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Three Lessons Learned - Ocean's Thirteen (2007)

February 24, 2018

 The boys are back in Vegas to avenge their benefactor and mentor by breaking not only The Bank but Vegas' number one rule: The House always wins.


Ocean's Thirteen, the final installment of the Ocean's trilogy, offers not always an insight into the underpinnings of the 21st Century gaming industry, but also a wealth of knowledge into business dealings that can easily apply to the A/E/C industry. Many times in our world, we focus on the nuts and bolts of doing business without understanding the house rules of doing business; which they don't always teach you in school. In the film, The gang's mentor and de facto godfather Reuben Tishkoff gets double crossed by his business partner in the opening of a new casino on the strip, causing a near-death heart attack which snaps the boys back into action. Instead of taking him out the old-fashioned Vegas way (i.e. a permanent home in the Mojave) the gang decides to hit him where it hurts the most - his casino floor.


The Review

Ocean's Thirteen not only return home, but return to their roots. The score to settle is personal this time, and money is not the challenge, but taking the house' in a callback to Danny's motivational speech from the first film. Willy Bank, in the hubris of his own ego, has done Reuben Tishkoff wrong, putting him in the hospital with a massive heart attack and nearly killing him. The gang puts into motion a plan that will effectively dismantle the opening night of The Bank Casino while emptying his coffers based on the standing principle of every casino floor in the state - the casino must hold enough to cover every payout on the floor.


Plot points and pitfalls later, the gang succeeds in their plan, and then some, but not without having to resort to a few concessions; like making a situational ally in their former enemy Terry Benedict. The overall story line (not to mention some choice stylized cinematography, costume pieces and set design) redefine the gang as confidence men with a conscience; Robin Hoods of their business; in a sense. The film has several lessons that can be learned and applied to any business; chief among these being honor. Honor exists among the most professional of thieves, whether they are robbing a casino mogul in an elaborate heist or they are the mogul robbing whales and tourists of their vacation money. 


The Take

In the spirit of the trilogy finale, as I re-watched it I actually found three important lessons that could be learned from the film, as opposed to the one that I had originally intended. 


Firstly, the boys resort to making an ally of Terry Benedict that they had previously stolen $165 million from. In a pinch and needing a major piece of equipment, they appeal to Benedict by offering to end his competition, Willy Bank, to which he mentions that "that monstrosity that Bank calls a hotel casts a shadow over my pool. Break him." And just to hit Bank where it hurts, he wants Bank's prized diamonds as well. The gang has no other option but to work with Benedict, but not without keeping tabs on him, his associates, and expecting a double cross at some point. The group simultaneously keeps two proverbs in mind: "The enemy of my enemy is my ally" and "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer". Both need to be kept in mind when teaming with sub consultants on projects; particularly those that offer the same services as you. Know when to team based on mutual needs and assets, but also when to size them up as competition. Always remember the nature of these relationships should not be personal, just good business.


Second, remember your roots but know when to evolve. This is a big one in most industries, especially in A/E/C. As generations retire and new levels of leadership emerge, a company could go into panic mode by evolving too much without keeping in mind what made them great in the first place. In an engaging and emotional scene between Danny and Rusty in front of the Bellagio Fountain, they discuss how they got their start in the business, how their mentor guided them, what Las Vegas used to be like, all while a lullaby version of Clair de Lune plays over the scene. Having lived there, this scene really spoke to me, Vegas is magical at 5am. But it also made me think that every business, and every professional in it, should remember their roots while they plan for the future. In an accompanying scene, Roman Nagel, tech extraordinaire, reminds them that they are analog thieves in a digital world. A perfect summary of the shift change in the A/E/C industry.


Third and most important lesson that the film teaches, and one that should remain a tenet of any A/E/C business - be honorable. Do your job honorably, conduct business honorably, and comport yourself honorably. Even professional thieves conduct themselves with honor. If Willy Bank had done as such, he would not have set in motion the chain of events that drive the story. The gang, even while hot and angry over Reuben's downfall, still chooses the honorable thing to do by offering Willy Bank a chance to atone; to which he refuses. This refusal costs him his casino and its coveted hotel award. Reuben tells Willy Bank in the film early on "There's a code amongst guys who shook Sinatra's hand!" In Las Vegas, this code is practically old Vegas law. A code of conduct, an honor system, is the spine of your reputation; as a business and a professional. Stick to your code and not only will people want to do business with you, but you will always get to sleep at night. If there can be honor among thieves, there can be honor in the A/E/C industry.



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