Construction on the Cathedral of Notre Dame was begun in 1163 and completed in 1345. Today, 856 years later, it stands in its home city the awesome result of 182 years of hard work, dedicated intent, inspiration, innovation and Gothic artistry of the finest quality. Last Monday, April 15, 2019, this center of devotion and indescribable beauty caught fire and underwent millions of dollars In damages.
It’s a tribute to its unquestionable and continued value that those millions of dollars for repairs have been pouring in. Albeit among controversy as to just how to accomplish the task, the cathedral will be restored.
Family businesses too can have long histories. They too have been built, over centuries, by devotion and dedication, innovation, inspiration, hard work, high standards and pride.
Japan’s Hotel Hoshi Ryokan is the world’s oldest family business. It was founded in 718 and is now, more than 1300 years later, under the management of its 46th generation of family members. The family’s watchwords: diligence, humility and resolve. https://www.ho-shi.co.jp/en
But is it permanent? Arguably nothing is. Paris’ historic cathedral will never again be exactly as it was on that day, centuries ago, when it was completed. Hoshi Ryokan has unquestionably undergone many changes to ensure continuity over the centuries—to keep up with the times; to add value that attracts today’s visitors. Change, whether accidental or intended, is perhaps the only constant.
Most family businesses are far from permanent. It’s an accepted fact that most do not last beyond their third generation. For them, that which built a monumental cathedral and a 46-generation business is missing.
Contemplating all this, I stopped to read Seth Godin’s blog entitled Impermanence. https://seths.blog/2019/04/impermanence/. With regard to whether the future will or will not turn out the way we hope it will, he offers the following:
“We have much less direct control over the future than we hope, and that it will always surprise us.”
“We can’t control the future, but we can bend it. And we can’t freeze the world as it is, but we can figure out how to be a part of it.”
To build a family business with a basis for continuity, one can take inspiration from those long-ago builders who intended a great cathedral; saw it standing complete after nearly two centuries of continued work; inspiration also from the Hoshi Ryokan family, whose values transcend time. Accept surprise, and intend your business to be part of the future, both permanent and impermanent.