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The Compounding Power of Community – Tugboat Institute® Summit 2024

The Compounding Power of Community – Tugboat Institute® Summit 2024

Chauncy Gardner
Tugboat Institute
June 25, 2024

At Tugboat Institute®, we frequently talk about the sources of competitive advantage afforded to Evergreen® companies. A key one is their commitment to profitable, Paced Growth over years and decades that leads to a powerful compounding effect. We see this compounding effect in capital over time, strength of culture over time, honing of know-how and innovation over time, and impact against their Purpose over time, to name several. This past week, at Tugboat Institute Summit 2024, the compounding effects of our growing membership, built over time on a foundation of trust, were on full display. It has allowed our membership to deepen past relationships while forming new ones, with authenticity and curiosity. It has allowed members to share their experiences, best practices, new ideas, setbacks, accomplishments, and inspiration with each other whether from the stage, on a hike, or over a meal. Our growing membership and the resources and feedback it provides us has also allowed us to launch new, exciting offerings, as illustrated by an announcement we made during our week together.

While bringing our like-minded leaders together is top of our list of priorities, learning is a close second when we have in-person experiences, and we spent two mornings learning from our peers and thought leaders aligned with our Evergreen values.

On the first day of talks, Professor Hermann Simon joined us, all the way from Bonn, Germany, to share his wisdom around Hidden Champions. Hidden Champions are medium sized, market-leading companies who are relatively unknown but who have captured an outsized share of their market and are export powerhouses. Alan Beaulieu, of ITR Economics, shared an update on his economic outlook for the coming years, specifically the great depression he sees coming in 2030. Tugboat’s own Dr. Gary Kunkle, research specialist and expert in sustained growth companies, shared a short perspective on the return on philanthropy, assuring us that in addition to doing good for good’s sake, Evergreen companies’ philanthropic efforts also have a positive effect on new and future employees and customers, and the bottom line. Tugboat member Jeff Patterson, Founder & CEO of Gaggle, next shared what he had learned on his quest for strategy, starting with clarity around the concept of strategy itself. Jeff Chungath, member and CEO of Telligen and a bio-medical engineer by training, shared the careful and meticulous work they do in his company to continuously improve all aspects of the business in an efficient and effective way. Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky, distinguished professor and researcher at University of California at Riverside, shared her research and data on happiness – what makes us happy, and what we can do to effectively increase happiness. Member John Burns then shared a short perspective on hybrid work; he finds that it gives his company, John Burns Research & Consulting, a distinct competitive advantage at a time when many companies are backing off from remote work. Dr. Denise Pope, Stanford professor and co-founder of Challenge Success, shared a talk about the importance of helping our over-scheduled kids find balance in today’s world. And Tugboat member Steve Doerfler shared a powerful talk about his personal and professional journey into leadership at Metalcraft, which was characterized by some unusual and difficult challenges. Finally, our first day of talks included a panel discussion, led by Stanford professor and longtime Tugboat friend Dr. Roberta Katz, between Dave Petersen, Vice Chair of the Board of O.C. Tanner, and Lisa Ingram, President & CEO of White Castle. Each of these respected leaders shared their philosophies on managing conversations around polarizing and political topics in their firms.

On the second day of talks, three more thought leaders, Sam Walker, Paul Seck, and Jeffrey Korzenik, shared their wisdom on various topics. Sam is the author of The Captain Class and shared his insights into the shared characteristics of the winningest teams of all time. Paul is a landscape architect whose firm regularly partners with engineers and city planners, and he shared how their collaborations make space for creativity to flourish. Jeffrey is an economist by profession and also a passionate advocate for Second Chance hiring. He shared the why and the how of this practice which is not only a solution to a societal problem, but to our country’s long-term labor shortage as well. In addition to these outside speakers, we heard from six Tugboat members on day two. In two short talks, member Kris Maynard spoke about his recent experience transitioning from founder & CEO to Executive Chair of Cathedral Holdings and member Paul Mears III shared the strategies that allowed him to find as much harmony as possible between his work as President & CEO of Hello! Destination Management and family commitments, both topics that touch all Evergreen leaders at some point in their lives. Tugboat members Scott White, CEO of IGS Energy, Elizabeth Glasbrenner, co-founder, President & CEO of Smiley Technologies, Brad Herrmann, founder & President of Text-em-All, and Kirk Aubry, President & CEO of Savage rounded out the day. Scott stepped on stage next to share his outlook on the energy landscape in the coming years, and what business leaders can do to protect themselves from potentially disruptive events and phenomena. Brad, whose company is early in its journey to become an Employee Owned Trust, shared what he has learned and what he loves about this unique ownership structure. Elizabeth shared how some enormous personal and professional transitions have shaped her outlook on life and her leadership style. And Kirk shared his compelling vision for what he calls the ‘Secret Sauce’ that is the true source of power of the Evergreen company – connection.

In addition to the inspiring and powerful learning that took place each day, we had the opportunity to celebrate our incredible community in the evenings. On one of these evenings, we had the honor to announce the first-ever Best Evergreen Companies™ list and the first Evergreen Company of the Year™. To learn more about this new initiative, aimed at elevating and celebrating Evergreen leaders and companies in our society, read the announcement here.

Over a decade into the Evergreen movement the compounding effects of this community were clear. New members felt it as they met their peers in person for the first time, returning members felt it as they sunk back into the atmosphere of joyous and authentic connection, Tugboat team members felt it as their pride in supporting such a wonderful group of people soared, and even our thought leader speakers shared that they felt it. What we heard many times from our members during this past week is that our community is different and truly special. We are not only bound by a unique and shared set of values and by the support we can offer each other as we walk the challenging path of leading an Evergreen company. We are also bound by the certainty, reinforced every time we connect, that despite the challenges, we are doing it the right way – the Evergreen way – and contributing to making life better for a great many people.


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