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