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Ep58 Transcript: Interview with Lou Bortone

February 13, 2023

Andrea Vahl: Have you had an idea, like a podcast, a book, a keynote speech burning in your brain for years but haven’t launched it? If so, tune into today’s session as I interview my friend Lou Bortone who pivots into something brand new By launching a whole business around The Godfather theory and loyalty. We dive into what it takes to launch. Why you’re launching and how to finally get it done.

Hello Dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration mindset and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Hey, late starters, it’s your host, Andrea Vahl, and I am here with a longtime friend of mine, Lou Bortone. He is a video expert. He is a ghostwriter, an author, a speaker and producer, and he said in his bio, he keeps his friends close and enemies closer, which is ridiculous because he does not have enemies. So, so welcome to the show, Lou.

Lou Bortone: Thank you, Andrea. It’s so fun to be here.

Thanks so much for having me on.

Andrea Vahl: I know. It’s so fun. We have we like way long ago I just. Even like forgot, almost forgot about, it feels like a lifetime ago, launched, a product together along with fabulous people like Vivica Van Rosen and who I don’t even know Phyllis was in there. I was in there.

You were in there. I don’t even, and I think I forget who all was in that product.

Lou Bortone: Yeah, we’re like, we’re like the, the social OG people now.

Andrea Vahl: We are totally OG. We’re so OG and I am super excited to talk to you today about your newest evolution, iteration in your career. And we were talking before the show a little bit about pivoting and I think that’s a really cool thing to explore on this show. Pivoting. Into something brand new it’s can be a little bit scary, but Lou is launching a whole godfathered themed brand. Godfather podcast, Godfather Keynote. Book career or book coming out soon. Right.? To make you, to force you to write that.

Coming out.

So, let’s dive into this pivot because you have had great success in the video realm doing all the things you’ve done video-wise. And now you’re kind of changing into a whole different path. And what prompted that?

Lou Bortone: Yeah, it’s funny. I mean, I’ve had this like 50-year obsession with the Godfather and the 50-year anniversary was this past year, so I finally decided, the kids are finally out of the house.

I have a little bit of extra time, so rather than just sitting around and watching football, I’m going to do everything, Godfather. Godfather keynote, Godfather leadership book, a Godfather podcast. So it’s taken on a bit of a life of its own, but I’ve been like totally obsessed with this movie for my whole life, really, since it came out on my birthday in 1972.

So, I don’t know, 11 years old. So, I thought, it was the Godfather’s 50th anniversary. It was my 60th birthday, which is like, how is that even possible? So it was kinda like now or never. Yeah.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. So you just dove in and started. I mean, that’s a …It’s a big commitment, right?

To start something new because you’ve got the branding and the offer and the, structuring a keynote is a whole process in itself. So that it just was something that kind of compelled you to do it.

Lou Bortone: Yeah, I think it was just a whole convergence of things. Like I said my 25-year-old twins were finally out of the house and away, and that responsibility was gone and we downsized and on an empty nester and I just figured it’s now or never.

And then the other thing too was the big six oh was like, that was a scarier one. Cause I’m like, how can I be 60 years old? I feel like I’m 20 years old. And honestly, few of my friends passed away in the last few years, so I’m kind of like, I better get off my ass and do this stuff now.

Who knows?

Andrea Vahl: Right, right. I think that’s the amazing weird dichotomy of time. Life is both long and short, right? Because you don’t know how long you have, and you could have, a couple years, or you could have 30 years, you know. Either way, it’s an inspiration to get started now because, if you start now, you’re, what’s that old saying, the best time to plant a tree was yesterday.

Lou Bortone: Yeah. I mean, I’m not close to childhood procrastination, so I really, needed to give myself a kick in the butt to get out and do this stuff I’ve been talking for so many years.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, interesting. So that’s interesting to say.

Do you feel like you procrastinate a lot or?

