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Uniting in Evergreen Values

Uniting in Evergreen Values

Dave Whorton
Tugboat Institute
January 2, 2024

Dear Friend of Tugboat Institute®,

Coming off several very difficult years filled with unexpected challenges and unforeseeable obstacles post-COVID, our members largely saw a more predictable business environment in 2023. Supply chain woes improved, hiring, while still challenging, became possible again in many industries, and inflation has started to cool. Not all businesses weathered this chaos as well as Evergreen® businesses; because of our discipline and long-term mindset, most of our members not only survived the recent wild ride, but in most cases, capitalized on opportunities it presented. It was a year that confirmed the strong position of the Evergreen company in an ever-changing world.

Outside of the business world, on the other hand, 2023 saw a rise in conflict and discord worldwide. From the tense national political climate to the terrible, tragic conflicts overseas, the things that separate us can often overshadow those that unite us, as Americans and as humans. This is a terrible shame.

Here at Tugboat Institute, we are of course neither unaware of nor indifferent to this reality. It affects us, it affects our members, and it is devastatingly sad. As an organization, we firmly condemn violence, hate, terrorism, and prejudice in all forms. However, in the face of all this distress and conflict, and heading into another tough presidential election year in 2024, we have taken the opportunity to re-examine and update our Member Pledge. Among other things, it includes a commitment to refraining from introducing contentious political topics into our community that could polarize our members. We are not putting our heads in the sand. Rather, we are re-iterating our stance, established at our founding ten years ago, to support each and every one of our members in their Evergreen company journeys, and focus on what unites us, which far outweighs whatever may divide us.

At the end of 2023, our membership includes 265 Evergreen companies, spans 25 major industries, draws from Mexico, Canada, and 36 states in the US, includes a variety of ownership structures, and includes businesses with revenues from $6M to $26B. This represents an incredible range of companies. How do we find strength and common cause amid such a range?

First of all, despite these differences, Tugboat members all share the burden and privilege of leadership. They share the responsibility of stewarding, building, protecting, and growing an organization on which many others depend. As such, they can find and have found myriad ways to learn from and support each other. I have sat at dinner at one of our events and participated in a conversation between a second-generation leader of a well-established company and a founder struggling to make the leap across no-man’s land and to imagine how their company makes it from ten years to 100. Not only did the former have helpful and relevant advice for the latter in that moment, but they also made the commitment to stay in touch and engage in conversation on an ongoing basis, to ensure that the founder had the support they needed to persevere. I have watched a group of members from completely different industries who simply happen to live in the same geographical area, greet their forum-mates at an event and reference the personal and professional challenges they have helped each other face and surmount. And I have hosted Tugboat Seminars and Tugboat Talks where members at one stage of their professional careers have shared invaluable advice, perspective, and wisdom with their peers who, no matter where they are in their own leadership journey, can find something to take away and bring back to their companies and lives.

Secondly, beyond the shared leadership that unites our members, we are inextricably and powerfully connected through our shared belief in the Evergreen 7Ps® principles. Evergreen leaders don’t think like other leaders, who might be building toward a quick exit or trying to maximize growth at all costs, to make the quarter, or to achieve an IPO. Evergreen leaders share a long-term mindset, they share a deep belief in purpose, and they share the conviction that the best path to being successful in business is by treating people well and focusing on doing the right thing today and in the future. The profits that follow, and that are of course very important, are the powerful tool through which they can continue to effect change and increase their positive impact on the world. Shareholder wealth generation is not the ultimate goal, but rather a natural byproduct of the long-term compounding of retained capital in the business.

Among our members, we are privileged to include men and women of a variety of races and religions, with a variety of educational and cultural backgrounds, and with life experiences that vary in profound and important ways. Yet we have never for a second seen this variety as anything but an strength. By committing to keeping divisive topics out of Tugboat, we are not turning a blind eye. Tugboat is a community that is grounded in trust, in our shared Evergreen company values, in our shared humanity, and in our shared belief that we have much more in common than not. What makes us special is our ability to share, listen, and learn from each other with authentic curiosity and without judgment, which takes intentional practice. We recognize that good lives inside each of us, and that when we help each other make our Evergreen companies more mature and stronger, it benefits all of the employees, customers, suppliers, families, owners, and communities touched by our peers and us.

Thank you for supporting this incredible, trusted community, and I wish you, and our world, peace and prosperity in 2024.


Dave Whorton

CEO & Founder of Tugboat Institute

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