The Bank of Korea made a study to better understand which are the oldest companies in the world and what are the common characteristics that have made them survive for so long. According to the study there are 5,586 companies older than 200 years, of which 3,146 are Japanese companies. Germany ranks second with 837 among the oldest in the world and the Netherlands and France tie for the third place with 196. In Spain there are only four companies older than 200 years, all of them distilleries: Raventóns, Can Bonastre, Codorníu and Chivite.
It seems like one of the keys to the survival of a company for many years is its headcount; it turns out that almost 90% of the companies older than 100 years have less than 300 employees (maybe this fact is related to the Dunbar’s number). Another of the common characteristics of these companies is that they all seem to be controlled by families whose priority doesn’t seem to be to make as much money as possible but they are concerned about passing the company to the next generation and that the company provides benefits to its community, employees and clients. The Japanese people are specially careful about all these aspects in their companies; while some people criticize some of these aspects, saying that they are one of the causes of the slowdown of the Japanese economy during the last two decades: “companies should die and be born in order for the country to progress”. Some others say that it’s one of the keys to the success of Japan: “the stability and strength of our companies makes our economy robust and resistant in the long term”.
Nowadays, the oldest companies in Japan are related to construction, hospitality, metallurgy and services. I wonder how will this list be in 200 or 300 years; what kind of companies there will be on the list? Will Microsoft, Apple, Google, Wallmart and BP continue to be alive?