Lou Bortone: Yeah, but I think less so now. Like I said it was a wake-up call. My parents both passed away in the last five years, and that was a little bit like, oh, you know, they’re my safety net. They’ll always bail me out if I get in trouble and I’m like, okay, I’m an orphans.

I’m an orphan at 59 years old, so I have to really. Do what I got to do and, and stop procrastinating. And like you said, we don’t know how much time we have left and all these things. I didn’t want to be thinking like, oh damn, I should have written that Godfather leadership book I talked about for 50 years.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And I don’t, I definitely, that’s why I thought it was interesting you said that. Cause I definitely don’t see you as a procrastinator out there. Lou is a master of getting content out. He is releasing videos every day or every other day, like tons of stuff.

Things that people are scared to do, he’s out there doing ’em. So it’s, it’s always interesting when someone, has a different view of themselves, but that’s, I think it’s great that you’re getting it out there.

So what kinds of things have Come up as you’ve been getting this out there, what was it hard to launch? Was it scary to launch it? Tell us a little bit about like the process.

Lou Bortone: A little scary because a lot of the stuff that I do on video, I’m talking about video. I can talk about that all day. I can do this stuff standing on my head and now I’m coming into something that’s different.

And I was telling folks, oh, if you’re doing a podcast, you should do a video podcast. And they were saying back to me, well, where’s your podcast? I’m like, oh shit. I have to, practice what I preach. So, and I know you’ve gone through this too, like, okay, I really, now that YouTube is like the king of podcast about I really have to do this.

And out there and do it, and I had no idea, like, like as usual, like I, I bit off way more than I could chew. I had no idea it would take this long. . And be this complicated. But I care about it and I want to make it really good. So I’m just putting as much time and attention as it needs.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

That’s, I know it is way more involved. I, just, oh, start a podcast and it’s, yeah. The branding and the, the, editing and the learning this new skill is a challenge, so, you know. Talk about that. Like how has starting this and pivoting into this kind of in midlife been a hindrance and a help in that case?

Lou Bortone: I mean, it’s a hindrance only that, I’m trying to find a way, to bring it back to my main business and what does this have to do with what I do for a living and monetizing it and that kind of thing. And, and what I realized that, what video, despite the fact that I’m introvert, video is really about connection and building relationships and building loyalty, and my whole keynote is about loyalty is the new currency, which ties into the Godfather loyalty.

My ancestry, they all came from Southern Italy and whether or not they were involved in all that stuff, I don’t know. But loyalty was a big, big piece of it. And, and that’s why I keep coming back to that. So that’s sort of the common thread. So that’s been a help. And the only hindrance has been, I wanted to be consistent about this, but I always put my client work first.

I’m sure. So, so it may be 1130 on a Monday night when I’m trying to get the Tuesday podcast out.

Andrea Vahl: Right. Right. And definitely, I feel like as we’ve gotten older, I used to have lots more energy for that kind. I’d be up till 2:00 AM and, and it is sort of like starting a, a second job in this case, you know?

And it, it has to, the deadlines are there, they have to get met with clients and then but also we’ve also said the podcast is coming out on Monday or whatever day it is and so those things force you to get a little bit more, a little more efficient.

Lou Bortone: Something in the, the old days when I was in TV in Los Angeles, when you had a show that had to be done at a certain time, especially if it was live, it’s like the six o’clock news is not going to wait for you. It starts at six. So I remember that, like from write writing and, and deadlines and all that kind of stuff.

I’m like, oh, oh, oh yeah. This is what it’s like to have deadline.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, for people who don’t know Lou has… Lou, you’ve done so much. Lou, was in television and broadcasting back in the day. And actually, I’d love to see you had your dad’s Emmy.

Lou Bortone: I have my father’s not mine, my dad’s Emmy. I followed in his footsteps.

He was in the TV business for 40 years in Boston, and I kind of followed in his footsteps and ended up in Los Angeles for many years. Always behind the scenes. Like people are like, oh, it must be easy for you to be on camera. I’m like, no, I’m terrified to be on camera. Everything I did was on the other side of the camera.

