In previous posts (such as The Profit Paradox), I've talked about the importance of an overriding mission that describes the purpose or reason for old companies being in business. Strongly related to this characteristic is the importance of culture for the ongoing survival of 100-year-old companies. Though their cultures vary (the only common factor we found was that of financial conservatism), old companies' emphasis on maintaining the culture that they believe has led to the firm's continued success is significantly different than that of younger firms. Not only is this commitment to their culture shown in the time and effort the companies take to teach employees (and customers and suppliers) about their values and beliefs, the importance of their corporate culture was also seen in the way old firms placed more emphasis on brand identity and consistency in how their brand is evidenced in products, services, and facilities.
The values and beliefs that form a company's culture function as the fundamental guidelines for how the firm operates and provide the core ideas around which employees identify. In many of these old companies, the values and beliefs that formed the company's culture were developed by the founder and passed on through the generations. Though the style and content of the old company cultures differ from company to company, current leaders consistently confirmed the importance of their unique culture as a primary factor in the long term success of their company. These values and beliefs form the fundamental culture of the company and are used to enhance employee identification with the business, thus integrating organizational and individual goals and objectives and building strong employee loyalty.
Current leaders of old companies in both the United States and Japan showed a significant commitment to managing the company according to the culture that had been developed over the past century. Top managers in the old companies were significantly more likely to be personally involved in teaching the culture to employees than were leaders in younger companies. And leaders in the old firms strongly indicated their intent to see that the culture continued on to the next generation through careful development of managers and selection of future leaders who understand and are committed to operating the company with the same values and beliefs.