We asked a team to go out into the world, and find companies that were older than Shell, more than 100 years old, who were leaders in their industry, and who still had their corporate identies intact.
27 companies met the definition.
Siemens, more than 150 years old
Dupont, more than 200 years old
Stora, 700 years old
What characterizes these old companies? What let’s them survive. It’s clearly not "cultural" because we have American, Swedish, German, and Japanese companies on the list.
We found they shared these traits:
1) Financially conservative. This is bad news for investment bankers. These companies want to keep their own money in their own pockets, and don’t want someone else’s money. Surviving for centuries means never having a banker pull the rug out from under you.
2) The leaders of these companies are sensitve to the world around them. Leaders were outward looking people, and are often highly active in the society around the company. Dupont has produced generations of US senators. If your leaders are out there in the world, active, they will note changes in society and keep asking "what will this mean for the company?"
3) Strong sense of cohesion and company idenity. Leaders and staff know what the company stands for, and are happy to identify with those values.
4) Management style of tolerance. Lots of space on the margins for new or different activities.
thro’ Allan Jenkins