Jun 11

The Godfather MBA

Everything you ever needed to know about business you could learn in one movie (okay 2 movies) The Godfather I and The Godfather II. In fact, the movie(s) can be thought of as a crash MBA program if you pay close enough attention. I am not condoning crime syndicates, money laundering, murder or pretty much any other crime here. What I am condoning is the hard-working grind-it-out attitude from the movie that anyone trying to launch a business absolutely must have to grow their venture.

Chianti photo by Machu via Flickr Creative Commons


You do not need anyone’s permission or any level of formal education to start a business. I say formal education because some knowledge is certainly required. There are many examples of successful entrepreneurs who learn their craft from the streets and apply this education to running the business. Little Vito Andolini arrived from Sicily with only the clothes on his back and spoke no English. Vito was named after the town he came from, Corleone, by the U.S. agents at Ellis Island. He grew up learning the ways of the streets and carried this knowledge with him until he needed to take action. He was fired from Abbandando’s Grocery store because his adopted father was forced to hire a guy by the local Mafioso. Vito was left with no food, a wife and a sick baby. He was forced to take all the knowledge he acquired from the streets and from Abbandando and strike out on his own. He launched Genco Olive Oil and grew it into the most successful olive oil importer in the country. Vito didn’t invent olive oil and there were undoubtedly many other olive oil importers, but he did it better and beat them out (I am ignoring all allegations of prohibition-era rum running here).

Real Estate Investing

Being the landlord is better than being the tenant as long as you plan on owning for the long-term as I wrote in The Death of the Starter Home. If you can stomach living in apartment building that you own as Vito did in the early years, you can bank your own rental payments or better yet put that cash towards your business.


Build a good reputation and business will come to you. Your brand IS your business. Similarly, perception IS reality. Eventually, all Vito had to do was meet with prospective business partners like The Turk which you will read about next and decide if he wanted to do business with him or not.  Spend the time to ensure your brand is of the highest quality around. Then maybe you to will carry all the politicians in your pocket like the Don. Although, I would probably steer clear of politicians in my business to keep things on the up and up!

Finance/Risk and Return

Don’t bet the farm on one high-risk project. Vito heard the proposal from The Turk and decided that getting into the drug business was too high-risk and could topple everything he has built. Always diversify your investments and your income. Starting a high-risk business is not a good idea. A low-risk business you can start part-time from your home is always preferable. It takes a long to get a business of the ground. Ensure you will have the proper cash flow to support your endeavor before you go at it full-time. Also, do your due diligence instead of taking an associate’s word for it.

Contingency Planning

Always have a contingency plan. You never know when your son will speak out of turn during a business meeting and set forth a chain of events that will get the old man shot up at the fruit stand. People fall ill. It’s part of life. Have an emergency management structure set up to avoid in-fighting with the family. Make certain that all business partners have a company life insurance policy that will pay the surviving partners enough money to buy the deceased’s estate out of his ownership interests.


Keep your friends close, but your competition closer. You should ALWAYS be shopping your competition. Your customers aredoing it and you need to view your company through their eyes. Check out their websites, stores or anything else you can. It is acceptable to perform this task under the guise of a potential business arrangement. Who knows, any contact could very well be a new business partner down the road!


Don’t become complacent, clean out the bad blood every few years. Just like the five families have to do, a company needs to be dynamic. Always review your product line, methods, operations and your people to see what/who is and is not working out as planned. Don’t be afraid to make some difficult decisions and trim the fat when the situation calls for it.

Human Resources

Sometimes an associate needs to get whacked I meant let go. This goes hand in hand with not becoming complacent through the years. In the new knowledge-based economy in which the United States is now in, your people are everything. Make sure the good ones are happy and the bad ones are not working for you for very long.

A second very good point under human resources is that you should not promote by seniority, but rather skill. Fredo Corleone was passed over by Vito for Michael – the youngest and most skilled of the brothers. Choosing Michael was a tough choice for Vito, but entrepreneurship is full of tough choices and its all on your shoulders to choose correctly. It is for this reason that you should keep a competent Consigliere by your side at all times.

