Secrets to a long life - how five family-owned businesses have survived over 100 years

Very few businesses survive more than 100 years, and family-owned businesses are no exception. However, some do manage this feat, and our study looks at what those businesses have done differently to last so long.

As with people, very few businesses survive beyond their one hundredth year. Studies show that a mere 3% of family-owned businesses survive beyond a fourth generation. Professor Ajay Bhalla and Dr. Aneesh Banerjee have sought to identify what these rare businesses do differently to enjoy such longevity.

For their study Life after 100? A Leader’s Guide to Resilient Family Businesses, they examined the tradtions, practices, and leadership at five family-owned, British businesses that have existed for over 100 years. These five businesses: the William Jackson Food Group; the Bibby Line Group; Samworth Brothers; Thatchers Cider; and the Wates Group, were all founded in the 19th century, remain deeply embedded in the local communities where they originated, and continue to thrive.

Their example provided insight which allowed the report authors to create a decision-making framework called DREAM. The framework consists of five strategies that together are central to the long-term development of a family-owned business:

  • Disruption Strategy - how a business identifies and responds to disruptive threats.
  • Reputation Strategy - associating the business with strong values, and instilling company pride in its workforce.
  • Expertise Strategy - how the business invests to build talent within the family pool, and how it accesses trusted expertise outside of the family.
  • Attachment Strategy - retaining a sense of attachment to the company, in both near and distant family members, and the outside community.
  • Motivating Aspirations - providing a long-term vision for the company that workers can aspire to, one that transcends simple profit-maximisation.

The Life after 100? A Leader’s Guide to Resilient Family Businesses report is available for download at City Research Online.