I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse: Summary & Review

I'll make you an offer you can't refuse book cover

“I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse” (2010) is a book in which former mafia boss Michael Franzese applies Cosa Nostra principles to business.


About the Author: Michael Franzese was a capo in the Colombo crime family. He was one of the mob’s biggest earners since Al Capone, and the youngest individual on Fortune magazine’s “Fifty Biggest Mafia Bosses.” Franzese then accepted Jesus Christ, became a practicing Christian, and started working and helping others as a speaker, preacher, and guide.

1. You Can Do It Even Without Education

Says Franzese:

Without ever earning a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a PhD, and in many cases without even graduating from high school, mobsters have managed to operate and dominate legitimate businesses having annual revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

As a matter of fact, mobster might have a hedge on business graduates:

Mob executives possess unique instincts, a “street sense” that isn’t taught in the classrooms at Harvard or the Wharton School of Business. They’re acquired through living a lifestyle where almost every day presents a challenge just to survive, where every friend is your potential enemy, where a board meeting just might prove to be your last encounter on earth.

The Machiavellianism and sense of strategizing that you can acquire in the underworld, and especially in organized crime, is indeed probably superior to what most normal businessmen can acquire in business -probably different if you’re at the top of fast-moving industry, but that’s the exception-.

2. Wise Up: There’s No Magica Formula (AKA: Stop Being Duped By Snake Oil Salesmen)

Franzese says there’s no magic formula.

People selling magic formulas are turning the marketing heat, and selling you a lie.
Instead, the formula is:

  1. Make a plan
  2. Work hard
  3. Seek the shortest possible road to money
  4. Assemble the right crew
  5. Motivate that crew to do the best job
  6. Get a “consigliere” (ie.: a mentor)

… But Keep a Balanced Life

But, also don’t let work become your only occupation in life. That’s a mistake Franzese has done, together with many more.
Work is only one part of life, and you should enjoy the rest as well, including family and friends.

Says Franzese:

All the money in the world isn’t of any benefit if you don’t take time to enjoy it.

3. Cut to the Chase: Take the Money

You never “make” money -unless you’re the government or a counterfeiter-.
You take money.

The mobster mentality is that other people’s money belongs to them and they only need to find a way to take it.
Your business plan can use a similar attitude, minus the violence: what’s the quickest way to convince others to give me their money?

4. Keep It Cool: Don’t Run Around Like a Chicken Without A Head

Know what you do well, and do that.

Avoid running around under stress: that’s what those low in power do.

Mobsters always exude an air of power and calm confidence that radiates to the people around them, and that increases their power of influence and persuasion -and the fear factor-.

Also read:

Hire others to do the rest.
Speaking of which:

5. Get An “A Team”

You’re only as good as the people you have around.

That works in two ways:

  1. The work they can do for you
  2. What your team says about you

Quoting Machiavelli:

[T]he first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.

The Prince

It might seem incongruous, after quoting Machiavelli, but what’s the most important value you should seek for people in your crew?
The most important value you should seek is honesty.

To sum it up with Franzese’s words:

Surrounding yourself with capable people makes you money; it also makes you look smart. Do what you do best, and delegate the rest.

6. Get What You Want, & Make Them Believe They Won

In the mafia, especially at the top, some guys have huge egos.

Plus, there is the “status/pride” element.
Now the mafia might have a particularly high concentration of these men, but you can meet plenty of them in legitimate business as well.

How to deal with them?
Deal with them in a way where you get what you want, but you make them feel like they won.

Read here a good case study:

7. Beware of Machiavelli’s Trap

Franzese says that the mafia is based on Machiavellian philosophy: the end justifies the means.

The Machiavellian philosophy certainly presents elements that are true and pragmatic, and that will help you achieve success.
But that’s only the “bait in the trap”.

Says Franzese:

(The Machiavellian philosophy) creates an atmosphere of deceit, mistrust, and treachery— a place where fear masquerades as loyalty (…) Eventually, any group of people that adheres to such a philosophy will destroy itself from within.

On the Machiavellian famous question of “is it better being hated or loved”, Franzese adds and important, and in my opinion very valid perspective:

When their enemies discover that the strength of the organization is based on the fear of its members, all they need to do is become the ones who are more feared. The loyalty will vanish into thin air, and the poison-tipped spike in Machiavelli’s trap of power and control will be revealed.

Basically, Franzese implies that love is harder to develop, but that it lasts longer, it’s more resilient (not as easily “transferrable”) and, ultimately, potentially more powerful.

My Note: GREAT wisdom on love VS fear, but there was at least some love in the mafia as well
I don’t know if I can agree 100% here.
There is plenty of love and camaraderie in the mafia, even after you compute all the backstabbing that goes on. As a matter of fact, that’s part of the attraction of the mafia, and part of the glue that keeps it together Treacher does not necessarily invalidate the camaraderie.
Franzese himself admits that he misses the camaraderie the most. And he even admitted that when there was a war going in, he felt like he wanted/had to back to help and support his old family.

