Build Success with these 8 Steps of Giannini


8 Steps To Success -Learned  from the Son of Immigrants

Amadeo Peter Giannini was an American, and a son of Italian immigrants. He lost his father at age 6, dropped out of school at age 13, and yet made his  mark. He worked for his step- father from that age until age 31, and then he retired. Giannini was rich and was comfortable enough to declare retirement at this young age.

How did he do it? What can we learn from him?

The following 8 steps extracted from the long story of his life would guide and inspire:

Try to right wrongs if you can:

Giannini’s father was killed over an argument  with an employee. After having gained enough wealth that Giannini believed he could take care of himself and his family, he retired at age 31 and sold off half of his business to his employees. 

Stay true to the call:

Giannini was already wealthy when some business colleagues came to invite him to join the leadership board of an Italian- American community organization. Their mission  was to offer savings and loans to this community of immigrants, but Giannini realized later that some cherry-picking was going on.

The organization creamed the high net worth and other big businesses among the Italian immigrant community, and ignored  everyday men and women. Giannini knew this conduct was bad for business. 

Realizing this misalignment, he spoke to his friends to fix the problem. They disagreed, and he walked away.

Giannini then started his own bank. He called it the Bank of Italy. History records that he was so dedicated to this new endeavor that he’d even go on the street almost everyday canvassing, and reaching out to poor immigrants about his bank offering.

Design Thinking:

Giannini realized that serving the hardworking poor and middle class immigrants wasn’t only morally great, but also a win-win. He saw a legitimate need. Paying attention, and thinking about how you could help solve the world’s problem is a sound business principle that has paved ways for many successful individuals and companies with Metro PCS, Apple, etc for example.

Willingness to start small:

Giannini didn’t have to build a windmill or reconstruct a complex system to meet the needs he discovered. He needed to  trust; he was willing to take risks, and he had a desire to make a difference. These three elements formed the tight gut that would prompt him to break out of the established order to form his own bank. Just imagine the multiplier effect of immigrants making waves: Giannini made loans out to Walt Disney in the production of that classic Snow White. He gave loans to Williams Hewlett and David Packard of HP, and he was the backing for that prominent ship builder, Henry Kaiser on many of his contracts, just to list a few.

Was it mentioned earlier in this story that Giannini had money before launching his bank? He’d already amassed enough wealth at age 31. Yet, his Bank of Italy that opened to all, started in a bar. He simply got the bar, and converted it to a bank. Crazy, you might think, but again, mavericks’ thoughts and actions are oftentimes deemed as crazy until they have results to show.

Where was a good location so central and familiar to get everyday working men and women of that time to  bank with you? If you were in modern day New York, for example, would you go to Wall Street or Long Island to target these customers,  or would you stay in the local community – Bronx, Washington Heights, Jamaica Queens, etc…. ? Keep in mind that Giannini had enough capital to build one big flashy building  to “attract” his target market, but again, a design thinking calls for a good analysis on where you’ll find your customers, and it demands for the willingness to meet them from wherever point they are. Giannini also opened late to serve those workers who couldn’t bank at the traditional hours of banking like the rich and the  white collar professionals.

Doing good gives good:

Giannini didn’t only convert a bar to a bank, he equally  helped augment people’s careers. History records that he had hired the bartenders in that bar; and  trained and mentored them to bank tellers.

Do you see how his “doing good” translated to business success? No one connects better to Giannini’s target customers  than the same folks who came from that community. Giannini wasn’t only building a customer base, but a community of loyalists. 

In the days where there were no cell phones or social media, businesses relied heavily on the word of mouth for their marketing, and Giannini did it. His competition had  to work maybe triple hard to beat him on this strong marketing strategy.

Trust and Risk:

If trusting was a beverage, it wouldn’t taste good. Definitely expect  a very sour taste of Vodka or Rum, or…whatever. This is a very weird analogy in the concept of trust, but, you know what, I kind of see it this way. A decent amount of alcohol is said to be good for the body, and an excess is meant for a kill, so is trusting. Too much alcohol will throw you off your feet and knock you dead, so is trusting. Can you do without alcohol in life  and make it, yes, so you can do without trusting. Just don’t travel across any bridge since you probably don’t trust the contractors that built the bridge. 

What’s the point here? The point is,  this son of Italian immigrant, Giannini, was the first in the banking industry, on record, to trust and risk it big by lending to the people with zero credit.  Many didn’t have any character reputation nor any collateral whatsoever. He’d given the loan to them anyway; looked them in their eyes, and shook their hands. As such, he’s the Grandfather of Micro-Credits. 

The mind of a hustler:

One of many recipes needed to succeed in business which needs no MBA degrees is having a mindset of a hustler. A hustler is raw and rugged. A badass willing to  improvise; bootstrapping and surviving a series of business weather with changing business climatic conditions. Giannini was one. 

It was recorded that a serious fire almost swallowed the entire City of San Francisco in 1906 following an earthquake,  and many businesses including banks were either out for good or came back reshaped. Giannini’s Bank of Italy was standing.

What did he do? He rented a vehicle with lots of cargo space, loaded up his safe of currency and transported the hard cash to his house. He then built a makeshift kiosk out of  any object that would stand when erected, and continued to serve customers. His die-hard ‘survival of the fittest’ scheme didn’t only keep his business growing, but equally help revitalize the City. 

When most of the cash flow system of the City had been swallowed by a dark Quake, Giannini’s Bank of Italy gave light because he’ll stop at nothing- hustling for his vision. 

Stop shaking; stand tall:

Could you pause a bit and imagine what it must be like in America to name your bank ‘The Bank of ….wherever your parents are from’ in 1904 – especially when that place is nowhere near Britain? 

Now, picture all the attacks on immigrants and hatred of others that many ethnic groups experienced at the time including the Italians. Yeah, that was Giannini for you. He gave no dang. 

It was true that his bank served the community of Italians, so why not call it that? Giannini knew very well that while the nationalists might not be too happy especially given the  size and promise of the Bank of Italy, the fact remains that they [him and his community] built it. 

He kept that name until he bought another bank in 1928 called the Bank of America. This bank was acquired  from the hand of a wealthy American nationalist, Orra Monnette. Giannini then merged both banks under the latter. Not so sure on this, but don’t be surprised if the name changing was part of the negotiation, in other words, a good deal.


Like Giannini’s,  many immigrants and  children of immigrant paths in the US and even elsewhere won’t be so straightforward. You might have to quit this, start that; lose this and gain that. The point is you can do it. Others have done it. Get off from that chair of self-pity and pull yourself up. See what’s applicable in this post and many others, bookmark, read, think, and rise up.

If success is unattainable, then let it prove it to you!  But don’t you camp out somewhere day-dreaming and procrastination. The thinking that will liberate our community, this society, Africa, and the world might be right there sitting in your mind. Act. Now. 

Is there any important part of Giannini’s life story relating to success that wasn’t covered above? Do you agree or disagree with any of these steps? Share your comments.

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