Yeah. Yeah.

Andrea Vahl: And I loved you talked a little bit before we went live here about this also being a connection to your dad. The whole…yeah….

Lou Bortone: It’s interesting because I was, I felt like, the last couple years maybe it was because again, empty nest syndrome and, and I was in a bit of a rut and I just didn’t feel like doing anything.

So I went to Italy for a month. This past year, and, and it’s, that’s when I got like the idea for the podcast and the idea for the keynote and just sort of going back to the homeland and, and where my grandparents were from. And in a way it was trying to just reconnect with my, my dad and my ancestry and just, I missed that connection of my dad and I worked in the same industry.

We went to the same conferences and it was so fun and little Lou, big Lou, this Lou that we’re both named Lou. And so this in some ways has been a way to, to sort of reconnect with my father and my grandfather who came over on the boat, as they say from the old country.

Andrea Vahl: Wow that.

I love that. I love that because I think, as we get older, we crave a little bit more meaning, right? And it’s not just about the thing that’s going to maybe make us money, it’s about. What are we leaving behind? What’s our legacy? What is something we want to be remembered for? So I love, I love that.

Lou Bortone: It’s funny because I think, my grandfather came over in, I don’t know, 1911 or something like that. Just like in The Godfather, the boat going past the Statue of Liberty came through Ellis Island. And then the next generation, they had 13 kids by the way. So my dad, was one of 13. And that generation tried to really Americanize themselves.

And then my generation is trying to go back and say, no, I want to learn Italian. I want to go back to the village where they were born. They were trying to become more American and I’m trying to go back to being more Italian.

Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome.

That’s so great. Yeah. So as you have had a career as an entrepreneur and launched that and now launching this new thing. Obviously it gets hard sometimes and there’s all kinds of things that come up and one of the questions I like to find out from people who are high achievers like yourself is what is something you do to get your mojo back when things are challenging? Things are, you know, difficult?

Lou Bortone: Yeah. I got this from one of my coaches and you may know her too, Patty Lenon when I was having a tough time, she’s like, well, just stop, just unplug, just stop doing everything. I’m like, no, I need to do more.

And she’s like, no, nothing for like a week. And I said, I’m not doing a week, but I’ll do three days. So I went to, they had these little cabin outpost, tiny houses called get away. About an hour away in the woods. No phone, no internet, no connection, no nothing. So I just totally unplugged and put my phone in a little lockbox for three days and just, I now I try to do that every, six months and just say, I need to unplug for a couple days and go away.

And then I come back with like three loosely notebooks full of ideas and stuff like that. It seems counterintuitive. Like, okay, I’m really busy. What should I do? Oh, just don’t work for a few days and go off into nature. I think the Japanese call them like forest baths or something nature.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. It is counterintuitive because I think we feel like we have to push, push, push. And there’s certainly a especially in the US here hustle culture and everything like that. And it is wild how you think, well, I’m not going to have time to unplug but you really get everything done. You still get everything done and you come back with a fresh mind. Right? So.

Lou Bortone: Yeah, and I think the other thing I realized as I was getting older was like, well, I can make more money, but I can’t make more time. Cause that’s really, the great equalizer, so…

Andrea Vahl: Right, right, right. Time is so precious. So precious. And then you also do these retreats in Italy, which I have, I know that I am going to get on one of those sometime soon. And so just keep inviting me.

Lou Bortone: My, my boggles to Italy and, and obviously we took a break during the pandemic for obvious reasons, but again, that was like, How can I justify going to Italy when I have two kids in college? Cause they were in college at the time and said, oh, I know I’ll do a business retreat and basically, bring some friends over and talk video and talk marketing.

And then in the afternoon we’ll go to vineyards and do wine tasting. So we managed to turn it into a business retreat. . Which is probably less, every year it gets to be less and less business and more and more wine. But, that’s the way goes.

Andrea Vahl: That’s good. I’ll be coming in right at the right time then.

