Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Up to 880 Companies Over 100 Years Old!

The list of public companies over 100 years old that was published by USA Today last week has given me a number of additions to my data base of old companies. A great many of the additions are financial institutions or utilities. My student researchers will be recalculating statistics for quite a while!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

USA Today Celebrates 100 Year Old Companies

The June 16 issue of USA Today had a nice article about IBM's 100th anniverary (birthday?). In it they quote Jim Collins of "Built to Last" fame - and me! The reporter had Standard & Poors compile a list of publicly traded U.S. companies over 100 years old, which has given me a number of companies to add to my data base. CBS Sunday Morning also had a segment on IBM's reaching the century mark...as did Forbes...and The Economist...and The New York Times. IBM has done a good job of letting people know about their achievement and bringing focus to what it takes for a corporation to survive over the long term. "One central message," says the Times article: "Dont' walk away from your past. Build on it. The crucial building blocks...are skills, technology and marketing assets that can be transferred or modified to pursue new opportunities. Those are a company's core assets....far more so than any particular product or service."

Perhaps because IBM went through some very difficult times during the 1990s they are especially celebratory now to have made it to the 100 year mark. Whatever the reason, IBM is doing a great job letting the world know about their new membership in the Century Club!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday to IBM

On June 16 IBM turns 100 years old - the same year it reaches $100 billion in sales. An interview conducted with IBM CEO Sam Palmisano by Forbes' publisher Rich Karlgaard reinforces many of the behaviors we have found in companies that have made it to the century mark. Palmisano says Tom Watson Sr., legendary IBM CEO, "believed if you really created value and not just technology you could be around a very long time. That is more enduring than just getting big."
When asked how he balances short-term and long-term financial goals, Palmisano explained: "We don't run IBM in quarterly cycles, even though there's tremendous pressure to do that, to give quarterly guidance within a penny. You certainly have to make your numbers. But I just feel it is wrong for the long term to run a company like that. That's why...we came up with our road map....to communicate to investors, as well as its employees, about the long term."
CEO since 2002, the people on Palmisano's management team are company veterans: "All the people who work for me today have been here 25 or 30 or 35 years," he says - a common profile seen in companies who are members of the century club.
Palmisano readily acknowledges the last 100 years have not all been smooth sailing - the early 1990s were particularly tough - but by refocusing on what they do well ("deep analytics....that's what IBM does....that's what differentiates us") they are proudly celebrating their 100th year positioned well for the second century.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What is the oldest company in the world?

I was being driven around York, England by a real estate agent looking at apartments to rent for the fall when I will be teaching there. We were talking about our jobs and he asked me about my research. When I told him I studied 100-year-old companies he asked me if I knew what was the oldest company in the world. I admitted that I did not. "Well I do!" he says. He had just heard a piece on the BBC about Stora, the Swedish mining company that dates from 1288 and some claim to be the oldest company in the world. Though my research focus is on U.S. companies over 100, I decided to look into this question about the world's oldest company.

Stora may be one of the oldest large corporations, but there are some older institutions - several of them in Japan and many of them in either the hotel or beverage industries. Three of the oldest: Keiunkan, Hoshi and Koman are all hotels (ryokans or onsens) founded in the early 700s.

The Marinelli Bell Foundry in Italy, successor to a company in operation since the early 1000s, is considered Italy's oldest family business. The Goulaine winery in France also traces its roots to the early 1000s and is generally considered the oldest European family-owned business. However, St. Peter Stiftskeller (restaurant) in Salzburg, Austria is said to have been in continuous operation since 803.

Another of the contenders for oldest company is Tanaka-Iga, a Japanese manufacturer of items used in religious shrines and ceremonies, founded in 885. And then there's Genda Shigyo, which has been making paper bags in Japan since 771.....wonder what people carried in paper bags back in the 8th century?

Regardless of how you define "oldest company" these are interesting organizations!