Local author looks at what business leaders can learn from mobsters in new book

Finance

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The new book “Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices” examines what legitimate business leaders can learn from the leadership tactics of organized crime bosses.

Author Jerold Zimmerman, a professor at the University of Rochester Simon School of Business, discussed the project and motivation behind it Wednesday during News 8 at Noon.

“It’s about how mobsters run their internal human resource departments,” said Zimmerman. “Daniel Forrester was a student of mine at Simon and he runs a consulting firm and we teamed up on this project.”

The focus of the book was rooted in decades of work and personal experiences. “My professional career and research interest at Simon for over 40 years has been trying to understand how lawful leaders solve the problem of attracting, retaining, and motivating a workforce of employees who are primarily self-interested motivated, and get these people to work for the goals of the organization, be it for-profits or non-profits,” Zimmerman explained. “Organized crime syndicates have exactly the same problem and each lawful firm has to solve this problem in its own unique way and I wanted to see how criminal syndicates solved this same problem.”

Zimmerman said his interest in organized crime began when he was 9 or 10-years-old watching the old ‘Untouchables’ series, then the ‘Godfather’ movies, and the HBO series ‘The Sopranos.’ He began to read real crime books and autobiographies of criminals. “From there it evolved into this general question of, how do these criminal organizations survive despite the enormous law enforcement resources thrown at trying to shut them down? The Mafia has existed for over 100 years despite most of their leaders being jailed. Once a leader is jailed that doesn’t shut down the organization. They find someone else to run it. So how do they do that? That was the general research question that prompted this.”

As the authors worked their way into the subject matter, some essential trends emerged. “I learned these organized crime syndicates really follow the same economic principles that we teach at Simon School and around the country at leading business schools about how to govern these self-interested people,” Zimmerman said. “What we’ve been teaching is that you have to have a way of delegating decision-making, responsibility. You have to have performance measures. You have to have rewards and punishments. And you have to have a corporate culture. So we’ve been teaching what we call these four pillars to lawful managers and it turns out these crime syndicates also have these four elements in their corporate governance mechanisms. They’re just different but they’re still there and they still follow the same economic principles that we’ve been researching for 50 years.”

Intrigued? Get your copy of “Relentless” at Barnes & Noble or online at Amazon.com.

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