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Tugboat Institute Summit 2023: Celebrating Ten Years

Tugboat Institute Summit 2023: Celebrating Ten Years

Chauncy Gardner
Tugboat Institute
July 4, 2023

Ten years. Ten extraordinary years. Last week, in Sun Valley, Idaho, Tugboat Institute® members gathered to celebrate ten years of Tugboat Institute and the Evergreen® movement. Our week together week gave us the opportunity to pause and reflect on what we, as a community, have built together in this time. It was powerful, thought-provoking, and joyous; we have an enormous amount to celebrate.

As we always do when we gather, first and foremost, we learned together. The 18 Tugboat talks that were shared covered topics that touched both the philosophical and logistical ways we lead as well as the personal and family issues that are equally critical to our success. It was a lot to process in a short amount of time and we will be unpacking the profound wisdom that all our speakers shared for quite some time.

On the occasion of our ten-year anniversary, our founder and CEO, Dave Whorton, kicked the week off with a talk entitled On Time. He invited us to consider both the relatively short and incredibly long timeframe of our world and of humanity. In this context, he discussed the strategic advantage for Evergreen companies of their inherent, long-term view that is wholly unique to them. This long-term view that can easily span decades enables Evergreen businesses to 1) compound the growth of not only their capital but their people, culture, brands, innovations, and know-how for decades and generations, 2) avoid net zero-sum games that are endemic to VC backed, PE owned and public companies, and 3) have a higher consciousness in their relationships, including public expressions of love for their colleagues and customers.

Our slate of speakers was a fabulous mix of Tugboat members and wonderful friends and supporters of Tugboat, both old and new. On the first day of talks, member speakers included Mac Harman, of Balsam Brands, who is one of Tugboat’s very first members, John Montgomery, of Bridgeway Capital Management, Jeff Cook, of ARCO, Allen Serfas, of Assistance Home Care, and Katie Hopkins, of Truck Centers Inc. Mac and Jeff spoke about their journeys from founding to building their companies as well as the Evergreen mindset that guided them and that has proven to be their greatest strategic advantage. John spoke inspiringly about the work Bridgeway’s foundation has done toward ending genocide worldwide. Allen spoke about a problem we almost face at some time – talking to our aging parents about care. And Katie shared her learnings about the advantages of partnership with one of their most important suppliers. These member speakers were joined by Madeline Levine, a practicing psychologist, author, and founder of Challenge Success, Peter Boumgarden, PhD, a professor at Washington University’s Olin Business School, Stephen M. R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust and Trust & Inspire, and renowned artist Phil Hansen. Madeline and Phil are a longtime friends and supporters of Tugboat and the Evergreen movement. Madeline spoke about the importance and challenge of fostering resilience in young people, whether family or colleagues, while Phil inspired us to consider constraints as a source of creativity and to avoid self-limiting beliefs. Peter offered a framework and tools to improve productivity and efficiency as we organize our precious time. And Stephen M.R. Covey spoke about the style of leadership – trust and inspire – that aligns with the Evergreen mindset and that will be key to success in the modern age.

On the second day of talks, we again welcomed both member speakers and speakers who joined us from a variety of areas of expertise. Member speakers included Ben MacAskill of Awesome, Carrie Van Winkle Greener of Pappy & Company, Oscar Gonzalez of Northgate Markets, Val Hollingsworth of Hollingsworth & Vose, Mel Gravely of TriVersity Construction, John Gavan of KPFF, and John Garrett of Community Impact. Ben shared the work his company has been doing, in partnership with the Library of Congress and others, to preserve historic photographs. Carrie, Val, and Oscar shared different aspects of their experiences growing up and working in and alongside their family businesses, including expanding the brand reach of the company, innovating for the long term, and lifting up their families and their communities over generations. And Mel, John, and John came together for a powerful panel discussion about the steps they are taking in their own spheres of influence to advance the conversation about the rights gaps and how we can build our individual awareness and take action toward elevating all races in our work. These members were joined by Jim Gilmore, co-author of The Experience Economy, Dr. Allan Mishra, Founder of DareToBeVital and a leading orthopedic surgeon at Stanford University Medical Center, and, in a pre-recorded talk, Howard Behar, former President and Director of Starbucks and a longtime friend and supporter of Tugboat. Jim invited us to consider what business we are really in, as we consider how today’s economy has evolved from the early days of human industry. Howard shared two stories, of two Jims, that illustrate the power and importance of putting People First. And Allan invited us to consider how to make the best use of our time on this earth, and to feel energized and vital in our lives.

Needless to say, the talks inspired us, provoked new ideas, and sparked conversations amongst us that will continue to evolve for a long time. The profound depth and variety of wisdom within our community continues to define and underscore the powerful magic that happens when Evergreen leaders gather. The atmosphere of vulnerability and authenticity that emerges when Evergreen leaders gather allowed us all to have real, authentic conversations that help us understand and help each other.

Outside of the incredible learning this week provided us all, it also afforded us the opportunity to celebrate. We celebrated old friendships, we celebrated new connections, we celebrated a group art project that left many moved, and we celebrated the beauty and the magic of Sun Valley.

After 10 years of serving Evergreen companies, we are confident in the future, given what we know about these largely unseen and underappreciated Evergreen companies and their leaders and owners. They deserved the celebration, and our team did, too.

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