Called to Connect at Tugboat Institute Summit

Diana Price, Tugboat Institute Summit

July 02, 2019

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
- John Muir

The iconic mountain town of Sun Valley, Idaho is surrounded by the summits of five mountain ranges. It was in this stunning setting, in view of these peaks, that 120 Evergreen leaders came together last week for the seventh annual Tugboat Institute Summit.

The purpose-driven CEOs and Presidents called to gather for this year’s event were drawn from 28 states and as far as Australia and joined by a commitment to learn and share best practices and inspiration around building and growing enduring, private businesses. Perhaps most important, these leaders were called to connect personally and professionally—with one another and to the spirit of the Evergreen® movement.

The desire to come together and develop meaningful relationships was evident from the first meetings of the week, when leaders of large, multi-generational companies gathered to learn from Ernie Patterson, VP, Director of Family Shareholder Relations, Brown-Forman. Participants in the workshop openly shared challenges and solutions unique to their multi-gen businesses, and the transparent discussions and generosity of members were indicative of the spirit that defines Tugboat Institute Summit.

A commitment to connection and transparency was also the hallmark the TED-style talks that filled morning programming over the next two days. Michael Kiolbassa, President and CEO of Kiolbassa Smoked Meats, led off the talks and set the tone for openness when he shared his journey of personal and professional transformation, propelled by his decision to embrace vulnerability and define Purpose in his company.

The parallel paths of personal and professional development emerged further in several of the talks that followed on the first day. Brian Griffith, Executive Chairman of Griffith Foods, described how his company has operationalized Purpose—building a platform for associates to explore and define personal purpose and understand the intersection of that purpose with that of the company. Ricardo Cervantes, Co-Founder of La Monarca Bakery, shared how Purpose guides the company’s investment in Hispanic communities in Los Angeles and, more broadly, in conservation efforts. JT McCormick, President and CEO of Scribe media, delivered a moving, deeply personal talk describing his journey rising from a childhood of abuse and neglect to become the leader of an Evergreen business.

Presentations on the second day included leadership and value creation topics, delivered by both Tugboat Institute members and thought leaders with deep wisdom in business and leadership. Among the presentations, Tugboat Institute members Don MacAskill, CEO of SmugMug, and Penny Pennington, Managing Partner of Edward Jones, both offered talks highlighting the fundamental importance of building and maintaining trust in Evergreen businesses—with employees and with customers. Michael Shearn, author of The Investment Checklist, Will Thorndike, author of The Outsiders, and Doug Tatum, author of No Man’s Land, each offered insight into fundamental value creation and the importance of unconventional leaders.

In the final full-length presentation of the week, Tugboat Institute Chairperson Jeff Snipes delivered a talk that brought together the personal and professional in an incredibly impactful way. His talk, “Parenting (and Leading) in the Age of Anxiety,” offered the audience insights into the epidemic of anxiety among children today and provided three key approaches to support one’s children and, by extension, one’s employees. The talk was a fitting culmination of the week’s presentations, and it resonated deeply with the audience.

In fact, it was clear—not only in the presentations, but in informal conversations, lunchtime dialogue sessions, evening celebrations—that it is this desire to grow personally and professionally that binds Tugboat institute members. The women and men who come together to create the magic of Tugboat Institute bring their whole selves to everything they do in their roles as leaders of Evergreen companies. And, they don’t hesitate to open up and share so that others may benefit from their experiences and wisdom. It is this generosity that creates an environment of trust and community that continues to call members to the mountains each year—and to the higher calling of building Evergreen businesses.

Diana Price is Content Manager at Tugboat Institute.

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