An Evergreen Company

How Evergreen Principles Guide PayNorthwest

 – Mike Anderson, Founder & CEO

One of the less visible, but most impactful, shapers of PayNorthwest is our adherence to the concepts of being an evergreen company. It’s not about our deep Pacific Northwest roots (which we have), or that we actively recycle (which we do), but instead, it’s about our core ambition to build a company that endures and thrives for the long haul.

Traditionally, there were two paths for a company: either become a small business that makes a nice living for the owner, or take on a lot of outside money to fuel to a major, lucrative exit (be bought, go public). Neither one of these paths felt particularly satisfying to me, the founder, and certainly didn’t match my overall vision when I founded PayNorthwest in 2007. If I had a dollar for every person who asked me “So, you’re trying to build this company to flip it to a larger company?” and combined that with a dollar for every private equity fund or individual investor who “wants to have a conversation” about providing us more capital, well, I’d have a lot of dollars and could exit! Instead, I’ve chosen a third path – that of the evergreen company.

From the time I was first exposed to the principles of evergreen companies as espoused by the The Tugboat Institute, I knew I had found a set of beliefs and a framework to match my vision. According to Tugboat, evergreen companies are defined by the 7Ps (7 principles). It is these 7Ps that guide us every day, drive the decisions we make, and help PayNorthwest live out its purpose and reason for being. By living these principles we are better able to attract and retain top talent and leaders, better able to attract customers looking for a longtime partner, better able to assure our vendors and suppliers that we’re here for the long haul, and better able to connect with our local community. Following the 7Ps makes us a better company.

So, briefly, what are these 7Ps? Here is a quick rundown of how these principles drive our business for enduring, sustainable value creation for our customers and company. For a deeper dive, check out The Tugboat Institute’s website.

  1. Purpose. We believe employers deserve a partner who can help them run their business better.
  2. Perseverance. We are ambitious (we want to be around for 100 years for goodness’ sake!) and know that resilience and agility are key ingredients to sticking around.
  3. People Powered. People are at the center of, and the reason for, all we accomplish. Systems, technology, and processes are important but in a support role.
  4. Private. We remain a private company which allows us to have a longer-term view, independence, and operate with greater flexibility and purpose (see #1).
  5. Profit. We operate profitably because that is essential to long-term survival and independence, and it lets us know that we are adding value for our customers.
  6. Paced Growth. I love this one best. Hyper-growth or growth-at-all-costs kills organizations, or leads them to losing their independence. On the other hand, no growth or stagnation is a recipe for being selected out of this Darwinian business world. Planned, paced growth keeps us relevant and competitive. PayNorthwest’s 5 year compound annual growth rate of 35% is something we are proud of – not because it is mega-high, but because it is just right.
  7. Pragmatic Innovation. We don’t do blue sky R&D here. We look to innovate in service of our customers and in ways that have meaningful, incremental impact on their businesses and jobs.

PayNorthwest intends to be around for a very long time. Far longer than me, the founder. Longer, actually, than anyone currently working here. To do that, we need to continue building and developing based on a set of principles that serves our customers and our larger purpose.