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The Evergreen Movement: A Refreshing Change in an Equity Driven Marketplace

Here’s a lesson that every entrepreneur can learn about the path less traveled.

In my work as a public speaker, I attend a lot of conferences. And the reality is, with all the trains, planes, automobiles, and hotel rooms, sometimes it all start to blur together.

Occasionally, I wake up in a new city, and I have to remind myself where I am and who I am speaking to that day.

This summer, I had a different experience. I spent two days with the members of the Tugboat Institute at their annual meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho before it was my turn to get on stage. And when I did, my opening line was “I think that you are the nicest group of people I ever met.”

This group of entrepreneurs is different from other groups; they have all signed up for a philosophy about their business called the Evergreen Movement that, in my opinion, is a breath of fresh air.

Some fundamental principles of the movement are unique. These business owners are by-passing a philosophy of flipping and selling for accepting long time horizons and staying private. These are entrepreneurs, but they are not serial entrepreneurs. They are not interested in taking their companies public or selling to private equity. They don’t plan on starting a business every five years. They think about their enterprises in time horizons of 50 or 100 years.

By the very nature of this long-term philosophy, the entrepreneurs who embrace this Evergreen Movement are purpose-driven. I found that their businesses mean more to them than the typical entrepreneur that I meet. This sense of purpose is a result of the long-term horizons that they choose.

Evergreen entrepreneurs are also not interested in rapid growth. They choose to grow slowly and steadily–because they don’t have the pressures of public or private equity investors demanding quick yields. They insist on being profitable and are happy to climb up a slow and steady path.

Many of the business owners I met were a part of multi-generational family businesses.  The long-term Evergreen philosophy encourages this approach.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about the difference between tortoise and hare entrepreneurs. I talked about the differences between the predominant culture of rapid growth and quick flips and venture capitalists, versus the slow and steady approach of building businesses for long-term value.

And what I realized after spending a few days at the Tugboat Institute is that I had never spent time surrounded by a group of proud tortoises. And this experience was refreshing. Besides the Sun Valley air, the members’ level of curiosity and desire to build meaningful long-term relationships was different from many other entrepreneurial groups I have worked with.

There is another approach to consider in building a business other than maximizing short-term value and selling quickly. You can do it the slow and steady way. You can choose the path less traveled. And if you want to find other business owners and entrepreneurs to work with who are deciding on that direction, you might want to consider learning more about the Evergreen Movement. I also found Josh Baron’s blog on multi-generational family businesses and long-term philosophies another great resource in this area.

As you think about your business and your work, do you love and feel passionate about what you do? Are you looking for the “next thing,” or are you happy with what you do and think you could be content to do it for the long term? If you’re in it for the long haul, you are fortunate (and not the norm), and learning more about the Evergreen philosophy could benefit you.

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