Thoughts on the keys to business longevity | Opinion

By Mark Thoma, Moss Adams LLP
Courtesy to The Bellingham Business Journal 

Now that we’re already halfway through the year, it is as good a time as any to look ahead at business plans and make necessary changes.

As business owners work through their plans, however, they should keep in mind that planning for the next year and planning for the next 100 are two very different things.

How does a company successfully achieve longevity?

This has been a topic I’ve reflected on quite a bit lately as my own company marks 100 years in business this year. What are the keys to success in an ever changing and evolving marketplace? What traits do century-old companies have in common? How different do those businesses look today than they did in the eyes of their founders?

Creating and sustaining an established institution and brand is an accomplishment. From my perspective, three key characteristics to longevity are the development of great talent, a commitment to customer service and establishing a deep level of trust in the marketplace.

A company is only as good as its people, and customer service keeps people coming back year after year. Trust, internally and externally, gives a business the latitude to lead.

Those traits certainly hold true for large international companies like IBM and GE. They also hold true for long standing businesses in Whatcom County. Even for those companies that haven’t hit their century mark, the commitment to talent, customer service and trust lays the foundation for their futures.

However, those traits may not be enough anymore.

The world is changing. Rapidly evolving technologies continually impact how businesses operate. A multitude of regulatory regimes across all industries provide new complexity to navigate, and an increasingly globalized economy means that most companies aren’t just competing on Main Street anymore.

In Whatcom County, we see these dynamics every day.

With many local businesses that have either started to, or are already providing, products and services across the border and internationally, thinking globally is a trend that is increasing. Whether it’s a business specializing in manufacturing and  consumer products companies as well as those who operate in the food and agriculture industry, there are several Canadian and international businesses that are interested in or have started businesses in the Whatcom County.

In a changing world, the attributes for success are more dynamic. Businesses need more acumen, agility and answers than ever before. Those are certainly themes we watch at Moss Adams, both in how we operate our business as well as how we organize ourselves to serve the marketplace.

Acumen means we need advanced intelligence and perspective. Agility means we have to be more nimble, move faster and stay ahead of the changes the business community faces. And answers are what we’re always striving for as new questions continue to arise.

Our goal is to provide solutions for our clients, not just services, by anticipating our client’s needs before they even know they have questions.

I see those traits in our business community, as well.

More and more, companies find that they need to make decisions quicker. In turn, they look to us to provide them with advice and answers just as quickly. As the rate and pace of change continues to accelerate local businesses are serving their customer base at an increasingly faster pace, and doing it more efficiently.

I hope that more business leaders are as optimistic as I am. We have seen increased growth with our clients and we continue to serve more and more clients each year.  We are optimistic that businesses are growing and we see the opportunity in particular for businesses in Whatcom County.

People start companies to grow and last. For some that includes a short-term exit strategy, and for others longevity in their role is key.

Regardless, they may not be thinking about 100 years but they can learn from the past. Priorities can change, as well as executives, employees and the needs of the marketplace. The companies that will succeed are the companies that can adapt.

Mark Thoma is managing partner at the Bellingham office of Moss Adams LLP, an accounting and consulting firm. 

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