100 is Much More Than a Number

Eric B. Larson

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By Eric B. Larson

As we put the final touches on our Centennial Celebration, I can’t help but reflect on what it means for the organization. There is some inherent importance attached to a company, institution or organization that has survived over ten decades. But the magnitude goes beyond the platitude.

The percentage of U.S. organizations that make it to the 100-year mark is such a small number, there appears to be no clear source for accurate data on the topic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 36 percent of companies last ten years and about 21 percent survive to their 20th anniversary. The U.S. Census reports that only 12 percent of companies are older than 26 years. I have read that in the absences of hard data, it is believed that only about a half a percent (0.5%) of all companies have lasted 100 years or beyond!

The exclusivity of this club drives home the realization that so much goes into the survival of an organization. It is the ability to be flexible, creative and willing to adapt to changing times and priorities and adjust the mission accordingly. To enlist new thinkers and doers, to support when others can do something better and take the lead when necessary. Sometimes it is maintaining the status quo; other times, taking a risk while staying true to your vision.

This anniversary has allowed our team the opportunity to look through annual reports, historical archives and photo collections. It’s reconnected us to leaders from the past and, I hope, has instilled a spirit of pride in all the DDP has done for the city and the Downtown. It has also made me reflect on the lessons I have learned that are represented in DDP’s history and people along the way. 

Here are a few:

  • It is key to have a clear sense of purpose
  • Focus on quality over quantity…or as we Swedes like to say “form follows function”
  • Invest in people and places
  • Patience and persistent pays off
  • Embrace change . . . always lean in
  • Be responsible stewards of our resources
  • Never stop learning
  • Humility is a virtue not a weakness

I would love to have heard first-hand the vision Oscar Webber of the J.L. Hudson Co. brought to the first meeting of the Business Property Association. The archives tell us that meeting was to ensure the viability of the Downtown community. I feel he and many others find pride in the fact that we’re still doing that 100 years later.

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