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."

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