Tugboat Institute 5HQ @Clase Azul

Susanne Lally, Tugboat Institute

November 30, 2021

When the global pandemic hit in March of 2020, it was clear that Tugboat Institute® needed to reimagine how members could safely connect and learn from each other. Armed with a little pragmatic innovation, the Tugboat Institute @5HQ series was launched in October 2020. This unique program was a twist on our traditional Fall Exemplar visit. Instead of diving deep into one Evergreen® company, members had the ability to choose a more intimate experience with one of five companies based in five different regions of the US, with morning presentations live streamed to those who could not join in person. More importantly, each of the five host companies was run by a Tugboat Institute member—delivering on the intention to create a rich, robust, and relatable peer-to-peer experience while honoring health and safety protocols.

Each participating company opened their doors to lay bare their histories, cultures, best practices, missteps, key learnings and long-term goals. In return, hosts received the benefits of honest, straightforward feedback from fellow tribe members along with valuable insight on potential blind spots through Tugboat Brain Trust exercises.

The final @5HQ visit took place with Clase Azul in New York on November 19, 2021. Technically the festivities started the night before with a gourmet dinner hosted by Clase Azul Founder and CEO, Arturo Lomeli, and President, Juan Sanchez. Each course of the meal was paired with a Clase Azul premium tequila and a colorful telling of the spirit’s backstory. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The following day Arturo and Juan warmly welcomed Tugboat Institute members in-person and virtually to their new Clase Azul Loft in Brooklyn—a first as the space had not yet been opened to the public. The schedule included the highs and lows of Arturo’s personal journey starting the company in 1997, the pivotal decision to partner with his brother-in-law, Juan, in 2002 and the constant evolution of the Clase Azul brand that currently includes six companies—alcoholic beverage production, two import companies, an artisanal ceramic factory, a non-profit organization, and a third-division football team.

Throughout the day, Arturo and Juan candidly discussed their audacious goal to build the first Mexican luxury house. They also shared the secret to their successful partnership—trust and balance. Arturo sets the "what" and Juan sets the "when". According to Arturo, “We maximize the strengths of each other.” Juan took a more philosophical approach by comparing their relationship to the ancient Chinese yin and yang concept—or as Juan puts it, “yin and Juan”. Regardless of the description, it was clear that both men were deeply aligned and commitment to their company’s mission—to share happiness and captivate the world through the magic of Mexican culture.

We are grateful to all the members who hosted and participated in the Tugboat Institute @5HQ series. The exchange of knowledge, the support and the comradery that is at the heart of all Tugboat Institute events was particularly present during the behind-the-scenes look at these five member companies. A perfect example of Evergreen leaders at their best. Salut!

Susanne Lally is Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Tugboat Institute

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