8. Machiavelli VS Solomon: Choose Wisely (not like a wiseguy)

Franzese explains the two different life philosophies:

Solomon is about true personal values, doing what’s right based on your values and ethics, while Machiavelli is completely devoid of values and ethics unless faking them will help you obtain what really matters: power, money, and end results.

However, don’t just yet jump to the conclusion that the Machiavellian philosophy performs better.
Why not necessarily so?

  1. The Machiavellian approach can eventually shine through, and make you lose
  2. The Machiavellian approach is more effective in the short-term, and can also lead people to adopt approaches that are more about short-term, than long-term growth and power
  3. The Machiavellian approach can make your personal life poorer, since your emotional bonds and friendships are inauthentic

Says Franzese:

The manner in which you live your life—your character and integrity—will ultimately be reflected in the way you run your business, and this might very well matter to your potential consumers or clients. Furthermore, the philosophy you adopt to run your business will have as much an impact on the quality of your life as will your company’s level of success or failure.

And he says from his personal experience:

Integrity and ethics matter in life as well as in business. Trust me here. This is coming from a guy who had a very flawed concept of both. I suffered as a result, and so did my family.

A good video example on long-term VS short-term thinking from Franzese:

Can you do both, sometimes Machiavelli, sometimes Solomon?
I’d honestly say yes, but Franzese says no.
He says:

If you are trying to have it both ways, you’re just fooling yourself. You’re being Machiavellian.

9. The Government Is Mafia (Is It?)

Franzese sees parallels between the mafia and the government:

And as far as the mob is concerned, the government’s activities are one big money-raking business.

Also see:

More (Machiavellian) Wisdom

  • Record & collect: evidence is power

Says Frazese about a former and “not-so-honest” associate of his:

I found out years later that Larry kept a file of all the illegal activity he believed I had engaged in over the eight years we worked together. Knowing I was a prize catch for the feds, I would be his “Get Out of Jail Free card” were he ever to run afoul of the law. And years later he used that file for just that purpose. Although I was acquitted (…) he still managed to cut a sweetheart deal for himself with the feds.

This is a strategy I recommend for people in business as well, and a great weapon to get rid of poor bosses.

  • Choose a consigliere that is not too ambitious

Ambitious consiglieres might want to replace you, or give advice best on what’s good for them, their status, and their personal ascension\?

In my opinion, the best consiglieres are older, done their time, and now want to mentor you as father figures.

  • Be ready to compromise

When you’re not holding all the cards, compromising is often the only possible solution.

  • Listen more, talk less

I cannot stress enough the importance of becoming a good listener in your dealings. It conditions you to gather information before acting or making a decision that will impact your business


On the “sit-down”:

The sit-down is so ingrained in a made guy’s vocabulary, it caused one FBI agent listening in on a secretly installed bug to remark, “Do these guys ever decide anything standing up?”

On how many people would like to join the mafia ranks:

You would not believe how many men would kill (no pun intended) to get their buttons and join the ranks. Fortunately, membership in the life is considered by its members to be a privilege.

But for those who can’t manage to join, it’s a good thing:

For the wannabe mobster who just might not make the grade, it’s even a better thing. Recruiting a guy who isn’t qualified won’t get him fired. It will get him whacked. The mob doesn’t believe in severance packages.

On playing your strengths and learning your strengths from failures:

Failure is a tough teacher, but it can teach us our strengths and weaknesses in ways no other teacher can.

Power is everything in Cosa Nostra:

In La Cosa Nostra success is determined by the accumulation of wealth and the attainment of position. Its formula is simple: money + position = power. Power in that life is viewed as the ultimate achievement of success.

On the mobster entrenched mentality of some:

My dad, although spending more than thirty years in prison, will tell you he is a successful mobster.

On mobsters criticizing the government and calling politician gangsters:

“Fat Tony” Salerno, Carmine “the snake” Persico, Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, and even the Dapper Don himself, John Gotti, at one time or another would circle a card table, sipping black coffee with a shot of anisette, and roast our elected officials like there was no tomorrow. “Washington would be rolling over in his grave if he saw the way these bums operate today.” “The thieves would all be in front of a firing squad.” And—no joke, now—“They call us gangsters; they’re the real gangsters.”


  • Some conservative talk

Franzese is certainly not a liberal :). Neither am I, but not sure the political talk was a good fit here.


An interesting book in between a business book and a “mob book”, brief and to the point.

Presents pretty much all the same points that more popular books like “The Effective Executive” share, but in a far more interesting format.

Get the book on Amazon

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