Lou Bortone: Yeah.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. No, that’s, that is great. I think for sure. Vacations and taking time out is a great way to really rejuvenate yourself. And it just is getting out your environment into a totally new environment is so inspiring.

Lou Bortone: You go into another country like that, whether it’s Italy or Spain or whatever.

It’s like, okay, you’re now, you’ve completely changed your environment and all the things that are familiar to you. So it almost forces you to think more creatively and think differently. I mean that’s, that’s where I feel sort of most at home and like, okay, this is as clear as my head’s ever been when I’m…

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. And you go for three weeks, is it?

Lou Bortone: Last year I went by myself for three weeks, which was too long to be by myself, but I was kinda like, oh, I’ll do, like, because I couldn’t, because of the pandemic, I couldn’t bring a group. So I just went, and basically lived in Orvieto, which is in Umbria.

And it was like crazy because like, oh my God, I can get an Airbnb for the whole month for $800 in this little town. I’m like, how could I not do it? And as long as I have internet, I was still able to work. I called in the conference calls and, and then I just, wandered around, wandered the streets of Tuscany for a while.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Your pictures were amazing. I was like, so jealous, so. But I did get to, I got to Italy last year too, so it was, i, it was awesome. So great.

So talk about some of your greatest teachers and influencers and what have you learned from them along the way.

Lou Bortone: Yeah, I think, I think really , I was fortunate because again, because I went into the same career as my dad, my dad was always my mentor and consulente as we say in Italian.

So my counselor, I could always go to him, for advice and things like that. And the thing I think I learned from him was he was at the same TV station for 40 years. So it was about loyalty, it was about hard work, integrity, excellence. , so that’s why like when he passed on, I’m like, the only thing I want is the Emmy.

Just gimme his Emmy. because that’s the, that was a sort of TV connection. But really it’s really, it really just again, comes down to integrity and loyalty and, and not being an a-hole. So…

Andrea Vahl: I think that’s a good motto. I think everyone should just, yeah.

Right there.

Lou Bortone: And then the only problem with that is like, there are some people that call me Sweet Lou, and I think somebody on Shark Tank always says, don’t confuse my kindness for weakness

So yeah, I’m nice. But only if you’re nice to me. . .

Andrea Vahl: That’s, yeah. Why don’t you give us a little sneak peek into, loyalty and how brands can cultivate loyalty. Like The Godfather, I’d love to hear a little piece of that teaching.

Lou Bortone: Yeah. A lot of that, obviously the mob for hundreds of years used loyalty and silence and things like that, and they used fear and intimidation and I guess we can’t really use that in the corporate world, but we were talking before we came on here about, trust takes years to build and just seconds to lose. And we thought about like, oh my God, look at Southwest Airlines during the holidays. They’ve spent millions of dollars and tens of years on their brand. And then in one weekend everything falls apart because they let their customers down.

So I think you have to really think about how you’re going to put the customer first. How are you going to develop loyal employees and loyal customers? Because now in a hybrid and remote world, and again, we mentioned this, I have 25 year old twins who have been working for three years and they’ve never worked in an office, ever.

So how do you create loyal employees when you’re rarely in the same room together? . And you have to do it with, you have to build trust over time. You have to build it with things like this, like video conferencing and video and, anything you can do to, to establish a stronger connection and go above and beyond.

And I think about things like I think it’s, yeah, Wegmans sends their deli people when they, when when you work in the deli at Wegmans, you go to France to take a cheese class. I’m like, okay. Wow. , that’s cool. So, I go, when I was in business, they’d send me to like Poughkeepsie in a conference room, and the Wegmans people are going to Italy and France to take cheese classes.

So , I think those are the kinds of things that, you say this is, this is why somebody is so loyal and why they have such low turnover, because they basically take really good care of their employees and they’re not just a hamster on a wheel. They’re really treating them and, and cultivating.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. It has to be so, so intentional from the top down, right? So I mean, it just really comes from that. That management to,

Lou Bortone: yeah. And you look at like, I can’t remember the woman’s name who founded Spanx, but she took all of her employees to Europe and gave…

Andrea Vahl: Sarah Blakeman.

