New Year, New Milestones


Each year, the Manufacturer & Business Association (MBA) celebrates the milestone anniversaries of member companies across the region. It’s a great accomplishment to mark such business longevity, but it also means so much more. Many of these companies have navigated unchartered territory and seized opportunities with an eye toward the future that has enabled them to proser for the long haul.

Vicki TenHaken, a professor of man- agement at Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, extensively studied such companies several years ago, shed- ding light on the key characteristics that stand the test of time.

According to her research, there are five characteristics shared by long-lived companies that seem to stand out:

  1. Older businesses have a strong sense of corporate identity. These companies are very intentional about expressing what their business is, what their values are, and in sharing that with customers and suppliers. They’re very intentional about educating employees about it.”

2. They’re conservative in financing and tend to have low debt. They’re often highly profitable, channeling earnings into savings — and can make it through the tough times.

3. They seem to manage change better than most and think it’s important to honor the past. Most changes are continuous, small, incremental improvements. When they must change, they spend a long time planning for it.

4. They tend to have homegrown management and emphasize staff development from within. Leaders have some outside experience, but are with the company for a long time before they take over. They’re very deliberate about identifying successors.

5. Long-lived companies see long- term relationships — with customers, suppliers, employees, the community — as very significant. They would never leave their hometown for something such as a tax break.

In this issue of the MBA Business Magazine, we’ll take a look at such characteristics, including leadership and how it factors into business longevity overall as we hear from five member companies that are marking milestone anniversaries in 2023.

We’ll also hear from brothers Bruce and Scott Kern of Curtze Food Service on what 145 years in busi- ness means to them and what’s ahead for their company in the near term.

Plus, we’ll showcase the hundreds of MBA member companies marking milestone anniversaries this year. Their recognition is well deserved, so please join us in celebrating their achievements and their many contributions to the industries they serve and to the communities in which they operate! Congratulations!