For the tourist to Japan or Europe, one of the most consistent surprises is how old some of the companies in those countries actually are. In some cases, the same companies have been in existence for over 1300 years. Part of the reason it seems odd to find such old companies, is that the average Fortune 500 company lasts for around 35 years before there is some change to its structure. Here are some examples of some companies that have stood the test of time, and created a model that will continue to outlast their competitors.
MyoChin Furin: From Samurai Armor to Keeping up with the Chimes
Myochin Furin is a small company in Himeji Japan that operates several hundred feet from Himeji castle. Formed over 1300 years ago as a company that made armor for samurai warriors, they moved to Himeji with the lords of the castle when the castle was first built. After Japan opened its country to outsiders in the 1800’s, all of their local competitors went out of business because they were unable to change. Myochin was able to survive by first making barbecue equipment and then by using its technology to create some of the most sought after wind chimes in Asia. Their technology was passed down from father to son for 1300 years without a break. The lesson here for any business is a commitment to the product, and a willingness to change to different environments.
Bank of Napoli
Although the Bank of Napoli in Italy is a relative youngster at an age of just over 400 years, they also have a rich history fending off challenges from other companies. In their early years, the artist Degas and his family worked for them in Naples. Recently, they merged with another bank that had more experience in the areas to the south of Naples. The combined bank decided to keep the name Bank of Napoli and now represents not only one of the oldest companies in the world, but one of the largest.
Occupying a prestigious spot on Wall Street in New York for over 200 years, Bowne is in the business of financial printing. They have been able to maintain their position in the market because of their reputation for quality and honesty. As the 21st century dawned, part of their firm merged with a Boston Software company. A few years later, the financial printing business became part of R.R. Donnelley, although it retains its name. Both financial and government printing jobs that are sensitive often go through Bowne because of their long standing reputation.
Most companies that have stood the test of time are focused in one area and then make necessary direction changes in order to continue to thrive. This is similar to many individuals as they work through their careers. If there is opportunity with more education, they go back and get an online accounting masters degree, or make a similar change in order to remain competitive. The same principle applies to any business. Make sure you are always evolving and becoming more in tune with the economy at the time.