Fans of The Godfather love that line. Peter Clemenza says this to Rocco Lampone, just after Rocco has killed Paulie. Clemenza has promised his wife he would bring home the dessert, and he is not going to forget, even in the blood-splattering horror of the moment.
The Godfather is full of many great lines, all made more memorable because they were delivered by sympathetic characters from the inside of a criminal enterprise, which is the singular innovation of the movie. Before The Godfather, the mob was portrayed as an “evil” group of individuals from the point of view of victims of organized crime. After The Godfather, we learned they were “just folks” who had the same troubles as you and me. The Sopranos carried this perspective even further.
For some, the movie is a guide to living, with multiple rules … kind of a Tao of Corleone.
There’s a line spoken by Michael Corleone to his brother Sonny that most interests me: “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
For those operating or working at business, it feels personal when you pour your heart and soul into your work.
And for your customers, at its most basic level, the more personal your business can be, i.e., the more it understands its affect on its customers, at the “personal” level, the more success it will have. What do your customers really want? How do they feel when they interact with the brand … when they see your logo, when they are exposed to your marketing, when they experience your company, when they meet you?
And the decisions you make with your business: Are they “not personal,” or do they have a big impact on the individuals and groups that you serve, or the world at large?
The “not personal” sentiment neither originated nor ended with this movie. There are other versions of this feeling: “It’s not personal, Obama. It’s strictly politics!” Or the old chestnut: “Yes, I’m breaking up with you, but it’s not you … it’s me!”
The intent of the statement is to say, “Sorry to hurt your feelings, but don’t take this too harshly … it is what has to happen.”
It is what bosses say when they fire employees, when deals are made that have winners and losers, or when there is a competition for business and one company gets selected.
I believe that business is never only “just business,” but is always very personal.
I know it is at Lenz.
Written By Richard Lenz.
Richard Lenz is the Founder and President of Lenz.