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10 Things We Can Learn From 30 Year Old Companies

Companies that have completed 30 years in business are familiar to us, a usual indicator of success. We know, however, that running a successful business is not assured by longevity alone. Successful businesses “find a need and fill it”, but statistics from the Small Business Administration show that 50 percent of new businesses do not survive more than five years. Policies that guide these companies provide examples worth following:

1. Fields Famous Brands (1977) By recognizing that the company needed a broader base than cookie sales, Fields expanded its line and developed a strong franchise operation. Started by a woman who had no business experience, she realized the importance of delivering a quality product. The company hit some hard times during the recession but have since rebounded well.

2. Nu Skin (1984) Showing genuine concern for its customers is key to the success of the personal care products company. Making anti-aging products and nutritional supplements available to customers gives them a chance to enjoy better lives. Charitable contributions through its Force for Good Foundation allows Nu Skin to help children around the world.

3. California Closets (1978) Choosing to offer fashionable storage space for home owners who had no architect gave the company a niche market. Developing a line of products that fit in any area broadened its appeal in the market. Williams-Sonoma recognized its potential for success and purchased the company in 1990.

4. Tiger Electronics (1978) Capitalizing on the public’s interest in technology, the company developed handheld electronic games earlier than competitors. Distribution channels through K-Mart created an edge for the Talking Learning Computer that led to success with other electronic items. The company acquired the toy division of Texas Instruments in 1995.

5. Hobby Town (1980) Offering a broad line of products that appeal to wide interests, the company has succeeded with radio control games, model railroads, rockets and educational toys. Recognizing the potential for success with creative and innovative products, the company targets experienced as well as beginning hobbyists.

6. Herbalife International (1980) Distributing skin care products around the world through independent distributors can produce problems even for established companies. Charged with operating a pyramid scheme and with questionable practices in the stock market, the company is facing investigation from the Federal Trade Commission.

7. Apple (1981) A simple test for the predicted success of a product is whether or not the people who make it also want to own it. Making gadgets that seem simple even though they are enormously complex creates appeal for products that are easy to use. Great customer service keeps the company's client base clamoring for more new products.

8. Kodak (1891) Enjoying success for more than 120 years was no guard against the loss of the entrepreneurial spirit. Failing to find new business opportunities as digital technology entered the photography market prevented the company from surviving change. Once a leader in offering customers innovative products, it allowed imitators to sap its dominance of the market.

9. Microsoft (1975) The absence of mistakes can create success, and Forbes credits the company with doing just that. Microsoft expanded its product line to include servers and tools, allowing its dominance in the operating system market to lead its success but not have responsibility for all of it. Experts regard Apple as more valuable and Google for rising faster, but Microsoft has proved itself as a superior business for more than 30 years. Surviving fluctuations in the business world has allowed it to produce a better track record than any other technology company.

10. Chili’s (1975) Serving food that appeals to customers who enjoy Tex-Mex flavors allows the company to present a diverse menu in an informal setting. Offering full service at affordable prices generated a customer following that supported 28 Chili’s locations by the early 1980s. Success has come to the company for reasons that include the presentation of quality burgers, efficient service and the ability to give its customers a consistent dining experience.

Jonathan Hulet

Jonathan Hulet

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