The Centennial Secret: How Do Companies Last 100 Years?

The Centennial Secret: How Do Companies Last 100 Years?

The percentage of U.S. companies that make it to the 100-year mark is such a small number, there is no clear go-to source for accurate data on the topic. We know from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that only 36% of companies last 10 years and about 21% survive to see their 20th anniversary. Beyond that, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that only about 12% of companies are older than 26 years.

The prevailing theory, though unconfirmed, is that only about a half a percent (0.5%) of all companies have what it takes to last 100 years. This means that centennial firms truly do have lots to celebrate. They’re so rare it’s difficult to calculate just how rare they are.

One Indiana company that’ll be doing a lot of celebrating this year is Hammond-based Budd Mechanical Systems, a heating and cooling contractor that is turning 100 this year. The company was established by Clement T. (Budd) Clusserath in 1921 as Budd The Furnace Man & Sons, Inc. and has evolved throughout numerous business, economic, and technological changes over the generations.

Today, Budd Mechanical Systems is owned and operated by the third generation of Clusserath leadership under President Dana A. (Clusserath) Booth. The company is a certified WBE in the state of Indiana, a certified FBE in the state of Illinois, and has a regular staff of about 20 employees. Incredibly, the business is still located in its original Hammond location.

Building Indiana Business reached out to Dana Booth learn more about how companies like Budd Mechanical Systems have been able to stand the test of time.


Building Indiana Business (BIN): Let’s start with the million-dollar question. What’s the secret to staying in business for 100 years?

Dana Booth (DB): “Perseverance and caring for our customers and employees. This generation has fostered the same principles we attribute to the continued success of the company, which includes recognition of all the people and talent that get us through each and every year. We are proud of the generations of employees, some with three decades of service.”


BIN: Heating and cooling has changed a lot over the last 100 years. How has your company adapted?

DB: “Our technicians attend continuing education classes yearly. Our office staff stays informed about new developments by attending meetings and webinars on upcoming changes to our industry and new products.”

“Our scope of work has continuously broadened. Residential work was our main focus in the earliest days, and at this time residential heating and air conditioning is only a portion of our production. Commercial work is the bulk of our production currently.”


(BIN): Has the pandemic situation of the last few months been a unique challenge in your 100-year history? What’s changed?

(DB): “Each time our business has faced recessions, deaths, and retirements, we have had to transition our methods and continue on in new directions. Grit was instilled in us from the first generation. My grandmother worked daily at the age of 89. It’s all about solving problems and moving forward.”

“COVID-19 has made us stay focused on using good judgement with keeping our employees and customers safe. We have shifted to provide new IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) services for our customers, as we’ve been observing increasing demand for cleaner indoor air.”


Fundamentals Matter Most

If the Clusserath family’s experiences align with other centennial company histories, then good fundamentals are what matter most for business longevity. The success of a 100-year story is rooted in simple but essential principals: taking good care of your employees, delivering the best outcomes for your customers, and continually learning new things. Although 100 years is a rare milestone and a long journey, the steps needed to reach it are simple to take.

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Category Cover Story, Features