Starting a business is one thing, but building a company that can endure for more than a century is an entirely different game. It takes more than just a brilliant idea or a sound business plan. To achieve this feat, one needs to possess a specific mindset and approach that prioritizes sustainability, resilience, and long-term thinking.
However, despite its challenges, it is not an impossible feat, as evidenced by companies like Coca-Cola, Michelin, Crayola, Colgate, and many more. These companies have braved the storms of time and offer valuable lessons on how to build a business that can weather the ever-changing market landscape. They not only survived but thrived, leaving an indelible mark on the world.
So, what sets these companies apart? How have they managed to survive the test of time through changing times, technological advancements, globalization, and even recessions? Here are three key strategies and mindsets that can help you build a company that can last.
1. Think Long-Term
As businesses strive for success, it can be all too tempting to prioritize immediate gains and short-term profits. However, such a mindset can come at a great cost to the long-term growth and prosperity of a company. To ensure sustained success, businesses must focus on the bigger picture and make strategic investments and decisions that may not yield immediate returns but can ultimately pave the way for long-term growth.
Focusing on the long term involves having a clear and realistic vision for where the company wants to be in the future, be it 10, 20, or even 100 years down the road. To achieve this vision, it’s necessary to take into account prevailing market trends, technological advancements, and other factors that could impact the company’s prospects.
A case in point would be investing in research and development to create new products or enhance existing ones. Though such an investment may not yield immediate returns, it can give the company an edge over competitors and ensure relevance and profitability in the long run.
Focusing on the long term also means having a disciplined approach to managing finances and resources. This may mean making difficult decisions, such as cutting back on expenses or investing in a new initiative that may not pay off immediately but has the potential to provide long-term benefits.
2. Think People
There’s no denying it—humans thrive where they feel welcome and wanted. And when it comes to a company’s success, the quality and productivity of its employees are paramount. So it only makes sense that investing in them is a smart business decision. But it’s not just about offering competitive compensation and benefits. It’s about creating a work environment that fosters growth and development, promotes a sense of community and belonging, and empowers employees to contribute to the company’s success.
Google is a great example of a company that understands this. Their “20% time” policy allows employees to devote a portion of their work hours to personal projects, and this has resulted in some of their most successful products, like Gmail and Google Maps.
But investing in employees is just one piece of the puzzle. For a company to truly last a lifetime, it needs to be rooted in the community it serves. This means being visible and active and being willing to help out with various causes and social responsibilities. Whether it’s supporting local charities, partnering with other businesses, or working with government agencies, a company that is committed to its community will reap the benefits of a loyal customer base and a positive reputation.
Take Johnson & Johnson, for example. With over 130 years of success under their belt, they understand the value of serving not just their employees but the people they serve as well. Their company credo puts their ethical and social responsibilities front and center, with the belief that their first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, patients, and families who use their products and services.
3. Think Innovation
In today’s business world, innovation is no longer a luxury but a necessity. It is the key to unlocking growth and ensuring long-term sustainability. Companies that fail to innovate risk becoming irrelevant, left behind by their competitors, and ultimately forgotten by their customers.
Innovation is not just about coming up with new ideas. It is a mindset that requires a culture of experimentation, continuous learning, and adaptability. Companies that embrace innovation recognize that taking risks and experimenting with new ideas is essential to staying ahead of the curve. They realize that failure is merely a stepping stone on the road to achievement rather than the end. By learning from their mistakes, they can refine their processes, improve their products, and stay ahead of the game.
The most successful companies in the world did not get to where they are today by simply outpacing their competitors. They disrupted entire markets, revolutionizing the way we live our lives. Take Uber, for example. It didn’t set out to beat the taxi industry; it aimed to revolutionize transportation by providing a more convenient and cost-effective service. Or Warby Parker, which disrupted the eyewear industry by offering a direct-to-consumer model that cut out the middleman. And let’s not forget about Airbnb, which completely transformed the way we think about travel and accommodations.
These companies succeeded because they made innovation their core business. They recognized that in a world where change is constant, innovation is the key to survival. They fostered a culture of creativity and experimentation, empowering their employees to think outside the box and push the boundaries of what was possible.
Ultimately, building a company that lasts and thrives through decades of change requires a unique and long-term approach to business. By adopting a “stewardship mindset,” where leaders prioritize the interests of all stakeholders and focus on sustainable growth, companies can create a culture of innovation and resilience that endures for generations. By doing so, you’ll create a company that not only succeeds but also has a positive impact on society and the environment. And that’s something that everyone can get behind.