Lessons from the Southside Mafia


When I was growing up, we had a different kind of athletic club than what exists today.

They were often named for a city, like the “The Minneapolis Athletic Club” and they were usually downtown. But living in the south suburbs of Minneapolis, we were lucky. We had our own suburban equivalent called the “Decathlon Athletic Club”.

As a kid, I spent plenty of time there. They had a lot of things for families to do, from racquetball and tennis to swimming, fitness classes and, of course, several good restaurants.

But, the real purpose of these clubs was not family fun. It was to do business.

They were built and paid for by business people. Executives, politicians, business owners, professionals and a smattering of professional athletes made up the membership list of our club.

These clubs were excellent places to socialize with existing business clients and colleagues. And they were great places to expand your professional network. Many people built successful careers by making clubs like these a regular part of their day.

My dad is one of them.

I remember the first time I heard the nickname given to the group of guys he hung around with. They were informally known as the “Southside Mafia.”

It wasn’t meant to be a negative term. The context was that these guys worked, played and socialized together. They were a close group whose ties went deep. They took care of each other. They looked out for each other. And, they were successful business people. So, as a group, they had a lot of clout.

Being part of a group like this was good for business. But it wasn’t just about business. The group was built on friendship. It was built on real relationships that mattered more than any one business or any single transaction.

Groups like these provide a good lesson for anyone who wants to build their business. Put people first. Business is about people not dollars. Be good to everyone, not just people you think can help you.

Do what you can to help your customers, employees, vendors and others get what they want. Help them live their dreams and they’ll repay you by helping you reach yours.

People know when you care about them. And they understand when you see them as walking, talking dollar signs.

Be a person first and a business person second. Show people you value them as people and you’ll enjoy the kind of relationships that will support your business. Because it’s true, people like doing business with people they like.

The “Southside Mafia” was living proof.