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Case study: CEO school

July 8, 2015 -  By
Left: The winning pic. Above (from left): Keith Updyke, Scott Mendenhall and Daniel Currin.

Left: The winning pic. Above (from left): Keith Updyke, Scott Mendenhall and Daniel Currin. Photo: Greenscape

One North Carolina company taught a college landscape student an ultimate lesson.

When the National 
Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) hosted its 39th annual Student Career Days at North Carolina State University in March, nearby Greenscape decided it wasn’t enough to just attend or have a booth at the career fair this year.

The execs at Greenscape, based in Holly Springs, N.C., wanted to find a way that the 800-plus students participating in the national collegiate landscape competition could really get to know their company. That’s where the idea for #CEOcamp was born.

“Daniel Currin, our CEO, was talking to a recent graduate and asked what kind of swag students might like to see,” says Casey Reagan, the company’s marketing director. “The grad told him students already have all the swag. They don’t need that stuff. What they want is a job.”

That got Currin to thinking. How could he show students what it really meant to be the leader of a landscape company? The answer was giving his job away to a student to show them what a typical day was like. So Greenscape decided to launch a contest with the winner taking over as CEO for two action-packed days at company headquarters.

“The idea was to show the winner everything that went into being the CEO for a large landscape company,” Reagan explains. “Client meetings, financials and even what it means to be part of an executive team.”

The contest was simple. Students who came to the Greenscape career fair booth got a pair of heart-shaped green glasses and were encouraged to take and post selfies on Instagram using the hashtag #CEOcamp. The picture that got the most “likes” would be the victor.

There were nearly 100 Instagram posts with the hashtag. The winner was Scott Mendenhall, a senior in the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department at Oklahoma State University at Stillwater. He racked up more than 200 “likes.”

greenscapes-breakdown

Graphic: LM Staff

Mendenhall flew into Raleigh in April to begin his two-day itinerary as CEO. Greenscape covered his flight and accommodations and paid him a stipend—a prize package totalling about $900. It was a busy schedule to say the least. He toured the operation, met with clients, delved into the company’s financials and contributed to an executive committee meeting.

“It wasn’t necessary a typical day since we packed so much in at once, but running a landscape company does have many facets and I think it was eye opening for Scott to see that,” Reagan says.

In fact, Mendenhall says he didn’t realize the level of business savvy and financial knowledge that went into being a landscape company CEO. He walked away with an important lesson.

“I discovered I need to spend some more time learning about the business and financial side of things because my knowledge in those areas is lacking,” 
Mendenhall says. “I also need to do more to become a better leader and gain more knowledge in as many areas of the industry as I can so that I too can make the best decisions possible in helping our industry grow.”

And really, that’s what this whole venture was about.

“Greenscape is passionate about developing emerging leaders in the green industry,” Currin says. “We wanted to step it up and do something that nobody else was doing. We felt this was something unique—something that would engage the students and really get them interested in learning more about the industry in a way that just attending Student Career Days could not.”
Payton is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.

About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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