Perspectives from ISB

In an insightful research material by Schwartz and Bergfeld, the authors pointed to one country that seemed to challenge the third generation curse much better than others.

Japan has seven out of the 10 oldest companies on the planet and also has the highest concentration of old family businesses by any measure such as GDP (gross domestic product), population and land mass. According to a 2008 study from the Bank of Korea, the world had 5,586 companies that were older than 200 years. In the same study, Japan was number one with 3,146 firms or 56 percent; the second was Germany with 837 or 15 percent; the Netherlands came in third with 222, and fourth was France with 196 companies.

But it is not only the extreme cases of very old companies that are surprising. The overall life expectancy of a Japanese family business is higher in general. According to professor Toshio Goto from the Japan University of Economics in Tokyo, the average lifetime of a Japanese family business in 2005 was 52 years, more than double that of its American counterparts.

If family businesses from around the globe strive for future prosperity and family survival in an increasingly volatile, complex and ambiguous world, how does a tradition-rich company like Japan’s Toraya Confectionery Company manage to keep pace with an ever-changing world? Even with a great idea, thorough research and hours and hours of hard work, one rule still applies: Nothing is certain in life and in business.

Toraya Confectionery Co. Ltd. is a Japanese confectionery company founded by Enchu Kurokawa in early 16th century Kyoto. At present, Toraya has three factories and approximately 80 shops throughout Japan, in addition to a boutique in Paris. Running a business for almost 500 years is not without challenges, mainly in the form of disasters, change in society, economic transformation and several World War upheavals, but Toraya countered by shifting from being the imperial family’s purveyor to opening retail stores.

Source: Soriano, Enrique M., June 19, 2017,

Leave a Message

Registration isn't required.

By commenting you accept the Privacy Policy