Lou Bortone: Oh, this is Sarah. Right? Yeah. So I mean, that’s the kinda thing that really, helps. It’s not just a matter of buying loyalty, but it’s really more about taking care of your. And treating them like family. And that’s I think, where the loyalty comes in.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. Like family, right? I can’t do that… So

Lou Bortone: I think that’s why I’m so obsessed with The Godfather, because that’s really the first time a movie portrayed Italians as like, okay, they’re not just a bunch of gummba’s and they’re not all in the mafia.

It’s like teeny portion. But, but I saw. The dinners and the families. And every Sunday we’d go to our grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner and it would be four hours and my grandfather would tell stories and, all these quotes and Proverbs, he made wine in his basement at the big barrels and it just felt like, so when I saw, when I saw The Godfather, I’m like, oh, you know this, this rings true to me. This is really, really, feels like the real deal.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. So one of the questions I like to ask guests too is what it is an assumption that people have about you that is wrong.

Lou Bortone: I think sometimes my shyness and introversion gets mistaken for arrogance it’s like, no, I’m, I’m very approachable. I’m just also very afraid of people. So I think a lot of it is people think they either, they think that I’m really shy, which I am, but they see me on video and like, oh, you’re so, so much quieter in person.

You’re so much more mellow in person. I’m like, yeah, because I’m not going to wear the Moses wig and doing the 10 commandments of video at a conference. I’m only going to do that in in my living room on camera, so, Probably not as outgoing as I may appear on video. I have like, like, like little bursts of, of energy and if I go to a conference, yeah, I can be enthusiastic, but three days I’ll have to, roll up in a ball for three days afterwards and recover.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah, if, you can be enthusiastic for 10 minutes right on the video. And then , not the whole conference, but that’s one thing I really like about you, Lou, is that you’re so open about your introversion and that how introverts are, I think it’s like very comforting to other people who are introverts because I think many people assume that if you are going to do video, if you’re going to be on social media, you have to be an extrovert.

And that’s not, that’s actually not true. There’s a lot more people who are in social media who are introverts because it’s an easier medium. There allows you to think and process and things like that rather than, a big crazy conference where everyone’s all hyped up and stuff.

So, no, I love that. I love that you are the, introverts unite at home.

Lou Bortone: On the couch, separately.

Andrea Vahl: So very cool. Very cool. Here’s a good question. Have you ever had either in building your previous business or in this new business, because it is relatively new.

Have you ever had like an oh shit moment that…

Lou Bortone: like this morning Oh yeah. . Yeah. I mean, especially when I, when I left the TV business and decided to go out on my own and well there was one job, I worked in higher ed and I was working and they were putting a TV studio into this college in New Hampshire, because we had the first in the nation primary and all the presidential candidates would come through and, and I brought, news people to the campus and all that.

And all of a sudden, they were, they’re doing this awesome, first in the nation primary. So I did all that stuff. But I was also using the TV studio to do a sketch comedy show. And this was a Catholic college. And I made the mistake of doing a joke about touched by a cardinal instead of touched by an angel.

And somebody I wasn’t trying to hide. It was on local public access. And then the people from the college see it and they’re like, you can’t do that. You’re, you’re out of here. So I got fired and I was like, oh shit. I got fired because I was doing a comedy show at, at the college, TV station at night, on my own time.

But but yeah, so it’s kinda like I got so wrapped up in the, in the sketch comedy thing that I sort of like, oh, I guess I may have crossed a line a little bit wise. So, So the Catholics kicked me out and then I was like, well, I might as well just, as I think I said to my wife at at the time, I’m like, do you think I can pull a hundred thousand dollars out of my ass in a year?

So , cause , that’s kinda how you, like, what do we do? We just, we just make it happen. Right?

