Facebook has more members than there are people living in the United States. However, success can indeed be fleeting as they say, so one must wonder if Facebook will become another Friendster or MySpace and loose its appeal. Only time will tell if this will occur. Speaking of time and staying power, there is a company that has been around for quite some time. It has been in existence for over 1,400 years.

Kongo Gumi Construction is a Japanese Buddhist temple construction company that was founded in 578.  Its founder was a Korean who came over to Japan and started his own company.

What makes this company unique is it is family owned and run. Keeping family harmony and the desire to move forward must have been some feat. The company has experienced great events in the history of Japan. Buddhism was introduced less than 50 years before the company started, many ruling dynasties came and went, the ninjas, the samurais, two world wars, and Japan reign of being a global economic power. This company saw it all.

Among the company’s traits is its flexibility, the company head need not be the eldest son, it can even be a daughter or a son-in-law. It’s just not about blood but also about leadership capability.  The company stayed focused on temple construction though it made coffins during World War II and has gone into apartment and other building constructions.

Seeing an opportunity in the booming Japanese real estate sector in the 80s, it borrowed heavily and got caught when the bubble burst in the 90s. Saddled with heavy debt and with less demand in temple building, the company was forced to become a subsidiary of Takamatsu Construction Group in 2006. Takamatsu was founded in 1917. Will this company have its own 1,400 year run? Who knows?

Tandy Computers, Wang Computers, Bethlehem Steel, Pan Am, these companies loomed large during their heydays and are now all gone. Other companies got swallowed up by more progressive ones.

Would you rather build a company that looms large then disappears or a relatively obscure one that lasts for a long time? I’d go for the latter, it may become mediocre and unknown but it still employs people. How about you?