Established: Lesson from some of the world’s oldest companies. A synopsis

by Stuart Delves

Authors: John, Stuart, Jamie, Martin, Elen, Claire, Gillian, Mark, Neil, Andy, Mike, Richard (and Jamie)

Established: 1198, 1498, 1515, 1519, 1534, 1570, 1698, 1705, 1715, 1759, 1824, 1891. An inn, a removals company, a butchers, a ferry, a printing press, a bell foundry, a wine merchants, a stone carvers, a scale makers, a brewers, an agricultural company, a gum manufacturer. How on earth have they managed that? And what are their secrets of survival?

In Established, twelve business writers set out to find the answers to these questions and to tell the stories of these companies that have survived scores of booms and busts, black sheep in the family and strange twists of fate.

But they’re not your typical team of business writers. The twelve are from the Dark Angels stable, the brand that since 2004 has been encouraging authentic voices in business writers through its residential courses and workshops. Storytelling is at the heart of the Dark Angels approach. In Established you will find that each of these enduring businesses has a great story, each of which is told in an individual voice that brings range and freshness to the book and makes it quite unlike the mainstream ‘how to’ hardback.

But the lessons the stories contain are every bit as instructive, from the eschewal of nepotism to the generational mantra of ‘humility and rebellion’. The reader will find contradictions, on questions like world domination or keeping it to the one shop. And that’s the joy of this book, that readers looking for insight as well as good old entertainment will gravitate towards the business that most resembles theirs in spirit and set-up if not in actual trade.

The lesson in every instance that is closest to the writers’ hearts is that the story itself is one of the greatest assets of every business — and when you’ve got over 500 years of records it’s quite a challenge to tell it, especially in a couple of thousand words. Established does just that.