Goodreads blurb: Ivy League educated management consultant, Michael Schneider, gets hired by an unlikely client – a mafia boss who wants to make a last desperate bid to resuscitate his family business that spans across gambling, drugs and porn.
Quite a crisp and interesting blurb, wouldn’t you say. And for somebody like me who has always been fascinated by the underworld and how it operates and am also a MBA (from an IIM, no less) and has also worked in the consulting industry for a while, this blurb more than piqued my interest in the book. And when my good friend Sakshi Nanda reviewed this book on her blog [Link to review] I knew that I had to get around to reading it sometime soon. And as luck would have it, Sameer Kamat, the author contacted me on twitter and wanted to know if I would be interested in reviewing the book. As they say in Hindi neki aur pooch pooch, I immediately agreed to do so.
The plot begins when Woody’s Family Business (WFB), the name by which Stephen Woody’s gang is known in LA is fading away into the sunset with all its operations running under losses. A third generation gangster, Woody is having to face the ignominy of all his business interests from gambling, drugs, pornography, extortion, being in the doldrums due to various reasons. Taking his wife’s advice he manages to get management consultancy firm Schneider Associates led by the main protagonist Michael Schneider to undertake an assignment to study the causes for the decline and propose recommendations to bring his empire back on track.
Schneider himself was almost staring down the barrel of a gun with the recession hitting him hard and no new business coming his way. Left with no choice he agrees to the offer from WFB and sets about on undertaking a deep dive into the business to understand and hopefully turn around the WFB.
The plot that follows displays the author’s masterful mish-mashing of two diametrically diverse worlds – management consulting and the underworld. Doing things the only way he know how to Michael starts off analyzing WFB using standard management consulting tools and methodologies, he analyzes each and every aspect of Woody’s businesses and tries to make sense of them using his consulting point of view. Along the way he realizes that while the basic approach works, he will have to customize some of his tools and his modus operandi to suit the situation and the assignment at hand. This leads to some unintentionally funny and at times dangerous situations as well.
Does Schneider manage to turn around WFB, do his presentations and methodologies filled with management funda and jargon manage to convince Woody and his business associates, does he manage to get a second lease on his own career and consultancy, these form the rest of the plot.
The author, being an MBA himself has a good hold on the management consulting parts of the book and manages to take us readers through the nitty-gritty of this particular profession. And to be honest, the way he brings out the universality of some of the most well known management concepts by using them in the underworld make for some interesting food for thought as well.
But to be honest, the entire underworld portion of the book where the author talks about the operations of the WFB seem to have been purposely dumbed down to a large extent. It is almost like the author wanted to cater to the ‘lowest common denominator’ segment of the readers in these portions. His descriptions of these operations are a little too simplistic and somewhat naïve even to be taken at face value. In any case, these are not so jarring that they spoil the entire book by itself.
In a nutshell, do read this book if you want to read a book in the ‘crime caper’ genre. Although strictly speaking, this is not a crime caper in the true sense of the word, but this plot could easily fit into that genre, simply because of the nice twist that the last ten odd pages provide. I must confess that I saw the twist coming, albeit not completely in the manner in which it finally presents itself.
Disclaimer: This review is a ‘free’ commissioned review by the author. While I received the book free of cost, I declare that the review itself has not been influenced in any form or fashion by the author.
About the author: Sameer Kamat is the founder of MBA Crystal Ball and Booksoarus. His first book, Beyond The MBA Hype published by HarperCollins, is currently in the third reprint. Business Doctors – Management Consulting Gone Wild is his second book.
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