A Business Built on Reciprocity
Clint Cooper, Redeemers Group Inc.
April 12, 2022
It may go against what we’ve all been taught about business, but I have come to believe that collaboration, not competition, is the key to business success. There are guidelines and limitations, of course. For me, the most important one is finding like-minded people, who share a vision of the right way to live and conduct themselves, and who are eager to contribute something of value to the world. I recently learned a new word for this– Evergreen®.
My story started like many, with a chance meeting. I was running my home repair business, Redeemers Group Inc., in Memphis and, through some friends in the East, I was contacted by a product supplier in Connecticut who was seeking a partnership. They had a basement waterproofing business and some high-quality products and wondered if I might be interested in learning their method for reaching new customers and their process for waterproofing. In exchange, as my business increased, I would sell their waterproofing products to my new clients. We didn’t have a contract, but it made sense and I trusted them, so I agreed. It led to significant growth for my business and, as a result, increased sales for them. Our customers got great service and great products. It was a win-win-win. This experience opened my mind to a new world of possibilities.
A few years down the road, I had the great fortune to meet Greg and Dave Thrasher, from Omaha, NE. Greg founded Supportworks Inc., a foundation repair (and today, a Certified Evergreen®) company, and his son Dave is now President. In the Thrashers, I recognized the kind of kindred spirits I was looking for, and although none of us had become aware of Tugboat Institute® yet, we became fast friends. We struck a deal similar to the one I had made with the company in Connecticut – Supportworks taught us their foundation repair process, and as my business grew, I sold more of their products. Another win all around.
Now I had two collaboration partners who were suppliers and I loved the growth the partnerships had created. My inclination for collaboration was growing stronger and I found myself looking for opportunities to collaborate further at every turn. My mindset had shifted, and I was ready for more.
My next opportunity took me back to Connecticut. One best practice I had learned from the basement waterproofing company in Connecticut was to share materials – about our company, our products, and the repair process – with a new client in advance of the first site visit. Among other items, we provided a book the company had created that explained the specific repair process in detail. I noticed over time that their guidance was great, but that there were gaps; most notably, we were doing a lot of mold remediation, and there was no book for that. So, I wrote one. I took it back to the supplier and asked if they’d be interested in buying it and in offering it to the other contractors they worked with and they said yes. It is now sold all over the US, Canada, and Europe.
By this point I was a true believer in this type of supply chain collaboration and was highly inclined to innovate further. When working on one job, trying to problem-solve the process of lifting a house off a certain kind of foundation, I had a Eureka moment and imagined a device that would help the process. I had a friend create some CAD drawings and took them to Dave and his team at Supportworks. They thought it looked great, we got it patented, and now they sell it to all their dealers.
Private equity has come knocking several times in recent years and it’s easy for me to send them away. I know that without remaining Private, among many other things, I would not have the freedom and the independence to pursue Pragmatic Innovation collaborations like these with industry peers. Innovation requires the freedom that being an Evergreen company provides. My experience collaborating with like-minded supply chain peers - notably those with Evergreen companies - has helped my business grow and succeed, and it’s helped me approach my work with even more joy and creativity. I can’t wait for more.