Accounting and Legal

Have competent support personnel to take care of the specialized tasks. Tom Hagen was Vito’s Consigliere or legal advisor. Tom was German-Irish and not Sicilian as the Consigliere typically is. This fact should let you know just how important having good legal and accounting advisors is. You need to through convention out the window as it is of paramount importance to retain the absolute best lawyers and CPAs available for your business. You are probably not an expert an laws or accounting regulations so having great advisors will free you up to run the operations end.


Don’t become one by keeping your mouth shut when expected to. Operate with honesty and integrity in all your business affairs. See my article on the downfall of Jim Tressel for more on this.

So, now you have the quick rundown of the Godfather MBA. Now go out and get the DVDs and take diligent notes for the next 7 or 8 hours and watch these films again! You can get them here if  you would like.



Jun 11

QR Codes

Have you ever seen those black and white squares that look like some sort of hot new cryptic word game? Maybe you saw one on an ad as you flipped through a magazine or even plastered to a store front right next to the archaic www.somestore.com address? If you have seen one of these squares, you have seen the future of advertising.

Anyone with elementary marketing knowledge knows that “impressions” are the best method to quantify the reach of your ads. Over the years, an advertiser knows that X number of impressions will result in the consumer taking action. The advent of the internet has made measuring ad effectiveness tangible in cyber space. Impressions can be measured and so can actions or “clicks.” On the art vs. science sliding scale, web ads can move much more towards the “science” side than traditional media advertising. A problem still existed with print media where measuring impressions was still standard operating procedure and effective print advertising was still hugging the “art” side of our sliding scale. Enter QR code.QR (quick response) code is a two dimensional version of the familiar bar codes that you see on the box of any product you purchase. QR codes can hold much more data than traditional bar codes. QR codes are written in “open source” code, meaning that the people that developed this technology essentially gave it to the world to create, use and enjoy all for free. You can web search for “QR code generator” and create your own codes for free. I went from not knowing anything to creating the code above for wealthsavant.com in literally 3 seconds at this site. I even tested out to make sure it pointed to my website because it was so easy!

The end user will have to have a QR code reader application downloaded in their phone to experience the QR code. The QR reader views the code through the phone’s camera and then takes off to fetch whatever the code instructed it to grab. With the accelerated adoption of smart phones, QR codes can turn “brand impressions into an interactive exchange in under 10 seconds,” says Patrick Donnelly, Founder and CEO of QR Arts, a strategic branding consulting firm.

I first met Patrick in graduate school as we were both earning our MBAs from The George Washington University School of Business. Patrick’s creative spin always stood out from the rest of the group so it should be of no surprise that his custom QR codes stand out from your typical black and white codes as well.

QR Arts takes the auto-generated QR code from a generator and adds artistic design as suitable for hanging in the Louvre as it is for what it actually is – practical heavy-hitting marketing tool. If you look at a piece of print media in a magazine you will most likely enjoy what you are looking at. The size, shape, font, colors, contrasts, photos are as much a part of the ad as the message written. Companies pay big bucks to graphic designers to create these ads. It is not a stretch then to imagine why they would also pay a company like QR Arts to come in and make their QR code as pleasing to look at as the rest of the ad. Patrick has made the media rounds discussing his innovative approch to QR. See him on CNN here. I’ve included a couple of my favorite QR Arts designs a the bottom of this post.

Donnelly is noticeably excited when describing the possibilities for all businesses when employing this new technology. “How can you afford to not have your calls to action enabled for interactivity and metrics,” the mobile engagement strategist said. He is right. For the first time, an advertiser’s print ads can be mathematically logged, counted and entered into a data analysis program. The resulting output can be used to better target print ads and move the practice towards the “science” side of that previously mentioned continuum. Ultimately, producing results and a better ROI on your company’s advertising dollars.

