people who would later help him.
Before he built an empire, we know that Nucky Thompson walked up and down the Boardwalk and made friends with people.
These local kingpins built relationships and reputations with the people around them. They didn’t just pop in and ask to put a business card on the person’s bulletin board. They went in and bought from the shopkeeper, asked them how business was, offered to help in any way they could, and then delivered more than was expected.
If you run a local business — a restaurant or coffee shop, a barber shop or salon, an accounting firm or chiropractic office, or whatever — if you serve a local market then this lesson is for you. Get out of your office and become the godfather of your local area. Meet other shop owners and don’t just promote your business… promote THEIR business. Ask them about their business. Learn about who they serve. Find out what problems they have (and do what you can solve their problems… without killing people, of course). Make your face known in the community. Become the go-to guy (or girl) who solves problems (even if it’s slightly outside of the expertise you get paid for). Make connections. Build bridges between other people (we call these referrals in the business world but everyone else just considers them to be friendly introductions). Show up at local sporting events. Support local schools. Advertise in the local papers.
… Saturate the neighborhood with YOU (not your business). That’s what Don Corleone and Nucky Thompson did to climb the ladder.
I promise you: The competition is NOT doing this. They are spending money on advertising beyond the borders of the community and they are forced to discount their prices to try and attract people.
The result will surprise you.
People will buy from you… not because you are necessarily the greatest at what you do or because you had the cleverest advertising but because they know you and trust you and believe that you have their best interests at heart.