Book Review: I’ll Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse by Michael Franzese

I’ll Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse is the latest book I’m reviewing as part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program. I’ve greatly enjoyed a chance to take part in this program. This is also the first book I’ve read as part of Thomas Nelson’s new Nelson Free program, which gives you multiple formats of the same book. I had the hard copy, .pdf and MobiPocket, and I have the audiobook on my iPod. Amazing, and exciting. I hope this catches on with other publishers. I was able to work through the eBook during some extra time at work, and finish up with the hardcopy this evening.

I’ll Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse is written by Michael Franzese, a former mob boss. The book is subtitled “Insider Business Tips from a Former Mob Boss”. Thomas Nelson’s product page for the book is here. I think the product page is a little bit off. It lists a page count of 224. There are 155 numbered pages. I count between 160 and 164, depending on whether the thicker paper pages at the front and back count for page numbers. The book is listed on Amazon for $16.55. It was an amazingly fast read. I’m not the world’s fastest reader, yet this book took me two sittings in one afternoon.

In this book, Michael Franzese begins by laying out his credentials and his story. He doesn’t go completely in depth into his mob story, as that is covered in other books he’s written. I may have to get those books. He gives enough detail to familiarize new readers such as myself with his background and credentials (or qualification) to write this book and pass this knowledge along. At the end of each of the 11 chapters is a “Get The Message” section, summarizing the points in the chapter for easier reference.

Michael Franzese, after laying out his qualifications and story and a few basics of business, discusses two philosophers that he has followed the advice of in his business dealings: Machiavelli and Solomon. He explains why Machiavelli is followed by mobsters, and why following Machiavelli can be your undoing. I have a lot of respect for people who have followed ideas to their logical conclusion and it seems that Michael Franzese has made this journey with Machiavelli. This is honestly the most I’ve read about Machiavelli in one book, or at least the most comprehensive overview. I’ve obviously heard quite a bit of Machiavellian ideas, especially as they relate to politics, but this is the most in depth I’ve seen his ideas covered.

Michael Franzese teaches business lessons that carry over from his mob days into practical use in his legit business dealings and can be used in ours. He covers concepts I’m familiar with, like starting the day early, working hard (which doesn’t always guarantee success), keeping your mouth shut, and of course, not getting whacked in your pajamas. He also explains the concept of the “sit down”, which I should start using. “No, I’m not booking a conference room for 3 hours. Let’s have a sit down.”

He then goes into a serious topic, gambling. Machiavelli considered gambling so severe that it should be used against enemies and suppressed militarily in your own country. Michael Franzese discusses gambling, not exactly from a moral perspective, but from a business perspective. It can destroy your business. He explains how gambling can cause your employees to embezzle time and money, and how stopping it can cost you even more. It can destroy families. I dabbled with gambling in the Navy, and I saw some of the problems it can cause among friends. The most I’ll do now (and I haven’t since we’ve had children) is put $20 or so in a slot machine in Atlantic City, but I take advantage of the free refreshments while I’m there. It’s been at least 5 years since the last time I was there.

Another serious discussion Michael Franzese covers is learning from your failures. He vocalizes something that’s been on my mind lately, that not everybody is cut out for everything. Some people are better employees than businesspeople. Find what you’re good at and do it. You can always delegate the things you’re not good at. Don’t run away from your problems, even if your problems happen to be the IRS (which he had to face). He then discusses playing it straight and legal.

The last two chapters deal with picking which philosopher you will follow: Machiavelli or Solomon, and making sure you have the right idea about success. Trying to convince yourself that you can follow both Machiavelli AND Solomon is a Machiavellian trick. Also, having millions of dollars while spending no time with the family really isn’t success.

My favorite part of the book has to be the stories. For some reason, I learn much better when the lesson comes from a really cool story. Of all the RADAR concepts I’ve forgotten, I can still to this day tell you what VSWR (Voltage Standing Wave Ratio) is because of a really cool sea story one of my A-school instructors shared back in 1993. I’m sure in the future, when I do a sit-down, I’ll remember the maggoty chickens and when I think about sticking up for my partners or subordinates, I’ll remember Jerry Zimmerman. For some reason, the story not only connects me with the lesson, but it brings the lesson alive to me. It makes the lesson real. I guess it also adds dimensionality somehow, as in not only is this book a business lesson, but it’s also a look into history, into one man’s life, and into the mafia, a subject that, good or not, tends to fascinate many of us. I’m not immune.

I enjoyed “I’ll Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse”. I recommend it, and I’m going to have to get Michael Franzese’s other books.

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