Simple Principles for Centuries of Success

Simple Principles for Centuries of Success

by Bill High

We don’t think long enough when we think about family business.

Most family-owned businesses last for 24 years.  That’s it.

And if you’ve followed me, you know the statistics.  There’s a 70% failure rate in passing a business to the second generation, and an 85% failure rate by the 3rd generation. Astounding.

What’s the oldest family-owned business in the world?

Kongo Gumi is a temple restoration business. It’s been operating since 578 AD.

If you are counting, that’s 1,444 years—more than 40 generations.

Think about that.  40 generations of handoffs.  40 generations of succession. Many businesses fail to make it through one handoff let alone 40.

While the business has had its share of ups and downs, they’ve operated with some simple principles excerpted below:

  1. Keep a balance between technique and heart.
  2. Don’t leave your doors wide open (which means change with the times but stick with what you know)
  3. Always use common sense
  4. Don’t drink too much, use obscene words or harbor vicious will toward others
  5. Give each task your full attention
  6. Be well-mannered and humble and respect status.

As Masakazu Kongo, the 40th generation leader, acknowledges that their company bears a unique social burden. “I have a responsibility to the company, but also to society because we are so old.”  He recognizes they are stewards of temples that are irreplaceable.

I like that idea—stewards of irreplaceable temples.  The oldest family-owned businesses will always have some greater and higher purpose.  A reason to be.

When we have that reason to be, we can last 1,000 years.

What’s the lesson?  Think long-term.  Think 1,000 years.  And operate with a creed.  It’s a great step for long term success.

Photo by DDDanny D on Unsplash.

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Published August 29, 2022

Topics: Family Business | Lessons with Bill

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