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Life Begins at 100 | LinkedIn

Deal of the Day

August 29, 2013

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One hundred is a significant number. It’s the number of yards on an American football field. It’s the number of senators in the U.S. Senate. It’s the largest dollar bill in print. It’s the number many countries, including Belgium, India and Israel, use for citizens to dial in emergency situations. It’s the perfect score in the world of academia. It’s the basis of percentages. It’s the number of years in a century.

In today’s fast-moving world, we have become obsessed with the here and now. But it’s important to recognize what we can learn from the past in order to appreciate the present and prepare for the future.

The history of American business contains thousands of stories — both successes and failures. According to the Kauffman Foundation, only 60% of startups survive the first three years and less than a third survive the first ten. The companies that make it must continually adapt, innovate and anticipate the future before the future catches up to them.

At the NYSE, we recently gathered a group of CEOs who represent companies that have really made it. Of the roughly four thousand publicly traded companies in the U.S., only a small fraction have managed to thrive for more than a century. In order to hear some of these stories first-hand, we recently convened about 20 leaders of these companies for the second annual NYSE Century Club meeting.

All of these companies started out as disruptive innovators in their respective industry, and over the course of their histories have had to respond time and again as competitors attempt to disrupt them. Their stories of innovation, discovery and risk-taking represent iconic moments in the history of American business – and from these stories, there’s a lot current business leaders can learn today…

Here are three of my takeaways from the day’s discussion:

1. Re-Invigorate Employees and Brands

Older firms run the risk of stagnation and being seen as dormant giants as opposed to more vibrant, energetic companies. The discussion revealed how important it is for companies to never lose their entrepreneurial zeal, rigor and drive for re-creation. One CEO who joined his company a few years ago described how he recognized quickly that the company wasn’t expressing itself and its brand in a fresh way. Doing so is crucial for external and internal constituents. So the company created a fresh corporate video. “When you are inside a company, you can easily get the impression that things are moving slowly. You’ve got to give employees the view from the outside, the notion of rapid advancement, and that we’re not just resting on our laurels.”

2. Innovate and Reinvent

Another important theme was the need to consistently invest in R&D. For most of the CEOs around the table, their companies looked significantly different than they did as few as 5 or 10 years ago. For companies that are not innovating, the risks are high. “If you are in the silo, you’re dead,” one CEO said flatly. “Disruptive technology can take a business to zero. If you can’t bring it forward, someone else will.”

3. Uphold Corporate Values

The event concluded with the CEOs emphasizing respect for the transcendent value of their brands and corporate cultures that they’ve inherited. This “institutional trust,” built over 100 years or more, was referred to as “the most powerful tool you could possibility have. It’s real, it’s palpable, it’s banked goodwill.” When asked how the founder might feel about where the company is today, one CEO replied, “He would be shocked by the size of it, but he’d be happy that the integrity and values from a century ago remain intact.”

Photo: Caspar Benson via Getty Images

Posted by:Duncan Niederauer

via Life Begins at 100 | LinkedIn.


Born in 1964, business owner, from Woodbridge, VA, owns ExcitingAds! Inc. ( and blog ( He was born in Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. His elementary school was ST. Michael's Convent High School, Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated high school from ST. Bonaventure's Convent High School, Hyderabad, Sind, Pakistan. His pre-med college was S. A. L. Govt. College, Mirpurkas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Sind, Pakistan in 1990. Earned equivalency certification from Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, Philadelphia, PA in 1994.

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