Like most other teens, you were probably getting shipped off to college. Saying goodbye to mommy and daddy, and getting ready for your first taste of freedom.
When Efraim Diveroli was 18, he had already established himself as an international arms dealer. He had millions in the bank after having procured massive contracts with the US Government, mainly in providing munitions in the War on Terror.
He would go on to travel around much of Europe, to former Soviet Bloc countries where he would inspect rounds of ammo, guns and other arms. He would meet shady arms brokers, prostitutes, former-Soviet military officers, and of course US government workers looking to take him down.
Becoming an Arms Dealer
Once a Gun Runner by Efraim Diveroli, the real story behind the new movie War Dogs, is a wild tale from start to finish. The memoir begins with Efraim’s childhood, growing up in a traditional, Orthodox Jewish family in Florida. Unlike most other little Jewish boys Efraim does not take kindly to rules, school or any sort of authority. After getting in trouble at school, he gets shipped off to California. He works for his uncle in South Central L.A., in a warehouse moving crates and boxes of police equipment.
Not long after working there he had a hankering for sales–it was in his blood. Still a kid, he decided to devote himself entirely to the business:
I STARTED LIVING AND BREATHING GUNS AND AMMO. I was studying manuals, breaking down weapons and reassembling them in the back room of my uncle’s shop, all the while doing internet research on the technical and business aspects of a wide array of weapons and munitions. I was working 18-hour days educating myself and drumming up new business for myself and Botach Tactical.
Efraim soon outgrew the industry. He craved bigger contracts. Still just a teen, Efraim formed his own arms contracting company, AEY Inc. He started small, but worked his way up by outbidding and out-hustling his competitors.
Much of the story takes place around the company’s biggest deal—a deal worth around $300 million. An absolutely massive sum that required Efraim to ratchet up his operations. This deal would make him a massive sum, but would also lead to his downfall.
Great Lessons on Business
The story generated a lot of (negative) press in the media. However, I’m not one to focus on the negativity in something. I want to find lessons I can takeaway from a book.
In Once A Gun Runner, some of the biggest takeaways I got were the business lessons. Efraim is the definition of a hustler, always grinding and never making excuses.
His decision to devote himself to sales at such a young age is worthy of admiration–older guys take note! [See How to Sell].
Efraim also had the right mindset, unlike his partner:
THE PROBLEM WITH PACKOUZ WAS THIS: If you asked him what he was doing at any given time, he would tell you, “I’m trying to make some money.” If you asked me the same question, I’d tell you, “I’m part of a team building a billion-dollar business…” He just couldn’t see that, and that’s why he failed so miserably as a businessman
This attitude combined with the right mindset took him to the top of the industry:
There were booths and representatives from all the manufacturers. I was amazed at how many of them I knew. Manufacturers’ sales representatives and various arms trading companies were shoving their business cards into the palm of my hand and asking me to call them. The same guys who I used to look up to were pleading for a minute of my time. It was the first time I felt like I had made it. I was a player
Was it Worth It?
The question that always comes to mind when reading memoirs like this is whether it was all worth it.
Would you take tens of millions of dollars, world travel, pretty women and media attention (positive or negative) if it meant spending years in a federal prison?
I’d probably pass (Although I hear Club Fed isn’t too shabby).
The arms business is, naturally, an industry with a lot of seedy characters, corruption and tip-toeing around federal and international laws. Yet, as just a young kid Efraim navigated this world and beat out multinational, multi-billion dollar competitors. The ending, however, was surely not what he was hoping for.
Once a Gun Runner, while an opportunity for Efraim to give his side of the story and clear his name, is also a powerful memoir. It’s entertaining throughout and gives you insight into a world that’s been hidden from the public eye.
P.S. War Dogs is now in theaters. I haven’t seen the movie, and don’t think this book and the movie’s plot line up exactly, but it should be entertaining.