Intentional Growth

#246: What does it take for a company to survive for 100 years in the United States?

#246: What does it take for a company to survive for 100 years in the United States?
Intentional Growth
#246: What does it take for a company to survive for 100 years in the United States?

There are few clubs as elite as the Century Club, and today’s guest is going to share what it takes to get there. Vicki TenHaken focused her career on the factors that make companies long-lived and boiled them down to five key things Century Club companies do consistently:

  1. Have a clear sense of mission and strong culture
  2. Establish core competencies and key strengths
  3. Focus on relationships
  4. Retain long-term employees
  5. Support local communities

Today’s episode will overview the most common things companies with longevity do, how you can establish these best practices in your own business and practical advice for encouraging a long-term company. If you’re serious about legacy, this isn’t an episode you want to miss!


What You Will Learn In Today's Podcast Interview

  • Why Vicki spent 10 years on her research agenda to find the common practices of companies that are more than 100 years oldWhat participative management is and why you should consider taking it up
  • The main characteristics of companies that make it to the Century Club
  • Statistically significant practices that 100-year-old companies engage in, from Japan to the USA
  • Why a clear sense of mission and a strong culture to go along with that made the top of the list
  • Long-lasting companies take their time making changes and therefore change successfully
  • The “soft stuff” really, really matters—relationships and managing them
  • Companies that stick around see partners, not simply economic exchanges, in vendors, customers, etc.
  • New product or service ideas can come from customers and suppliers you already have
  • The value of employee-centric reward structures, including ESOPS
  • Why it might be time to sponsor a little league team
  • How being environmentally conscious could help your company last longer
  • The importance of building curiosity into your culture
  • What’s different for a family business wanting to maintain control through the generations


Are You Growing The Value of Your Business

Take The 2-Minute Assessment To Get Your Intentional Growth Score™ And 1-Page Vision Board.

  • Are your company's current initiatives intentionally designed to increase the value of the business?
  • Do you know what you want from your business long term and why?
  • Do you know what your company is worth?
  • Do you know the differences between Management, Family Transitions, PE Firms, ESOPs and Strategic Buyers?
  • Does the business have a written strategic plan on how to achieve the desired normalized EBITDA and valuation?


About the Guest:

Vicki TenHaken is a seasoned corporate executive who left the business world after 25 years to enter academia. She is presently professor of management at Hope College and has previously worked with companies like GE and Herman Miller. Research on corporate longevity has become her passion as the Century Club companies she studies set the example of doing business for the good of all. Vicki is also author of Lessons from Century Club Companies: Managing for Long-Term Success.



4:36 - “Every company I’ve ever worked for was over 100 years old.” – Vicki TenHaken

09:31 - “Talk about learning something! Try teaching an executive MBA class on change management to people who are trying to manage their company from communism to capitalism!” – Vicki TenHaken

14:35 - “Obviously you wouldn’t be in a business that’s around 100 years old if you hadn’t done something right.” – Vicki TenHaken

21:25 - “They tended to look at profit as the result of doing what they do and doing it well. One CEO said, ‘We see profit as the fuel for our organizational engine, not our destination.’” – Vicki TenHaken

23:17 - “The difference was how the old companies managed them over time and they were very clear about investing in those competencies over time.” – Vicki TenHaken

24:23 -  “They wouldn’t still be here if they hadn’t found a way to change appropriately.” – Vicki TenHaken

30:10 - “It was because of that trust built that was built and that true partnership that they’re willing to exchange strategies and information and technologies, and then all of them are successful over time.” – Vicki TenHaken

34:25 - “There are so many benefits that come with having long-term employees, especially if you invest in their continued growth and development.” – Vicki TenHaken

40:40 - “One thing they all have in common is that they tend to be financially conservative and they are slow to take on debt.” – Vicki TenHaken

48:00 - “It comes back to the culture. It’s built into the culture that curiosity, openness to new ideas, and not being afraid to try new things, and even to fail.” – Vicki TenHaken


Links and Resources:

Lessons From Century Club Companies: Managing for Long-Term Success, by Vicki TenHaken

Vicki’s blog, “How 100-Year-Old-Companies Survive

Email: [email protected]

Email: [email protected]

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You can also reach out to me via email at [email protected], or on my LinkedIn.

Brought to you by Ryan Tansom of Intentional Growth