Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, a hot springs hotel in Kyoto, Japan, is the world’s oldest hotel and also the world’s oldest continuously-operating business, as verified by Guinness World Records. The hotel is now 1313 years old and has been operated by 52 generations of descendants of the same family.
We picked some very simple but vital lessons from this legendary hotel brand that businesses around the world should pay attention to if transgenerational growth is a concern.
Lesson One: Brand Values. Careful thought was given to the lasting principles that will govern the operation of the business and each successor had a duty to preserve and transfer these values to their own successor.
Lesson Two: Socio-cultural values matter. The prevalent culture of society has an influence on how businesses run and perform. This is why Mapemond organizes Outclass Employability and Entrepreneurship Training, to breed a different generation of young Nigerians with the right work discipline, work ethics, and work culture.
Lesson Three: Think legacy and succession. What is the point in building a business that ends with you? We should think in terms of being able to transfer what we build to the next generation. Whatever you can do to give your business a chance to survive beyond you, please make the attempt.
Lesson Four: Maintenance culture matters. Successive generations have ensured that this legendary hotel is well maintained over the centuries. How well do you pay attention to good maintenance in your business?
Lesson Five: Innovate. While the essential selling points of the hotel – the view, hot springs, and location – have been maintained, the hotel has gone through a lot of adaptation to modern designs and concepts. As old as it is, it competes favorably with other hotels and tourist destinations across the world.
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If asked to narrate the history of your brand, would you be able to walk prospects through your timeline without skipping a vital detail? Have you ever really taken quality time to ponder on your brand’s story? Do you have an archive dedicated to keeping record of your brand’s progress? There are numerous questions pertaining to proper documentation of an organisation’s history that most founders hardly consider.
In researching different brands for our weekly ‘brand review’ column, we discovered a trait common among over 70% Nigerian based brands, poor documentation of their history. While surfing most of their websites for relevant information related to the general structure of their organisation – brand history, core values, vision and mission statements, brand culture, etc – we found too little or no helpful information. Some business owners may consider the information as private and never see the need to share with outsiders, maybe they fear being copied by opponents, or they simply lack the skill of tracking progress.
In contrast to this norm, we also observed a common practice among most foreign-based companies with branches all over the world; they have a keen interest in history. They could dedicate a whole page on their website to their company’s journey that they update regularly whenever the company accomplishes a milestone. Occasionally they boast of their history being their heritage and often urge prospective clients to study their different timelines in order to get a clearer prospective of the company.
Asides this historical approach by great brands being beneficial to strangers, staff are daily reminded of the company’s history as well. They believe having a firm understanding of the past would inform present decisions that would in turn reform the organisation’s future. To them, every milestone is a dot that connects and leads them to their desired future.
The basic essence of creating an accessible rich historical archive for your company is to gain more connection. The more people, both customers and staff, understand and connect with your brand’s story, it makes it more likely for them to stick around much longer. Studies have shown that most brands with in-depth history tend to last longer as they continue to strive to live up the legacy left by their founders. These companies seek different avenues to introduce an innovative idea as a means of staying relevant.
Apple Incorporation is a perfect example of a company with a detailed historic background which is cherished by every employee. From when it was founded in 1976, by Steve Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak, the company continues to thrive in the world of technology. Despite the death of its founder, Steve, the company with relentless effort towards innovation runs with the same vision but with an improved and modern sight.
When you begin to see your business as an entity of its own, that its progress needs to be recorded per milestone, you evolve your business into one that should indeed be taken seriously. It is not enough to wish for a brand that will outlive you; you must make steps towards documenting every stage of the business with new improvements, as this would eventually form the company’s legacy over time. Start writing your history today!
Written by Jennifer Chioma Amadi
We would love to help you document your history and craft a story for your brand! Send us email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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