I found this piece on the oldest companies in the world at the Long Now site. And according to Business Week even well established companies can be vulnerable. Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi, founded in 578 (yes, five hundred and seventy eight), succumbed to “excess debt and an unfavorable business climate” in 2006. The writer, James Hutcheson, draws some interesting conclusions:
“To sum up the lessons of Kongo Gumi’s long tenure and ultimate failure: Pick a stable industry and create flexible succession policies. To avoid a similar demise, evolve as business conditions require, but don’t get carried away with temporary enthusiasms and sacrifice financial stability for what looks like an opportunity. ”
The oldest in the UK is a relative youngster – only 467 years old. Surprisingly it isn’t in the City of London – it’s near Huddersfield and is called Brookes Mill. Textile manufacturing ended only in 1987, and the same family have transformed the business into a “heritage office park”. Sounds like a sensible evolution.
The youngest I recognised was Cordoniu who make rather good cava. Founded 1551. Our own local brew here in Lewes, Harveys, has a venerable 200 year history.
I wonder if there’s something especially sustainable about the drinks business?