Friday, March 17, 2017

175th Anniversary Congratulations to Six Firms

The year was 1842. John Tyler was U.S. President. Ether anesthesia was used for the first time. The 2nd Seminole War ended and the Seminoles were forced from Florida to Oklahoma. The 1st U.S. patent for a sewing machine was issued. The 1st documented discovery of gold in California occurred. The University of Notre Dame is founded. And these 6 businesses began operations and continue to this day. Century Club Company congratulations to:

Glades Pike Inn, Sommerset PA
Hildreth's Home Goods, Southampton NY - 5th generation
Johnson Woolen Mill, Johnson,VT - 4th generation
Rugg Manufacturing Company, Leominster MA
SI Financial Group, Willimantic CT
Verdin Company (bell manufacturer), Cincinnati OH - 6th generation

Thursday, February 16, 2017

13 US Generational Family-Owned Funeral Homes Are Over 150 Years Old

Several of the longevity practices that turned up in my research of companies over 100 years old have to do with personalized customer service and close ties to the firm's local community. Perhaps because these are also practices of well-run funeral homes, we find a rather large number (relatively speaking) among Century Club Companies and that the majority of these have been run by the same family for generations. Longevity congratulations to the following generational funeral homes in operation for over 150 years. I would love to hear of more!

Backman Funeral Home, Strasburg PA  1769  8th generation

Rogers Funeral Home, Frankfort KY  1802  7th generation

Bear Funeral Home, Churchville VA  1812  6th generation

Eaton Funeral Homes, Newton MA  1818  6th generation

Stuard Funeral Home, Ardmore PA  1822  6th generation

Mitchell-Wiedenfeld Funeral Home, Baltimore MD  1837  6th generation

Wilbert Funeral Home, Plaquemine LA  1850  6th generation

Smith & Sons Funeral Homes, Columbia City IN  1851  5th generation

Davis Funeral Chapel, Leavenworth KS  1855 6th generation

Schoedinger Funeral & Cremation Services, Columbus OK  1855  5th & 6th generations

Laufersweiler-Sievers Funeral Homes, Fort Dodge IA  1856  5th generation

Quinn Funeral Homes, Warwick RI  1857  4th generation

J. Henry Stuhr, Charleston SC  1865  5th generation

Saturday, January 28, 2017

200 Years in Business: The Claflin Company

Century Club congratulations go out to The Claflin Company, which started in 1817 as an apothecary in Providence, Rhode Island. Today it is recognized as one of the medical distribution industry's leading independent firms with a reputation for innovative service programs. Best wishes for your third century!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017 New Century Club Members

2017 will see the following 13 companies added to the roster of U.S. Century Club companies. Some have changed quite a bit over the last 100 years but 3/4 of them have remained privately owned - three are in the 4th generation of family ownership, one is 3rd generation, and one is 5th generation. These companies represent a range of industries, though a surprising 1/4 are wholesale grocers; two are retail (one apparel, one bookstore), one law firm, one bank, one architecture & engineering firm, two manufacturers (office products and specialty trucks), and two produce food & beverage products (steaks and wine). I'll be adding more specific information on each company over the next few weeks as well as featuring them on twitter (@vtenhaken). As always, I welcome information on companies you know that have reached the 100 year milestone and will look forward to adding them to the Century Club!

Central Grocers
Fellowes Inc.
G&L Clothing
HDR, Inc.
Omaha Steaks
Oshkosh Corp
Parker Hannifin
San Antonio Winery
Sunsweet Growers
Vinson & Elkins
Washington Federal


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Century Club Companies

Many thanks to the many people who have purchased my book or read this blog and contacted me ( about a company they know of or work for that has been in business for over 100 years. I love adding companies to my data base and it is so encouraging to hear that these companies I hadn't included in my research also exhibit the management philosophy and practices of other Century Club Companies.

Here are a few of the recent additions:

Schantz Organ Company (1873) Orville, OH Pipe organ builder

W.H. Fay (1887) Cleveland, OH Trucking 

Afro-American Newspapers (1892) Baltimore, MD Publishing

Galatoire's (1905) New Orleans, LA Restaurant

Interlake Steamship Company (1913) Middleburg Heights, OH Great Lakes shipping

Attman's (1915) Baltimore, MD Delicatessen

Bauer, Inc. (1916) Bristol, CT Test and support equipment for aircraft component maintenance

All have interesting stories, so be sure to check them out!

Monday, August 29, 2016

"A Century Club Company That Operates Like a Tech Start-Up"

Century Club company Independent Stave is a great example of longevity factor #2: unique core strengths combined with change management. Based in Lebanon, Missouri, Independent Stave is the world's largest barrel manufacturer for wine, whiskey, and beer - an industry that relies on barrels for aging their product.

Founded in 1912 by T.W. Boswell, Independent Stave is now run by fourth-generation Boswell siblings. When the company began, it just produced staves - the slats that make up a barrel. It wasn't until 1951 that it opened its own cooperage, aimed at the expanding US whiskey industry. Rather than simply "setting the barrels on fire" to age them (the norm for US barrel manufacturers), the Boswell then in charge began the company's efforts to update the low-tech process with various engineered quality-control systems and dived deep into the science of wood aging. The result is what the New York Times called "a company that makes an age-old product but operates like a tech start-up." (See the NYT August 28, 2016 for the full article on Independent Stave.)

As with most Century Club companies, Independent Stave would not have survived for over 100 years without building on their unique core strengths, making improvements that keep them ahead of the competition. For more information about this competency (factor #2 in my longevity model) as well as the other four longevity factors, read "Lessons from Century Club Companies: Managing for Long-Term Success."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Survival? Sustainability? Stewardship? What word best describes "long-term business success?"

When writing my book on common practices of companies over 100 years old, I struggled with what term to use to describe them. With the help of my editor, Clark Malcolm, I landed on Century Club Companies, which certainly sounds better than "old companies," and referred to their longevity practices as "managing for long-term success." When presenting papers on my research at academic conferences I often call these "survival factors," which somehow seems to downplay the fact that these companies have done much more than merely survive: though most have gone through periods of barely surviving, most actually thrive or they wouldn't have lasted for over 100 years. Early on I liked to talk about the sustainability of these companies, but that term has become identified almost exclusively with the environmental movement. (At the last conference where I presented a paper, one of the discussants actually thanked me for using the term "survival" instead of "sustainable.") Use of the term sustainable business practices becomes even more confusing because one of the five factors in my longevity model is that of deep relationships these companies have with their community --including being at the forefront of many environmental sustainability practices. 

When talking about the leadership approach used by people running Century Club Companies another term that comes into play is "stewardship," because these leaders tend to see themselves as caretakers of their companies. The role of leader comes with a sort of obligation to make decisions that will ensure the continuity of the firm rather than those that would make a big splash or fulfill the leader's personal ambitions or need for recognition. But I have been told that the term stewardship comes with either religious or servant-like overtones that some find off-putting. (Also I need to say that many Century Club leaders readily describe themselves as either stewards or servants of the company.)

What do you think? When talking about practices leaders can use to keep their companies in business for the long term, what term makes the most sense?