It recently came up during a sushi-centered work lunch that sake has some amazing health benefits. I did a bit of research and while the health tidbits are fascinating, even more fascinating is how old sake actually is. One of the oldest companies in the world, founded in 1141, is sake brewer Sudo Honke.
And while that is definitely old, it’s nowhere near the top of the ‘oldest-company-in-the-world’ list. Sudo Honke is number 12 on a list dominated by the Japanese.
Six of the top ten oldest companies in the world are in Japan.
In 2011, the Guinness Book of World Records named Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, a hot spring hotel founded in 705 A.D., the oldest company in the world. This hotel has been run by 52 generations of the same family. 52 generations! How lucky they are to have so many young entrepreneurs ready to follow in daddy’s (or mommy’s) footsteps! What are the chances of that, really? Pretty low you say?
I was also skeptical.
Here’s where the story get’s interesting…
Family succession is taken to a whole new level in Japan. Over 90% of adoptions are not children under the age of 18, but educated men ages 25-30. Why? Because if your naturally born successor isn’t quite CEO material, it’s perfectly acceptable to adopt an older brother for your young under-achiever.
With a now successful, hand picked successor legally adopted, and ready to be trained to take over when the time comes, what could possibly go wrong? And that’s how companies last over 1200 years. Hand-picked succession.
Does that make them any better at business? Do people want to buy their goods, and drink their sake because they are old as dirt… well yeah, kind of. With that kind of longevity behind you, there’s bound to be some strong business practices in place.
Finding a fearless leader is just a small detail at that point.
In fact it’s how most businesses run (minus the legal adoption.) It doesn’t matter if you’ve been open for five years, 50 years, or 500 years. Find the best people, hire them, train them and hope they stick around forever.
Invest in your future.
It’s time-consuming. It’s a lot of work, and sometimes those people let you down. But if you stay true to your passions, never stop learning, and refuse to hand over your business to your dopey brother, you’ll be around forever.
Here’s to the beginning of your 1200 year old company!