What Are the World Oldest Businesses?

What really keeps a business running? – money? human resources? strategy?

Just this week, Thomas Cook (the oldest UK travel company) collapsed after 178 years. Well, I was shocked that a business that could survive a hundred years could still fail.

Would Cocacola (127 years old) collapse anytime soon too?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics(America): 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small business fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business. And 70% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business.

So, why then should a business that survived 178 years fail?

This and that got me questioning many things. – What are the world oldest companies? where are there? who owns them? what do they do? – this is definitely excluding churches.

Japan has it.

Referencing research carried out in 41 countries by the Bank of Korea in 2008, there were 5,586 companies older than 200 years. Of these, 3,146 are in Japan, 837 in Germany, 222 in the Netherlands, and 196 in France.

What are the Japanese doing differently?

I took a look at Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, the oldest hotel in the world, located in Japan, and run by the same family for 52 generations, according to a Japan Page; The secret to its success is a sense of inter-generational pride, the report says:

… There are even some staff whose families have held the same post for generations, passing it from parent to child to grandchild. All the same, the staff are committed and courteous, earning wages for themselves and their families. They put their all into offering a spirit of service that stems from a shared desire to protect the inn. This unflagging commitment and hospitality are drawing attention from the hotel industries worldwide.

The hotel was last renovated in 1997. Yet, see how it looks.

To cut the long story short, below are the oldest businesses in the world; – at least, according to data for 2019;

1Kongō Gumi1441ConstructionJapan
2Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan1314HotelJapan
4Hōshi Ryokan1301HotelJapan
5Genda Shigyō1248Ceremonial PaperJapan
6St. Peter Stiftskulinarium1246ResturantAustria
7Staffelter Hof1157WineGermany

From the list above, it seems I am not the only one that likes a good life and food. – Humans will keep your business running if you give them the desired comfort and enjoyment needed. LOL

Now, to my concluding questions.

  • Are there really any African own businesses running more than 200 years and still in full operation?
  • Are family-run businesses sustainable in Africa?

I tried answering the Nigerian versions of those questions, but I guess I got locked out of answers, hence I opened it up to Africa.

Do you have answers for me?

Business, Digital media, Opportunities

6 thoughts on “What Are the World Oldest Businesses?

  1. This is an interesting read.
    I don’t think there’s any 200 year old Nigerian business; greed and family dispute is almost always the end of it. It hardly gets past the 4th generation. I can’t say the same for the entire Africa though because I don’t know about it.

  2. Nice article there..I don’t think any Nigerian business have even lasted for 50years talk more of going further… Greed, selfishness, self centredness and envy all contribute to any downfall in an African setting

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