Business Advice from Uncle Al … (Capone, That Is)

Business Advice from Uncle Al … (Capone, That Is)
  • Al Capone, the notorious Chicago gangster, allegedly owned more than 300 businesses and knew how to get things done.
  • Although Capone was eventually charged with tax evasion, his business acumen may have been one of his greatest assets, according to his grandniece, Deirdre Marie Capone.
  • Capone was a font of business advice, allegedly sharing tips like the importance of maintaining your word, earning a customer’s loyalty and being honest with business partners.
  • This article is for entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to learn some business advice from one of the most notorious figures in U.S. history.

Al Capone might not have been your typical entrepreneur. After all, he was convicted of tax evasion and was actively involved in prostitution, bribery, smuggling and selling illegal booze. But just because his business wasn’t legal doesn’t mean Capone didn’t know a thing or two about running a successful operation. In fact, Capone owned more than 300 businesses, and he knew how to get things done and command respect and loyalty from his employees.

The book, “Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story From Inside His Family” (Recap Publishing, 2011), tells many revealing facts about this iconic figure’s life, death and business dealings.

Who was Al Capone?

Sometimes known by the nickname “Scarface,” Al Capone worked his way up to running a criminal empire in Chicago during the Roaring Twenties. While the core of Capone’s business was illicit bootlegging during Prohibition, Capone’s overall business acumen allowed him to expand his influence throughout Chicago as a whole. During this time, Capone cultivated business interests in a range of fields, including cleaning and dyeing, while garnering the support of public officials, unions and employees’ associations.

Capone was arrested at the age of 33 by the FBI following a seven-year run as the boss of the Chicago Outfit. While Capone was implicated in bootlegging, prostitution and murder, he was eventually charged with 22 counts of tax evasion. He was found guilty on five counts and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

Did you know?: The FBI’s investigation into Capone arose following his reluctance to appear before a federal grand jury following a subpoena in March 1929.

Capone’s business acumen

Capone recalls in her book what life was like as a child growing up in the Capone household and shares fond memories of the man who taught her to ride a bike, swim and play the mandolin.

Capone said she knows what the “family” was really like and what the “outfit” was all about. In her tell-all book, she shares untold details, including her claims that Ralph (Al’s older brother) and Al Capone lobbied the Nevada legislature to legalize gambling, alcohol and prostitution in that state; that they were the owners of the first upscale casino in Las Vegas way before Bugsy Siegel came to Vegas; and what really happened in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

In an exclusive interview with Business News Daily, Capone offered some business tips that could have come directly from her notorious uncle:

Key takeaway: Despite his larger-than-life impact, Capone believed employees and businesses should be humble. Businesses should keep their word, be honest with partners, and never expect a customer’s loyalty, but work hard to earn it.

Other business lessons to learn from Al Capone

In addition to the lessons Deirdre Marie Capone shares from her uncle, there are other business lessons to be learned from the notorious entrepreneur. Businesses would do well to keep the following lessons from Al Capone’s successes and failures in mind:

  • Make sure you’re legally compliant. The last thing a business wants is for the authorities to come along and find you’re not in compliance. In the best-case scenario, the business may be facing a hefty fine. In the worst case, the owners and operators could be seeing some serious jail time.
  • Pay your taxes and keep documentation. Remember, taxes are what brought down Al Capone. Always pay taxes on time. And, for business expenses and tax write-offs, keep thorough documentation and accounting on hand if worse comes to worst in the form of a tax audit.
  • Don’t be a wise guy. It’s perfectly normal to not know everything as a business owner. Accept that fact and, when necessary, look to hire outside experts who can help keep the business operating. Common potential stumbling blocks businesses may face are in navigating small business taxes and handling cybersecurity measures.
  • Grease the wheels. Employees expect businesses today to offer a range of additional benefits and employee incentives beyond a simple base salary. Every business should learn what similar companies are offering employees in terms of salaries and benefits. Don’t be afraid to shower some job perks on employees to keep them happy, as well as to attract new talent.
  • Don’t be afraid to “know a guy.” A successful competitive analysis doesn’t just help with employee retention. Performing regular competitive analyses can help a business discover where it’s doing well, where it may need to improve and what emerging trends it may need to get ahead of.

Entrepreneurs learn from everything

The best entrepreneurs draw inspiration and lessons from everything, including historical figures like Al Capone. Thanks to Capone’s niece, we have some insight into how the man viewed life and business. And even though he may be notorious for his illicit activities, some of those business lessons he left behind may be valuable to legal small business owners as they grow their companies and aim for success.

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