A practical application for QR codes may be to have one created for your business card detailing all of your contact information. A client can scan and load all of your information into their smart phone without having to navigate and type everything. A user can download a video of your company or product directly from your print ad in less than 10 seconds – effectively bringing your print advertising to life immediately. A customer can be enjoying your product at a restaurant or shopping at a grocery store and scan your QR code to see a commercial for your product instantly. I can see realtors using QR codes at empty houses that are for sale instead of those paper flyers that usually end up on the ground and blowing around the neighborhood.

The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the advertiser or entrepreneur. QR codes are a technology that every company should be leveraging and using as creatively as they can. Download the reader to your smartphone and head out looking for the little squares. If you have your own company, you need to be employing this technology and doing it now. When you are ready for the next level with your print ads, you need to contact Patrick Donnelly at QR Arts and have him put some style into your ads!  Patrick can be followed through his Twitter feed at @qrarts or through his website: qrarts.com.

From the portfolio of QR Arts:

QR Arts creation

Majic Hat QR Code Designed by QR Arts


Jun 11

Jim Tressel’s Fall – Integrity, Rules and the Gray Area

I am not sure what is more devastating, the potential sanctions and associated pain to come for my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes or having to read all the bashing of Jim Tressel’s integrity. I am actually leaning toward the latter. A football program can be rebuilt, but a man’s integrity sticks with him forever.

Tressel resigned as head football coach at The Ohio State University after allegations of a cover-up surfaced regarding a memorabilia-for-tattoo scandal was made public in December 2010. Tressel found out about the deals in April 2010 and failed to report the infractions to the NCAA as is the required according to NCAA rules. Tressel said he did not report the allegations because the informant, a Columbus lawyer, told him there was a federal drug investigation and he wasn’t supposed to say anything to avoid interfering with it. Tressel also claimed he was ignorant of what players were doing and who they associated with outside of his program. Moreover, details of a career-long pattern of bending NCAA rules has been made public and tarnished the coaches reputation.

 Jim Tressel photo by Erik Thureson via ookaboo Creative Commons

Tressel made his bones in coaching by being “the man of integrity.” With trademark sweater vest and his politically correct answers to tough questions, he gained the nickname of “Senator.” Just like United States Senators, who start out wanting to save the world, many get caught up in the moment and their integrity takes a hit with a bad decision in a perceived private moment. These perceived private moments have been the downfall of many men. The shock is that if you could pick any coach at any level and say “yes, with 100% assurance, this guy will make the right decision when he believes no one will find out,” most people would’ve picked Tressel. I would still pick Tressel.

A man’s personal core values, whether he has identified them or not,  are universal truths that he uses as a yardstick for decision-making and lives his day-to-day by. Similar to the phrase “a leopard doesn’t change his spots”, personal core values do not change. The sooner you sit down to identify your’s the quicker you will be in-tune with the universe around you and begin to make decisions that are right for the real you and not the you you think you are. Often a person’s environment may dictate his decisions instead of his core values. This person can never be happy until he makes decisions for himself and not others. Tressel’s personal core values were different than what the world assumed they were. Tressel did not believe that rules were meant to be followed and he did not believe that rules were always right.  The world was ignorant of Coach’s true personal core values and in turn, surprised by the decisions he made.

It is obvious now that as great a football coach as Tressel is, coaching was not his top priority. Tressel is a developer of men before anything else. He worked to develop better human-beings no matter what it took. He obviously did not agree with the rules and regulations passed down by the NCAA and that he agreed to operate by or else he would have made decisions accordingly. It wasn’t the job, the prestige, the money or else he would have made sure he followed the NCAA and ensured he kept his job. He knew these kids were not in a good place and agreed to look the other way so the players could get a little extra help. Now, I am not saying he knew about championship ring sales and autograph empires, but he knew some things were going on with boosters and allowed the activity if in the best interest of the kid. Coaching was merely a way Tressel could mentor kids and develop young men. Tressel operated in a gray area.

The claim above seems contradictory in light of the recent headlines, but I truly believe Jim Tressel is a great man and a man with integrity. I believe he put his career on the line at times by making decisions he believed were right. Its true, Coach Tressel agreed to operate with the NCAA rules and regulations and he failed to do so. These actions were wrong but consistent with his core value of developing young men.

