Business Lessons from the Criminally Gifted

“I am like any other man. All I do is supply a demand.”

-Al Capone

Steve Jobs. Richard Branson. Larry Ellison. These people are looked up to, admired, and emulated for their business accomplishments. And rightly so, one would argue. Multi billion dollar enterprises aren’t built upon laziness and ineptitude. No, they’re born from the relentless pursuit of an idea and an unstoppable combination of intelligence, resourcefulness, and luck.

These individuals are different from most of society’s worker bees. The status quo is unacceptable and the promise of “The American Dream” is otherwise empty without reaching out and earning it for one’s self. And so the greatest of conglomerates have been created to bring their products and services to the clamoring masses and make a tidy sum along the way. The Jobss, Bransons, and Ellisons of the world have made and will continue to make their fortunes by following and ultimately changing the rules of the game.

But what about those who unabashedly ignore these very rules?

Practical business methodologies can be learned from history’s shrewdest criminals.  Is it possible that these societal outcasts understood the art of business better than their straight-laced counterparts? Maybe. After all, underworld empires were built by penniless immigrants with grade school educations.

This blog is not meant to glorify or condone the actions of the criminally gifted, even if their ventures still inspire fascination for the nine-to-fivers whose idea of danger is to invest in risky mutual funds. But in a society where even the most respected politicians and businesspeople get caught red-handed committing white collar crimes, we can certainly do worse than learning what we can from the likes of Capone.

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