#178 Blog Post Wednesday, 17 January 2023
Posted by Denny Hatch
51 Family Businesses Over 200 Years Old!
The world’s oldest
family-owned business is the Hoshi Hotel
In Ishikawa, Japan. It first opened its doors in 717 A.D.
Yep, it’s still in the family after 1306 years! And yep, you can book one of its 450 rooms. Phone: +81 761-65-1112
Click here for complete info on the Hoshi.
Prepare to be blown away—Guaranteed!
In last week’s blog post we explored the two most exclusive clubs in the world:
#1. The five living ex-Presidents of the United States.
#2. The eight Grandmasters of the Royal Palaces of Europe.
I believe the third most exclusive club in the world is the Henokiens—a little-known association of family-owned businesses with 51 members in 2023.
The Grim Stats of Today’s Business Startups
in any given year, about 50% of new businesses close within their first year. In the next 12 months after that, nearly half of those that didn’t close in the beginning are gone for good. After three years, it’s 90%, and after five years, it’s 99%. And we’re talking just survival here – many startups don’t get huge or make money, but they endure somehow for a decade or more.—The Business Data List
The Four Outlandish Requirements
For Henokiens’ Membership
1. The company is managed by a descendant of the founder.
2. The family still owns the company or is the majority shareholder.
3. It must be in good financial health.
4. The company has reached a minimum age of 200 years [sic!].
Fifty-one family businesses... all well over 200 years old? And still going strong? Whew! WOW!
I could never have started a family business to last 200 years. I'm sterile. Was an only child. Never had kids.
The Oldest and the Youngest
The oldest Henokien member is the Hoshi Hotel. The second oldest is Beretta founded in 1526 and still going strong.
The youngest Henokien is the Bolloré Group with HQ in Puteaux, France. Founded in 1822 it started out in the “thin paper” business (cigarettes and Bible paper). Over the years it has morphed into a giant conglomerate whose myriad enterprises include aerospace, health care, cosmetics and perfume, chemicals and energy. The current CEO is 70-year-old Vincent Bolloré, ranked by Bloomberg as the 499th richest person in the world with reported net worth of $9.7 billion.
The Ten Henokien Countries (and number of members)
Henokiens are found in:
The Netherlands (2)
Not a Player in the Game: The U.S. of A.
Some American companies that do fit the criteria have been identified but have not sought admission to this elite organization.
An example: on Dec. 31, 2002, was Eric Pace's New York Times obituary of Armand Zildjian, 81, whose family company has been making cymbals in Massachusetts since 1623.
Another example of an American candidate was Freeman’s auction house founded in 1805. Since I have lived in Philly for the past 20 years it has been of particular interest to me. The glorious works of art in its Chestnut Street windows are always eye-popping. I always stop to have a look… and dream.
Alas… in 2016 Freeman’s Took
Itself Out of the Running
Freeman’s holds an
esteemed place as America's oldest auction house and as one of the country’s
first family-owned businesses. The company was founded by Tristram
Bampfylde Freeman in 1805 and remained in the hands of the Freeman family for
six generations with landmark sales throughout its storied history. In 2016, controlling interest of the auction
house was transferred to an internal management team in support of an ambitious
growth strategy and desire
to elevate the brand both nationally and internationally blah… blah… blah. —Freeman's website
The Extraordinary Corporate
Cultures Over the Centuries
Throughout the hundreds of years—amidst plagues, wars, depressions and political upheavals—how in the dickens did these families deal with personnel problems? Imagine a dotty old uncle or horny younger brother (a “spare?”) who wanted to cash out and run off with his favorite hooker? What about plain untalented dolts, drunks or gamblers or who despised the family business and dreamed of becoming poets?
No More Sour Grapes
Obviously, these family-owned enterprises had to continually modify their business models and marketing techniques to keep up with the times. Okay, some did not have to make radical changes over the years. For example, take vintners. Over the centuries machinery was invented to extract grape juice from grapes. No longer are the workers required to stand knee deep in wooden vats and stomp on harvests of grapes in their (ugh!) bare feet.
On the other hand, Viellard Migenon & Cie of France—founded in 1796—started out as iron mongers in the 18th century and morphed into making fishhooks and chains. According to the Henokiens’ Web site: "Today the products manufactured range from refracting steel screws for airplane engines, titanium rivets to vanadium fishhooks, cosmetics packaging and specific welding products."
The Rogue Employee Problem
One bad actor across the years can bring a fine old and respected company to its knees. E.g., in 1995, the UK’s oldest merchant bank—Barings, founded in 1762—crashed and burned. Rogue derivatives trader Nick Leeson in Singapore executed a series of fraudulent, unauthorized and speculative transactions that resulted in losses £1 billion. Leeson served four years in Singapore’s Changi Prison.
The remarkable Henokien
families who launched these companies not only wrestled with creating and
marketing products and services, but also had to be self-taught in the philosophy and rules
of succession. After all, this was long before business management became a pop
quasi-science promulgated by Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Edward Deming and McKinsey & Co. who
traveled the world preaching the doctrine and collecting fat consulting fees.
No books on the subject existed. Prior to the twentieth I would bet a cookie no books on the subject existed.
Very likely Drucker, Peters and Deming could have learned a lot more from the Henokiens than the Henokiens could learn from them. These families did not subscribe to Forbes, FastCompany or Family Business. They did not watch Fox Business News or CNBC or call each other on the telephone, because no telephones existed until the 20th century.
It is highly unlikely that any these business families in 10 different countries even knew of each other, let alone got together at business conferences at a flashy hotel in Chicago or Cannes to compare notes.
