You might have seen the word “Evergreen” featured on our website, and you’re probably wondering why you’re seeing this word used regularly. While the concept of “Evergreen” might seem abstract, it’s a term that resonates with the Aptify team, and it’s one that will continue to move our organization forward in the years to come.
So what exactly does Evergreen mean? Evergreen companies, according to the Tugboat Institute, are “led by purpose-driven leaders with the grit and resourcefulness to build and scale private, profitable, enduring, and market-leading businesses that make a dent in the universe. Evergreen businesses put their people first and avoid raising capital that puts money before mission and imposes a growth-at-all-costs or exit-oriented mindset.”
I was not familiar with the term until Amith Nagarajan, Aptify’s CEO, mentioned the idea of an Evergreen Company at one of our corporate off-site planning sessions. He referenced an Inc. article, which gives the genesis of the Evergreen concept. Admittedly, I was immediately smitten by the concept and most of the seven tenets which are (in order of importance):
- Purpose: passion, vision and mission. Yep, check, maybe that should be everyone’s life goal?
- Perseverance: resilience, fortitude—keep getting up if knocked down. I absolutely agree. If you’re knocked down 7 times, you get up once again.
- People First: talented workforce, motivated by mission, culture, & compensation. You take care of your people and they take care of the business, clients, and your entire ecosystem. Personally, I would move this to #2 on the list.
- Private: It’s the ability to make decisions based on the long view. Ah, the long view is so seldom considered, but this one really resonated with me.
- Profit: A number that is an accurate gauge of customer value. I’m a bit compromised on this since profit doesn’t necessarily mean an organization is providing an endearing value vs. creating a coerced value. For instance, I pay for my cell phone and while the coverage was great—dealing with the company, even infrequently, was a nightmare. This led me to feel like I was being overcharged and under appreciated. The result? As soon as my contract expired, I high-tailed it to Project Fi, who have been great and very cost-effective. So, while my previous carrier is very profitable, it did not equate to customer value. Trust me, there are many who share my opinion. Granted, if there is no cash, then there is no mission. If an organization is to remain a going concern, then profit is essential. I just don’t think profit is a reliable measure of value.
- Paced Growth: This requires discipline to focus on a long-term strategy to grow steadily and consistently year over year. This ties into #4 Private, in that you don’t have investors focused on dramatic growth quarter over quarter, rather you can do what is right for your company, your staff, your clients, and your community.
- Pragmatic Innovation: continuous improvement—taking calculated risks to creatively innovate within the constraints of the business. I refer you to an excellent video by one of Tugboat’s members Melanie Dulbecco, CEO of Torani. Torani’s earnings had become flat, and the experts said, yeah, what do you expect, it’s a mature industry. Dulbecco and her team took an un-parochial approach to challenge the experts and hit a homerun—very cool.
I find the idea of an Evergreen company very compelling and I believe wholeheartedly in the premise. When visiting the Tugboat Institute website and reading the various posts under the Evergreen Journal tab, I’m moved and inspired by the passion of those who are involved in the movement: by their selflessness, the devotion to their staff, clients and community, their wisdom and their dedication to sound values. Maybe it can best be summed up by Robert Glazer of Acceleration Partners who said in his December 5, 2016 article:
“Cash is the ultimate carrot, right? Not necessarily. Especially for Evergreen entrepreneurs. We are building businesses based on passion, principal and purpose. We want our employees to be part of our mission, and although people might believe money is important, it’s not the ultimate motivator.”
As my friend Dave Martin, Aptify’s CMO, would say, “Woot-woot.”
I agree, but then I started wondering: What happens when Robert or Melanie, or other Evergreens retire? Or burnout? Or their passion wanes? Or someone comes along and offers them the right amount to sell? What then? It made me think about Jim Collin & Jerry Porras’s book Built to Last, and I wondered if there are foundational & philosophical similarities between Evergreen companies and the 18 Built to Last companies?
I’ll explore and share that thought in my next post.
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