Computer ConQuest Ltd has celebrated its tenth birthday: time for congratulations. After all, 40% of all newly-created companies last less than ten years. (http://www.businessweek.com/chapter/degeus.htm ). The same article lists factors common to the longest lived companies (and here we are talking of centuries, not decades, rare though such companies are).
From a Granny’s eye view, longevity is always interesting. The first shared characteristic is an ability to learn and adapt. Undoubtedly important for grannies, if their descendants are not to run rings round them. How does CCQ measure up? They are certainly alive to changing technological needs. Moving fast enough to keep up with the big boys can present challenges: the secret lies in selecting the right paths to follow.
Second is a sense of identity. Here small is beautiful. A small family company, like a good family, should have a strong sense of identity. This is much harder to retain in the impersonal atmosphere of a global organisation.
Third is tolerance. Toleration of “activities on the margin: outliers, experiments, and eccentricities within the boundaries of the cohesive firm, which kept stretching their understanding of possibilities.” Another important if sometimes challenging one for Grannies: a child or grandchild pursuing an interest or career path seemingly remote from traditional family activities is as deserving of support and respect as one remaining on well-worn tracks. Here again CCQ scores highly as they work to develop new lines of business, of which Rummage (http://getrummage.com/ ) is just one, while offering their original high standards of service in consultancy for long established clients. Besides, how many companies would allow a granny and a Junior Paper Shredder loose on the internet, quite unsupervised? Or is this loss of control?
(Query from the JPS: Is that a cat under her knitting come from? Just leave the control to me… )
The fourth characteristic is conservatism in finance. Frugality, avoidance of unnecessary risk and understanding money in the old fashioned way are important. Ideally this enables a company to grasp options without having first to persuade outside financiers. The second part of this is not easy in such stringent financial times as the present. But Rob and Hugh have throughout accepted the need to invest in the company’s future. They have never subscribed to the popular approach: “I am worth this amount. Therefore I must have this amount now.” The company comes first. As the writer of the article remarked, “The ability to return investment to shareholders seemed to have nothing to do with longevity.”
So here’s to the next 100 years. May the JPS’s great, great, grrrrreat granddaughter be there to help blow out the candles.