Saturday, August 6, 2016

"Lessons From Old Companies" - A Book Review

My neighbor recently gave me a great book. He knew Stried Painting just celebrated 32 years in business and thought I might like to read about what it takes to keep a business thriving for 100 years or more. Now, that's a challenge!  The book, Lessons from Century Club Companies: Managing for Long Term Success, written by Vicki TenHaken, is a gem. She covers five key factors that these companies have in common. Long term relationships with employees, and long term relationships with business partners are two of the five factors. These two resonated with me, since Stried Painting is fortunate to have employees who have been with us for 20 years. We've also enjoyed a 20+ year relationship with more than a few customers. How does this happen? TenHaken says that the Century Club companies tend to be frugal, and they know how and where their money is being spent. This allows them to weather the bad times, and gives them the ability to keep staff in place when the going gets rough. Century Club companies also take a lot of effort in training their employees, giving them the skills needed to do their jobs effectively. 
Century Club companies understand in their bones the value of long term customer relationships and vendor relationships as well. In an environment of intense competition I found it refreshing to read how much they value business partnerships. TenHaken states, "Since Century Club companies believe they cannot maintain success without the cooperation of others, they put a premium on actions that will retain their suppliers and customers from generation to generation." She goes on to describe the fact they are relentless in their pursuit of new business as well. In short, there is a healthy balance. It's not easy taking the long view, but these companies affirm that in doing so, it will indeed pay off.  I did a quick count on the number of companies she has listed and counted 662 (she leaves her email address for those who want to put more Century Club companies on her radar and in her database). I was happy to see that the middle of our country is home to 239 of these great companies. Selfishly, I'd like to think that good old-fashioned Midwestern values has a little something to do with that!
I highly recommend this book and look forward to diving deeper into the other factors the author outlines. We have a lot of work and improvement ahead of us, and this book, and the exceptional companies in its pages, will be a superb guide. Here's to another 68 years in business and achieving Century Club status!
Jim StriedStried Painting   Business relationships at work since 1984.

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