They say most start-up businesses fail within two years. There are plenty of mistakes you can make, never mind the vagaries of your market, your government, and your personal situation.
So it is with some sadness that I bring to you this report from BusinessWeek of the demise of the oldest continuously operating family business in the world: Kongo Gumi. How old is old? They lasted for two years --700 times!
Kongo Gumi also boasted some internal positives that enabled it to
survive for centuries. Its last president, Masakazu Kongo, was the 40th
member of the family to lead the company. He has cited the company's
flexibility in selecting leaders as a key factor in its longevity.
Specifically, rather than always handing reins to the oldest son, Kongo
Gumi chose the son who best exhibited the health, responsibility, and
talent for the job. Furthermore, it wasn't always a son. The 38th Kongo
to lead the company was Masakazu's grandmother.
Another factor that contributed to Kongo Gumi's extended existence
was the practice of sons-in-law taking the family name when they joined
the family firm. This common Japanese practice allowed the company to
continue under the same name, even when there were no sons in a given
In America, turning over the keys to your son-in-law is generally a recipe for disaster, but maybe things are different in the Buddhist Temple building business.
Farewell, Kongo Gumi. We hardly knew ye.