From the Henokiens’ Website
Why the Henokiens
In 1981, the idea of creating an association of bicentenary family businesses came from the Chairman of Marie Brizard, a descendant of the creator of the first anisette in 1755. He decided to place it under the aegis of Henok (or Enoch) a name from the Bible. Henok (or Enoch), one of the greatest Biblical patriarchs, was the son of Cain and the father of Methuselah. He lived before the Great Flood and was 365 years old when he ascended to Heaven without experiencing death. After a year of research, Gerard Glotin, Chairman of Marie Brizard was able, with the help of 164 Chambers of Commerce and 25 embassy attachés, to identify 74 companies. From this, a selection of approximately 30 was made. The first meeting took place in 1981 in Bordeaux. Since then, Henokiens meet each year in a different country for their General Meeting. In 2015 it was in Italy, 2016 in The Netherlands and in Austria in 2017.
Venice, Italy was the venue of the 2022 Henokiens’ annual Meeting.
Who Are the Henokiens?
Each of the companies has a fascinating history. At times, these involve legendary characters and industrial adventures that could serve as a source of inspiration for literature, television or film, all three media being great amateurs of dynasties. Despite or perhaps because of their illustrious ancestors, Henokiens are deeply rooted in the economic realities of the present and they manage their companies with talent, navigating between modernism and tradition, between know-how transmitted from the past and innovation or diversification. Henokiens are unwilling to rest on their laurels and are constantly striving to achieve more than previous generations. The development of their firms has been continuous. However, corporate power is not a criterion in becoming a Henokiens member. Priority is given to solidity. This explains why companies of different sizes can be found among Henokiens members who may boast world-renowned figures or names less well-known by the general public.
To Find Everything Important About the
51 Companies That Make up the Henokiens:
1. Click on https://www.henokiens.com
2. Find this square at right on the website and click on it.
3. Click on the individual company's name for the Web page.
IMHO Two Parts of this Henokiens’ Website Are
Essential Reading for Serious Business Mavens
Case Studies and Reports about the members.
2. 51 Questions to Prepare the Handing Down of a Family Company.
My Failed Dream …
The Henokiens are not well-known. Type “Henokiens” into an Amazon search of its 32.8 million book titles and here’s what comes up:
No results for Henokiens in Books
Americans Don't Give Two Hoots for Henokiens
Visit the Henokiens’ Press Room and you’ll discover 102 articles about the organization over the past dozen years. They are all in French, Italian, Austrian and German. Not one of the stories is in the English language.
About the Henokiens’ Amazing Website(s)
Very Worth Studying and Stealing Smart From
My first job in direct marketing was in 1961. This was pre-Zip Codes… pre-computerized personalization and pre-data analyses. It was a world of long, easy-to-read letters always in this courier font (hopefully to fool the eye of the reader into “the willing suspension of disbelief” and imagining this was the real thing).
You’d think the 200-years-plus Henokiens’ consortium would want to somehow make hay out of the elegance of the eras and epochs in which these companies started up.
Uh-uh. If anything, their great age is treated as an afterthought—almost as an “oh-by-the-way.” Check out their websites. Quaint they ain’t.
For serious marketers, the fascinating elements are
these ancient companies’ spectacular modern websites!
• Modern design with magnificent color illustrations.
• Easy-to-read headlines and involving, copy brimming with excitement and enthusiasm.
• I guarantee spending time with this grand cornucopia of websites will be well worth the time spent.
• In short, I urge you to dive in and STEAL SMART!
A Book Crying to Be Written
The Henokiens is a book I have desperately wanted to write for years. My problem: a long-established career as the world’s foremost expert in junk mail (direct marketing), the compulsive need for a regular paycheck, saving for retirement and a 53-year marriage to a spectacular wife. It would take four years and $ix-to-$even figure$ to pay for (our) world travel, expenses through Europe and Japan and missing our circle of friends. I don’t have an agent. I hit 87 last August. It ain’t in the cards.
But this is a book would be an international best-seller for decades and required reading for everyone who is in a family business or thinking about starting one. Guaranteed.
To some author and publisher out there, I offer the World War II submariners' toast: "Good hunting."
Takeaways to Consider (This is Fun!)
• Any (legit) organization making a profit over several hundred years on into the present must be doing something right and is worth serious study.
• Another Possible Exclusive Club: Living James Bonds.
• If you recall, last week’s blog post started off with a .25 caliber Beretta pocket pistol. It is manufactured by the privately held Pietro Beretta Weapons Factory in Italy, the oldest firearms company in the world, founded in 1526. It was a favorite of Ian Fleming's central character, James Bond.
It occurred to me after that fact that another small club—smaller than the current living ex-Presidents of the United States—would be living James Bonds. Eight actors belong to the fraternity of those who have played 007; alas, four have assumed room temperature.
George Lazenby (1939 - )
Timothy Dalton (1946 - )
Pierce Brosnan (1953 - )
Daniel Craig. (1968 - )
Barry Nelson (1917 – 2007)
David Niven. (1910-1983)
Sean Connery (1930–2020)
Roger Moore. (1927–2017)
Barry Who as James Bond???… Barry Nelson?
SPECIAL FREE OFFER!
You are invited to have a look at the very first James Bond Movie (1954).
A one-hour episode starring Barry Nelson,
Peter Lorre and Linda Christian on the
Chrysler's Weekly TV Program, CLIMAX
Barry Nelson as Bond (far left) and Peter Lorre (far right)
At the Climax Casino Royale Baccarat Table.
Word count: 2108
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