About a year ago, Kongo Gumi, a Japanese temple building company and the world’s oldest continuously operating family business, closed it’s doors after 14 centuries of prosperity.
I’ve wanted to talk about this company ever since I read the article about it in April 2007. The company history is interesting not just because of its longevity but how the business consistently passed from generation to generation for 1,428 years.
There is a 10-foot 17th century scroll which traces the 40 generations back to the origins of the business, listing the sons, daughters and sons-in-law that worked in the family run business.
In the article, available at the businessweek.com website, the last president of Kongo Gumi, Masakazu Kongo (the 40th member of the family to lead the company) explained some of the keys to the companies success.
…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.
The company, now under the managing control of the Takamatsu Corporation, continues to operate, but no longer with the guiding influence of the family who built the empire over 14 centuries.
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