I know that Tressel is a great man and we have not seen the last of him. He may return to coaching, but I think it is far more likly that Tressel will emerge as a leading lecturer, author, teacher or even consultant to the NCAA. I would not be surprised if Tressel’s coaching career was the price paid to develop a better system for student-athletes to operate in. I see Tressel working with the NCAA to create a better system. A system that awards student-athletes fairly. A new system should align their personal needs as college students and creators of vast income for Universities with the NCAA wish that these athletes remain amatuers. Instead of Tressel helping Ohio State football players, Tressel would then be improving the life of every student-athlete in every sport at every Univeristy. Tressel would emerge as a hero for fixing the system that most coaches and athletes would agree is broken. Most importantly, this would align exactly with Tressel’s personal core value of developing young people – which is the equilibrium that we all return to when we learn about ourselves. Then again, maybe I am ignorant.


Apr 11

Patience is a Virtue… and an Art

Patience, in most religions and philosophies, is a virtue.  One can develop great mental strength through the practice of patience.  Patience can get you through difficult times and bad situations by keeping you grounded in the present instead of being enveloped in thoughts of the future – good or bad.  It is necessary to visit the future for planning purposes, but you need to live in the present or you will miss out on life.  The irony about patience is that it takes patience to develop patience.  Patience is an art that needs to be developed over time and practiced regularly to master.

Patience photo by soccerkid29 via Motifake.com


The best method to develop the art of patience is to keep yourself grounded in the present but working towards the future.  When you see your neighbor’s new car or the diplomas hanging on your bosses wall, you need to remind yourself that those things take time and you are perfectly fine where you are right now.  You have to find solace in the present before you can truly start living and slowly moving towards your goals.

Completing your degree

Whatever degree you are currently pursuing, its value is derived partly in the difficulty it is to earn it.  If all you had to do was shell out a few grand and that allowed you to add a Master’s degree to your resume, the perceived value of that degree would be diminished by those decision-makers that reviewed it.  Graduating from college or graduate school is partly a function of ones intelligence, but maybe more so a function of their patience.  There are no short cuts.  A semester is a semester and you need to painstakingly attend class after class, semester after semester until all requirements are crossed off the list and you graduate.  Patience is a pre-requisite for all college degrees.

Getting out of debt

Though he rubs me the wrong way, Dave Ramsey has helped many many people get out of debt.  I also don’t agree with his “no credit cards EVER” approach to life.  Regardless, his program offers the discipline that many people need to get out and stay out of debt forever and I can appreciate that.  Dave Ramsey employs what is called the “debt snowball plan”.  His plan calls for making minimum payments across the board.  With any extra cash, you consistently put that extra on the smallest debt first.  Once the smallest debt is paid off, you apply all that cash to the next smallest and so on and so forth.  Its a simple plan, but it takes years.  Discipline is necessary, but so is patience.  You have to stay with the plan and be content with the slow roll of the snowball as it builds up through the years.

Growing Your Investments

When I was younger, I was always looking for the get rich quick investment.  What I was actually doing was gambling… and losing.  No I do extensive analysis and look for the biggest and most steady growers I can find.  In my opinion these investments are the closest thing to a sure thing outside of U.S. Government debt (which may be less of a sure thing in the future).  The most powerful investments take into account the slow accumulating magic of compounding – and those are the investments I put my money into now.  I can now calculate exactly when I will be rich instead of throwing my money in the hot idea.  There are a couple of caveats to my method though.  I need the patience to let the slow power of compounding work and I need the health to be around for that date when I calculated I will be rich!

Finding a Significant other

There is no easy way to meet the love of your life.  Its really just a numbers game.  The more people you meet the more you will date.  The more you date the better your chances of meeting the one.  You can do things to increase the number of people you meet.  This can be accomplished through sifting through vast online profiles of singles or these speed dating events.  Other than that you just need to have an endless supply of patience and learn to be happy right here and right now.

