Family businesses have been the backbone
of many capitalist societies throughout history. The British are
a nation of shopkeepers, and the US 'Mom and Pop' business is a vital strand of the romantic American dream. One Mom and Pop (mostly Pop, to be fair) business that has been very successful in the USA is the New York-based Genco Olive Oil, owned by Vito Corleone, and featured
in Francis Ford Coppola's
epic, The Godfather, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. You know how these things work. You start off simply wanting to protect your family and carve a little niche for yourself and end up heading a massive crime syndicate.
Don Vito has built his business up from nothing through years of hard work, excellent networking skills, a forceful negotiating style and a tiny bit of murder. Like most entrepreneurs, he is no fan
of overzealous government regulation, and likes to have the freedom to operate his import/export/terror business free of interference in order
to maximise profits. He quite sensibly employs
a good lawyer to get him out of trouble and has fostered excellent relations with key office-holders, such as leading police officers and judges, to help him smooth the passage of his various deals.
Competition is fierce in his industry, and disputes tend
to be settled out of court or, indeed, on the steps on the courthouse in a hail of bullets. Market information is gathered by a network of reps in territories where the business operates, although we would recommend sending messages via email or text rather than using the medium of an old dead fish wrapped in paper.
In common with all good business brains, the Don knows the value of a special offer to motivate customers. However, these tend to be a bit less 'buy one, get one free', a bit more 'refuse one, get a free horse's head on your pillow'. The final lesson we learn is one of branding. Taking a nickname — while egotistical — can be useful in business, making you memorable to customers. But make sure you can back it up. Nigel 'The Godfather' from purchasing
is not going to cut it.
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