Not all old companies are family-owned, but a significant number are privately-held. The majority of 100-year-old local companies I have studied indicate that remaining private is a key factor in their survival over the long term. Yesterday (December 20, 2009) Fisk Johnson, the 5th generation of his family to run S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., ran a full-page ad in Parade magazine that explains well the thinking of these companies:
"[Being a family company] means that we don't report to Wall Street. The decisions we make come down to caring for you and the world we share not what analysts want to hear. And quite frankly, that doesn't always mean doing what's easy. But when I go to bed at night, I know what were trying to do is right.....To us, family is more than a relation. It's our inspiration....Times may have changed since my great-great-grandfather started SC Johnson, but the inspiriation behind what we do remains exactly the same."
This thinking reflects de Gues' proposition that companies are human communities, rather than pure economic machines. When company leaders feel this type of "family" obligation to their customers, employees and other stakeholders, it appears to lead to the type of business decisions that lead to long-term company success.