When so many of the world’s most successful companies were founded less than two decades ago and already have stiff competition, it seems improbable that any business can survive 100 years. Yet, some of the most successful businesses in the world continue to thrive 100 years after their foundings. Ford was founded in 1903, General Electric in 1892, AT&T in 1885 and Kroger in 1883. Each has been a Fortune 50 company at some point in the past five years. Others have been for decades.
One key to survival has been adaptability, although some companies are basically in the same business as when they were founded. Kroger is still a grocery store, but it has moved from one store to hundreds. People need to shop for food, in person, just as they did over a century ago. Troubled GE was founded as an appliance company. Over the years, it evolved into a conglomerate that sold jet engines and financed other businesses.
It is important not to ignore the value of brand trust and brand loyalty. These factors are based on human judgment unlikely to change in the future. The trust in each of these brands is very high.
These 10 companies will still be around in 100 years, although they may have to change their business models at least modestly.
Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) sells several beverages, the most famous of which is Coke. It has been in business since 1886. Will it survive another 100 years? It may not sell sugar-based Coke as it does now. However, it has proven it can be adaptable. Diet Coke caters to people who want something without any calories. As people moved toward bottled water, Coke bought Dasani. It moved into the athletic drink business with Powerade. Coke has been ranked among the world’s most valuable brands for decades. When people’s tastes change in the future, Coke will be there with new products.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), the predecessor of which is over 100 years old, is involved in consumer banks, electronic payments, commercial banking, stock and bond trading and global finance. Will some of these businesses disappear? Almost certainly. Will the need to have some equivalent to money and a way to “store it” and use it for transactions be around? Yes.
The argument can be made that capital like bitcoin will replace traditional banking. In some cases that may be true. However, people and institutions will still want a trusted company to be at the center of transactions. JPMorgan has built that trust over decades, and trust in financial transactions will not disappear.
Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) will be in business in 100 years. Its poll position in electric cars and autonomous vehicles will be part of the reason. Its unique ability to adapt will be its cornerstone. Like Ford, it will take its brand through decades of evolution, even if cars become flying modes of transportation or they can travel thousands of miles. Tesla is the Ford, GM and Toyota together as the personal transportation devices change, perhaps several times over several decades.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is at the center of global personal communication with nearly 2 million members, an impressive percentage of the world’s population. It is hard to believe that people will migrate to another platform because Facebook has such a substantial lead in social media. Will Facebook allow people to meet one another personally? Perhaps. Will Facebook become the leader in an advanced form of telecommunication? Almost certainly. Will anyone catch its web of members who already have placed their personal information online and have a web of friends? Unlikely.