Cogitate and Celebrate Your Purpose

Dave Whorton, Tugboat Institute

January 04, 2022

I decided to go back to the basics for the first Evergreen Journal® of 2022 and examine what sustains our vital community of over 220 members. Our membership represents companies from 32 industries operating under the leadership of CEOs and Founders determined to make the world a better place. What I found is that the common denominator of these leaders is their unwavering dedication to the Evergreen 7Ps® principles of Purpose, Perseverance, People First, Private, Profit, Paced Growth and Pragmatic Innovation. Therefore, I think it is fitting for this first missive of the year to start at the beginning, with the principle of Purpose.

Purpose. It is what inspired me to embark on a learning journey nine years ago. It is what guided me to assemble a group of like-minded CEOs and Founders for the first Tugboat Institute® Summit in 2013. It is the cornerstone of the Evergreen 7Ps principles. And, I believe, it is the North Star to which we need to look as we review the past year and embrace the new one.

When COVID-19 disrupted the world in 2020, our membership immediately implemented three key strategies—protecting the financial integrity of their business, keeping their teams safe and as intact as possible, and using pragmatic innovation to flip from defense to offense. These same pillars sustained them through 2021 as the ripples of the pandemic caused crippling interruptions in the supply chain, hiring shortages, and inflation. And as fatigue sets in from the havoc brought on by the latest COVID strain, it is the underlying purpose of these companies that will continue to guide their leaders and teams through these extraordinary circumstances and beyond.

This adherence to purpose was perfectly illustrated during our 9th Tugboat Institute Exemplar Visit to Edward Jones in October 2021. Penny Pennington, the firm’s sixth managing partner and a fellow Tugboat Institute member, personally hosted this deep dive into an Evergreen® company that has been in business for 100 years as of this month. During the experience, Penny shared her primary leadership objective to move the century-old company from a mission-driven firm to a purpose-driven one, where Edward Jones’ purpose sits at the headwaters of the firm’s culture, strategy, trade-offs, and execution.

This kind of intimate access to a like-minded peer running an Evergreen company that spans two-thirds of the US is what educates and emboldens our members as they build their own business with the intention to have it last beyond their lifetime. And it is the kind of unique experience we expect to receive this coming October, when the membership travels to Salt Lake City for the 10th Tugboat Institute Exemplar Visit at O.C. Tanner.

Established in 1927, O.C. Tanner is a global leader in software and services that improve workplace cultures. Its Culture Cloud employee recognition platform improves the employee experience, boosts productivity, and increases employee retention. Their annual Global Culture Report is an in-depth look into workplace issues based on data gathered from 21 countries. The research from this annual report provides businesses with critical insights and relevant tools for navigating an ever-evolving, post-pandemic work environment—such as the “Great Resignation” phenomenon. Findings from their past reports point to the fact that, “Employees innately desire to connect to something bigger, something more important than themselves. Most don’t come to work just for a paycheck. They don’t work passionately towards a goal that is only about profit maximization. They come to make an impact, help others, and change the world.”

I, too, believe that Purpose is a touchstone, not only for employees, but also for Evergreen leaders, their families, their shareholders, and the communities that surround their businesses. Purpose is more important than any one individual and its end contribution to the world is so much more than one company having one fiscally good year.

As we enter a new year, I encourage you to take a moment and go back to the beginning. Reflect on your company’s Evergreen Purpose. Is it articulated clearly and understood deeply within your organization? Is it a fundamental part of your culture? Is it experienced by the people inside and outside of your business? Is it celebrated?

Dave Whorton is the Founder and CEO of Tugboat Institute.

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