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. You know? Yeah. That. I love that story. That’s awesome. I haven’t heard that story before. Yeah. Tell that.

Lou Bortone: I mean, that’s like, whoa. Why’d you become an entrepreneur? Entrepreneur? Cause I got fired. I mean, I, I lost my job and I had no choice.

Andrea Vahl: So, . Yeah. Yeah. And that’s almost, in a way, it’s almost easier, right? Because you have to do something like that new. You have to, like you said, Pull 10, a hundred thousand dollars out of your ass, . But but it is, it does force you to do it, and it’s, I think it’s a little bit harder to pivot into something new when you have.

That steady income. It might be the job, it might be the, career that, or the, business you’ve built. . And pivot into something new and it takes a lot of bravery to do that. And maybe let go of a little bit where you were.

Lou Bortone: Yeah. And especially like where, where you came from a family where it was always about, staying with the company forever and you get into the gold watch when you retire and all that kind of thing.

I don’t think that even exists anymore. But the time, it’s like, what do you mean you? What do you mean you’re going out on your own? What are you going to do? How are you going to make money?

Yeah. Yeah. Well,

Andrea Vahl: you, yeah, you figure it out. That’s great. That’s, that is awesome.

One of the other things I like to have people share is their favorite quote or something that inspires you.

I’m kind of guessing it might come from The Godfather, but I’m not sure .

Lou Bortone: I do love those quotes from The Godfather and I talk a lot about, what it means to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. And my favorite quote from the movie, “Leave the Gun, take the cannoli.” So I named my podcast, Take the Cannoli. Which was an improvised line by the way. It wasn’t even in the script, it was just, they just said it, so.

But my favorite quote is actually from something my grandmother used to say. It sounds a lot better of an Italian, but it’s “A good name is better than riches.” Which is an old Italian proverb and I always, that always stayed with me like, okay, having money is one thing, but having a good reputation is the best. So

Andrea Vahl: yeah, that’s great. How do you say it in Italian?

Lou Bortone: I can’t remember.

Andrea Vahl: It sounds really good in Italian.

Lou Bortone: Yeah, I mean I think it’s so funny because like when I was in italy, by the time I came back I was like, practically speaking Italian. And then when you don’t do it every day, yeah. It just,

Andrea Vahl: yeah. Yeah. You definitely, it definitely is a, it’s amazing how fast that kind of thing can leave, so, well, awesome.

Well, where can people connect with you, your new podcast and both your video thing and your new thing.

Lou Bortone: Right? Sure.

For all the speaking fun stuff, it’s and the Godfather podcast is at

Andrea Vahl: Oh, perfect.

Lou Bortone: Until Paramount Pictures shuts me down. I’ll, I’ll keep doing it.

Andrea Vahl: I feel like they can’t. Can they trademark the name Godfather? The word Godfather. I feel like they can’t Oh. The name.

Lou Bortone: I mean, they’re very possessive of, of their franchise. Again, like I think when you’re sort of looking at scenes and talking about it impact and that kinda thing.

It’s not like, you know, sell.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Well, I’m definitely going to tune into that. I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet, but I’m excited to go over there, subscribe and everyone go check it out too. He does scenes from the movie, breaks them down, got cool things coming out in the future too, with things he was sharing with me.

So definitely check that out. And Lou, thank you so much for coming on, sharing your journey, sharing your wisdom about moving into something new and really chasing after that thing that you’ve wanted to do for so many years. So inspiration…

Lou Bortone: I’m part of the late bloomer’s Club. So..That was very, that was a really late bloomer, but, but thanks again for having me on. I appreciate it.

Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Thanks, Lou. All right. Bye everyone.

Hope that was helpful, and make sure you grab the free guide Top Tools for Late Starters on the website at and let’s turn dreaming into doing.


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Late Starters Club Podcast
Late Starters Club Podcast

This is the place for inspiration, motivation, and mindset resets. You will walk away ready to take action with practical and informative advice from some of the most amazing “Late Starters” on the planet.

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