How working in the CIA prepared Mike Baker for Wall Street

Want to make it big in business? Ignore the teachings of Warren Buffet and instead heed the wisdom of James Bond. S

o says Mike Baker, who spent two decades in America’s most notorious spy agency before starting his own security firm.

According to Baker’s new ebook “Company Rules, or Everything I Know About Business I Learned In the CIA” (ScribD, out now), it was the organizational principles learned at Langely that really prepared him for Wall Street. 

Those lessons include “Define Your Mission,” “Know Your Risk Appetite,” “Immediately Admit Your Mistakes,” and “Identify and Resolve Threats.”

But if those maxims alone seem too obtuse to strike it rich, consider the specifics of Baker’s business career. 

When he first started out in private practice, for example, Baker had no work and no clients.

But the first time he lured a prospective client to his empty office, the “mark” never knew what hit him: Baker made sure the phone was constantly ringing, piled files (mostly full of old newspapers) all over desks and floors, and filled a whiteboard that was normally blank with imaginary projects, clients and due dates.

Seeing how busy Baker’s company was — and being further fooled into believing it was also working with the tech giant Microsoft — the impressed client signed on.  

Mike Baker Book
It was the organizational principles learned in the CIA that really prepared Baker for Wall Street, he writes.

Another time, Baker needed to know if a new client’s employee intended to quit and take a cadre of customers to his new position.

An elaborate trap was set.

Baker took the cover of an “American money man” and got himself seated on a plane next to the target, then having half-hushed conversations with a fake colleague in the next row about their lucrative, mysterious plans.

The eavesdropping target bit, asking for a meeting with the “money man” Baker and eventually admitting he intended to betray the company he worked for to venture out on his own.  

Then when Baker needed to access the trash bins of a company he was investigating, tradecraft again won the day: Baker gave the building’s manager a sob story about his cheating wife and soon enough the sympathetic fellow — his wife had been an adulterer, too! — gave Baker all he wanted.  

So perhaps the greatest lesson in Baker’s book? Maybe don’t get yourself into business with a spook.