Long-lived companies – Record holders are real Methuselah’s
Long-lived companies – Record holders are real Methuselah’s, operating continuously for over ten centuries. Tokyo Shoko Research agency dealing with market research since 1892. It found over 5.5 thousand enterprises that have existed for at least 200 years.
More than half of long-lived companies operate in Japan. There are six in the top ten. Among the aforementioned 5.5 thousand – up to 3100. As the reason for this dominance, scientists point to the island’s location of the country and centuries-old isolation.
Most of these long-lived businesses are family businesses, emphasizes prof. Toshio Goto from Japan University of Economics. He sees the root cause of their longevity in the system known as Ie. It is a set of rules determining the position of individual family members, and most importantly – the rules of inheritance of property.
It began to take shape in the XII century, when Japan plunged into the chaos of civil wars. The survival of families living in constant danger depended on the strength and intellect of their leaders. According to eternal tradition, the eldest son should be the head of the family. In wartime, however, this only worked if he had the warrior’s qualities and talents. If he did not have them, the family was in grave danger.
To prevent it, the so-called adoption Ie. It consisted in the fact that the aging patriarch of the family found a young, promising man. Which he provided with appropriate education. When the chosen one met his expectations and proved himself in battle, he became the official heir. All other family members had to submit to him. The Ie system thus replaced traditional blood ties and prevented the division of property between heirs. As a result, the estate, workshop, and trading company passed from generation to generation in an unchanged form.
Rules tested in warrior families were adopted by other social groups, especially merchants and craftsmen. In the XVII century, Ie was formally introduced into the legal system and was in force until the end of World War II. When civil law changed under pressure from Americans, it gave all children equal shares in the parents’ estate. This threatened old family businesses, but the tradition turned out to be strong enough that many of them survived to this day. Professor Toshio Goto calls them the Japanese treasure.