This editorial was originally published on June 25, 2011. It is being re-run as Steve is out of town.
IBM turns 100, and in , they brag about bench pressing more other companies half its age. That’s a great headline, and I still remember when IBM was not only the premier hardware vendor of the computer world, but also the largest software maker as well. The “Smarter Planet” ads that IBM puts out there are great, and they are a diverse company, covering so many different industries and locations that it’s hard to comprehend everything they are working on.
The culture and mission of IBM has changed in 100 years, but it’s still amazing that the company has survived. I think back to the tech companies of my youth, and many of them are gone. Who remembers 3COM? Anyone set up a Wellfleet router? DEC becoming Compaq, and now HP. Apple is still around, but Sun Microsystems is disappearing into Oracle. Microsoft is only 30 years old.
I once worked for a hundred year old company, one that embraced and remembered it’s history, even as it evolved in the modern world. The President of the company had worked there for his whole career, taking over for his father that had worked there almost his whole life and still came into the office a few days a week at age 80. There was a sense of history, tradition, and pride that kept people working there, with the vast majority of the company having worked there over a decade when I was hired.
The modern world is fast paced, rapidly changing, and evolving quickly, but there is something to be said for adapting to fit in, while maintaining your mission and ideals. I hope that more companies would look beyond their next quarter or year and make the attempt to build a business that they are proud of, and can survive a hundred years into the future.