Vicki TenHaken - Lessons from Century Club Companies [The Business of Family]


17 August 2020

49 mins 40 secs

Season 1

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Special Guest

About this Episode

This week's guest is Professor Vicki TenHakan, a college professor in management at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, a former business executive at Herman Miller and GE, a researcher of corporate longevity and the author of the excellent book; Lessons from Century Club Companies: Managing for Long-Term Success, a captivating book that details the lessons learned from companies that have endured for at least 100 years.

Key Takeaways

  • The similarities and differences in culture and corporate longevity in American and Japanese century club companies
  • The 5 major management practices in both the United States and Japan’s old companies
  • Why it is important to take time to honor the past of the company while also embracing changes that are needed to prosper
  • The prevalence of family-owned businesses in century club companies
  • Understanding the role that strength in relationships play in stewarding businesses for over a century
  • Learning that growth isn’t everything in company longevity
  • Why storytelling is key in century club companies and the development of the next generation leaders

Standout Quotes

  • “What I hoped to achieve was to uncover some management practices…that I would be able to not only share with my students to not only help them be more successful in their future careers but also for business leaders to be able to use.” - Vicki Tenhaken [3:35]
  • “I saw what the lack of business success did to a community. I was really hoping that the future business leaders or current leaders would be able to benefit from some knowledge on these old companies on how they were able to survive and thrive through many economic disasters and other crisis over the decades and even the century.” - Vicki Tenhaken [4:08]
  • “There’s no formula for it. The one thing that I did find out when talking to many of these old companies is that they knew when they needed to change. They kept on top of what was going on in the external environment… They made sure everyone in their company had a role in staying in touch with customers, suppliers, or other business leaders in the community.” - Vicki Tenhaken [11:26]
  • "The strength of relationships is what almost every century club company said helped them make it through the tough times. They all had stories of crisis that they went through and it was relationships whether with employees, business partners, or community that they said really made the difference in terms of how they were able to not just survive the various crisis but actually prosper in the long run." .” - Vicki Tenhaken [19:11]
  • "In business as in life, relationships are what matter most." - Vicki Tenhaken [46:51]

Episode Timeline

  • [1:14] How Vicki became interested in corporate longevity
  • [3:25] What Vicki hoped to achieve when embarking into research and what surprised her
  • [6:12] The common management practices seen in old companies in both United States and Japan
  • [10:26] What Vicki believes contributes to century club companies surviving for so long
  • [13:41] Family-owned businesses role in companies that are over a hundred years old
  • [17:41] The vital role that relationships play when stewarding a business for over one hundred years
  • [21:09] Similarities in Japanese and American century club companies
  • [24:04] Why some companies choose to not grow just for growth’s sake
  • [29:41] Storytelling and the development of the next generation leaders
  • [37:20] How century club companies survive crisis
  • [43:51] The accessibility of Vicki’s database
  • [46:07] Vicki’s belief that relationships are what matter not only in business but in life itself

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