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Tugboat Institute Summit 2022: Magic in the Mountains

Tugboat Institute Summit 2022: Magic in the Mountains

Chauncy Gardner
Tugboat Institute
June 28, 2022

Something extraordinary happened in Sun Valley last week.  After two Tugboat Institute® Summits adapted to COVID, we were back in person in record numbers. The magic that happened throughout the week was clear evidence of the power and importance of our wonderful Evergreen® community. 

Wednesday and Thursday mornings were spent hearing from 18 outstanding speakers on topics ranging from the exploration of different mechanisms to scale, to the sharing of personal challenges and journeys, to consideration of philosophies of leadership, to the importance of love. 

The talks left us thinking in new ways, feeling deeply, and profoundly enlightened. Jeet Kumar of In Time Tec opened the talks on Wednesday by sharing his thoughts on love and leadership. His story opened our hearts and brought the audience, both in the theater and online, into a space of intimacy and support that was sustained throughout the rest of the experience. Lisa Ingram of White Castle shared what innovation looks like over time in a 100 year-old company. John Garrett of Community Impact Newspaper whetted our appetites for more conversation about the possibilities presented by partnerships with economic development groups in a short, 5-minute talk and then Dennis Jaffe, Senior Research Fellow at BanyanGlobal Family Business Advisors, shared his considerable wisdom about how to think about future generations as we consider the path forward for our businesses. We had an astounding and unique experience led by the entrepreneur, musician, and magical human being Murray Hidary. Murray shared his thinking on creativity and then invited us to connect with our creative centers as he performed an original, improvised piano concert. The experience was moving in unexpected and deeply profound ways. Following Murray’s performance, John McCullough of James Avery shared how and why James Avery became a vertically integrated company, and the competitive advantage it has given them. Mel Gravely of Triversity took the stage next for a 5-minute update on his thinking about conversations about race in America since he last presented on the topic at Summit 2021.  Mel was followed by Courtney McKee of Headframe Spirits who shared her inspiring story of extraordinary perseverance and triumph in the face of challenges. Finally, Dave Thrasher of Supportworks shared his family’s journey scaling their company in a variety of ways, and the lessons learned through each experience.

The talks on Thursday were equally outstanding. We began the morning with a pre-recorded conversation between Dave Whorton and one of his heroes, the legendary Tom Peters, who spoke about his book In Search of Excellence and his current perspective on the topics he discussed in the book. Jane Blain Gilbertson of Blain’s Farm and Fleet told the story of fighting a private equity entrant into her markets; in her talk, she shared her disturbing and inspiring story of pulling her entire team together to beat a private equity-driven attempt to undo the Evergreen company her family had built over three generations. Bobby Jenkins of ABC Home & Commercial Services gave a 5-minute talk that offered insight into the opportunities available to businesses when they partner with their Chambers of Commerce, and then Samson Liu of SOH Dental shared his story of starting his own Evergreen company after the disillusionment of working in a company bought by private equity. We were then honored to invite Kevin Cahill, Executive Director of the W. Edwards Deming Institute, to the stage. Kevin shared his grandfather’s Deming philosophy with us, in particular the importance of looking at the shortcomings of the system, not team members, in People First companies. After Kevin, Brad Cleveland took the stage for a short, 5-minute talk on Leading the Customer Experience, which just happened to be inspired by a conversation he had with W. Edwards Deming very early in Brad’s career. Finally, Tugboat friend Anese Cavanaugh, Founder and CEO of Active Choices, brought us back to ourselves and invited us to consider self-care and self-partnership as essential leadership skills. Following Jeet’s powerful opening talk, Anese’s talk served as a wonderful bookend to the two days, during which we were exposed to ideas, practices, and stories that will help bolster our businesses, our families, and ourselves. 

The afternoons were spent in dialogues with speakers over lunch, and then in a variety of activities that allowed attendees to share time in the beauty and magic of Sun Valley. We celebrated the friendships we cherish and got to enjoy, the new connections that we look forward to nurturing and growing over time, and the support and love of our incredible community. 

Tugboat Institute Summit was magical, as it always seems to be when Evergreen leaders gather. Fortunately, we have more opportunities to gather again on the horizon!

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