Venture capitalist Dave Whorton and Red Herring co-founder Chris Alden use the term evergreen to describe the increasing number of private, profitable, market-leading businesses that are designed to remain unsold and independent for a long, long time. In a manifesto released at the launch of the Tugboat Institute, Whorton and Alden identified what they saw as the seven defining characteristics of evergreen companies. In what they consider their order of importance, they are:

1. Purpose
Being passionately driven by a compelling vision and mission.

2. Perseverance
Having the ambition and the resilience to overcome obstacles and keep pursuing the mission indefinitely into the future. (Integrated Project Management is a case in point.)

3. People First
Engaging a work force of talented associates who excel as a team and are motivated by the mission and the culture, as well as compensation, in the belief that, by taking care of them, they will take care of the business, customers, suppliers, and community.

4. Private
Taking advantage of the ability of closely held private companies to have a longer-term view and more operating flexibility than public or exit-oriented businesses.

5. Profit
Measuring success by the number that provides the most accurate gauge of customer value delivered.

6. Paced Growth
Having the discipline to focus on long-term strategy and grow steadily and consistently each year. (A good example: Jack Stack's manufacturing company, SRC Holdings, in Springfield, Missouri, which has aimed for and achieved 10 to 15 percent growth per year for more than 30 years.)

7. Pragmatic Innovation

Embracing a continuous-improvement process built around taking calculated risks to innovate creatively within the constraints of the business.

 

From the October 2015 issue of Inc. magazine