Keeping up with the Jones’

The Jones’ are my mortal enemies.  They live on every street in America and have the best toys.  Before I developed the art of patience, I would be upset each time one of the Jones’ brought home something really cool that I wanted.  Now I still like to check out their new purchases and might decide that I want to save up for something like that in the future, but I have at peace with my life and what I have.

Practice the art of being patient every day by living in the present and being content to do so.  Allow the feelings of being at peace with where you are and who you are to ensure that you are becoming more patient.  The next time you to the Jones’ as a patient person, you will feel good when you can enjoy other people’s successes with them and not harbor any feelings of resentment at the same time.  If you continue to work toward your goals, you will eventually get there.  Just value each day of your life the same whether you have reached your goal to become a millionaire or if you are falling short.

picture via picturesdepot.com


Apr 11

Improvise, Adapt and Overcome – What Works for the Marines Will Work for You Too

The United States Marine Corps was founded in 1775 to provide offensive and defensive support to U.S. sailors. Spending for this new effort was close to zero.  Therefore, much of the equipment including the field manual were Army hand-me-downs.  The Marines took this ill-suited equipment and adapted it to suit their particular needs at sea.  Born out of necessity to function and survive, “improvise, adapt and overcome” has become the mantra of the Marines and a framework which fuels creative thinking and unyielding perseverance.

Improvise, adapt and overcome is a way of thinking for any survivor – be he a Marine, an entrepreneur or any person faced with a roadblock in life.  It is necessary to train your mind through a mental boot camp to think, solve, recalculate, think again, develop a plan B, execute plan B and think more and not stop until the mission is accomplished.  If “improvise, adapt and overcome” is the framework of success, then “vision, understanding and perseverance” are the flesh to those bones and the fuel for the process of success. 

You need to have a clear vision and an understanding of what the mission or objective is.  What are we trying to accomplish here?  Once a clear objective is established, it’s much easier to clear away the clutter in the process and eliminate seemingly necessary tasks that are impossible to accomplish and not a requirement to meeting the objective successfully. 

For example, say your original objective is to go to Harvard Law School and to realize your life’s dream to be able to practice law.  You just got denied admission.  Is going to Harvard Law School your dream or is practicing law your dream?  Not everyone gets in to Harvard, but you can still realize your dream and accomplish your objective of practicing law by going to a different law school.  You will have successfully completed your mission or objective if you didn’t get deterred by the setback of one of the tasks along the way.  Life is full of setbacks and the person with the focus to visualize clear objectives and the perseverance to continue with alternative plans to accomplish their goals is the person that completes the mission.    

One of the most interesting lesions that I took away from business school was that 50% of new businesses fail in the first year and only 25% of all business last five years.  Any entrepreneur who has done any research on what it takes to establish a business has come across these statistics.  Everyone always thinks that they are different and their business will be different, but the statistics are the statistics.  There is a 50% chance your business will fail in 1 year and a whopping 75% chance your business will fail in 5 years. 

Entrepreneurs are sort of anomalies.  A real entrepreneur grew up thinking differently than the other kids.  Many entrepreneurs were out-of-the-box thinkers and didn’t fit in well in the formal school setting.  There is more that goes into the entrepreneur mindset than an out-of-the-box methodology and a burning desire to control their own destiny.  Entrepreneurs are fully responsible for their own successes and failures.

Success is easy to deal with.  Handling failure and the fear of failure are main factors contributing to whether or not an entrepreneur can bring his dreams to fruition.  Most likely your business is going to fail.  Have you failed as an entrepreneur?  Only if you quit at that point.  If you can use the failure as a lesson you will emerge a more powerful and successful business owner in the future. 

For Marines in the theater of war, their decisions can result in life and death of the individual and/or the unit.  Improvise, adapt and overcome is a simple way to remind them that nothing goes as planned and you need to keep your head in the game and systematically move on to the next option until they complete the mission.  Professionals and entrepreneurs have the luxury to build on this framework with a more cerebral approach and implement vision, understanding and perseverance to their own mission.  Success is a process and a journey.  There will be setbacks along the way.  Keep focused and keep working towards your objectives.

Accomplish the mission.