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Elevate looks to build off strong debut with more opportunities for attendees

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Elevate show organizers say attendees can expect to have a few less education sessions to allow for great networking on the trade show floor. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)
Elevate show organizers say attendees can expect to have a few less education sessions to allow for great networking on the trade show floor. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)
Elevate show organizers say attendees can expect to have a few less education sessions to allow for great networking on the trade show floor. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)
Elevate show organizers say attendees can expect to have a few less education sessions to allow for great networking on the trade show floor. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)

The team at Michael Hatcher & Associates left Elevate in Orlando last September filled to the brim with ideas.

“I bet we had over a hundred takeaways from the event,” says Russ Sneed, CEO of Michael Hatcher & Associates, Olive Branch, Miss. “They were things that each team member who went to Elevate planned on actually implementing and working on whenever they got back home.”

Michael Hatcher & Associates sent 19 people to NALP’s inaugural event. (Photo: LM Staff)
Michael Hatcher & Associates sent 19 people to NALP’s inaugural event. (Photo: LM Staff)

Michael Hatcher & Associates, No. 125 on the 2023 LM150 list, sent 19 people last year to the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ (NALP) inaugural event. Sneed says some of these takeaways include hiring with the company’s core values in mind, improving training and onboarding, how to stand out from the competition, improving profitability, ways to recognize tenured employees and using magnets to aid in shop organization.

Elevate heads to the Lone Star state this year, Sept. 10-13 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Conference Center in Dallas.

What to expect in Dallas

Elevate 2022 kicked off in Orlando with a palpable buzz. And this year, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) takes the show on the road to Dallas. Event organizers say attendees can expect a similar experience to last year, with minor tweaks and, of course, a big Texas experience.

NALP CEO Britt Wood says, following feedback from 2022 attendees, the planning committee reduced the number of educational sessions from 47 to 39.

Targeted education sessions

NALP’s CEO Britt Wood says attendees will get a warm Texas welcome this year. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)
NALP’s CEO Britt Wood says attendees will get a warm Texas welcome this year. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)

Wood says the planning committee tried to ground every educational session, whether it’s about new technology or sustainability, into Elevate’s four education pillars: business excellence, operational excellence, team member experience and customer experience.

“(The planning committee) looked at our sustainability track, and as opposed to calling sustainability out on its own, what they said is sustainability really is part of business excellence or operational excellence,” he says. “We’ll be weaving in technology, sustainability, leadership, all of those things to drive those four core elements of Elevate.”

NALP board member Claire Goldman, owner of R&R Landscaping in Auburn, Ala., says attendees can also expect sessions on artificial intelligence and mergers and acquisitions. Wood says one session on mergers and acquisitions will take a look at the future of the green industry.

“We’re bringing in a private equity group that’s been part of other industries and been part of other consolidations in other industries,” Wood says. “They’re going to give a flavor of what happened in those industries. The idea is to kind of take a look ahead and say, how might our industry change?”

Goldman says entrepreneur Liz Forkin Bohannon kicks off the general sessions on Monday morning and shares insights on how to start any goal. Bohannon is the author of Beginner’s Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose & Impact Now.

“I have had the opportunity to hear (Bohannon) speak before and I just love her, so I’m very excited about that,” she says.

Opportunities for networking

Wood says returning this year is Breakfast with Champions, where industry peers participate in discussions centered around a specific theme or topic. Also, NALP will bring back campfire chats.

“Campfire chats, something that we’re going to anchor this event around, is the opportunity for people to come together in smaller groups and talk about specific topics, much more specific than we would get to in a session normally,” says Wood.

For this year’s campfire chats, NALP’s Women’s Network, Latino Landscape Network, Young Professionals Network and Veterans Network will offer in-depth talks in designated areas of the trade show floor.

Different viewpoints

Fireside chats, where small groups discuss topics more in depth than during educational sessions, return for 2023. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)
Fireside chats, where small groups discuss topics more in depth than during educational sessions, return for 2023. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)

Joseph Barnes, marketing director for Yellowstone Landscape, No. 4 on the 2023 LM150 list, says the benefit of sending a large group to an event like Elevate is his operation brings back perspectives from a wide variety of educational sessions. The Yellowstone team plans to send 12 to Dallas this year.

“Each of our attendees can go to the event and target their learning into their area of focus — not having to worry about what else they may be missing because they know someone else is there taking notes and will share what they learned,” he says.

Attending Elevate is also an opportunity to reinforce a company’s core values, says Amy Snyder, director of public relations with Ruppert Landscape, No. 13 on the 2023 LM150 list. The company plans to send 13 employees to this year’s Elevate in Dallas.

“Each year, we select some of our emerging leaders to attend with the expectation that they’ll have an opportunity to learn and bring new ideas back to implement at Ruppert,” she says. “In addition to those first-time attendees, we have three people who are speakers this year and we have four others who serve on various NALP boards or committees.”

Expect more Elevate videos from LM such as this one, where Chad Carney, go-to-market manager for commercial mowing and equipment with John Deere, gives Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones a tour of his company’s mowers. (Photo: LM Staff)
Expect more Elevate videos from LM such as this one, where Chad Carney, go-to-market manager for commercial mowing and equipment with John Deere, gives Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones a tour of his company’s mowers. (Photo: LM Staff)

Sneed says the investment in sending his team to Orlando last year helped his employees understand the level of professionalism in the industry.

“It is an investment into the culture of the team to say, ‘Hey you matter enough for us to spend to spend this investment,’” he says. “I think our team members ended up gaining a whole new sense of satisfaction in what they’re doing. They recognize we’re the top 150 companies in the country and we’re continuing to get better and better and better.”

Opportunities for partnerships and learning

For the team at Yellowstone Landscape, the focus of 2022’s Elevate was technology, says Brian Martin, director of training and safety. Martin says the opportunity to meet with suppliers during designated trade show floor time also led to new opportunities for partnerships with suppliers.

“Some of those conversations we started at Elevate last year have blossomed into trials and continued discussions about how to incorporate new services, software and equipment into our operations across the country,” he says.

As for this year, Martin says a key focus for the Yellowstone team this year will be how to best report operational results with new technology.

“With all the testing we’ve done over the past few years, especially with robotics, autonomous and electric equipment, we’ve collected a lot of data,” he says. “The natural progression is to turn all that data into easy-to-understand metrics that will help us take those new technologies out of the testing phase and into regular production. Moving beyond, ‘Hey, isn’t that cool?’ to ‘This is the right tool for this type of project, and here’s why we know that it will work.’”

Snyder points to the workshops, product demonstrations and opportunities to socialize and network as great opportunities for additional education for the Ruppert team.

Amy Snyder, director of public relations with Ruppert Landscape (center), says she enjoys NALP’s award ceremony and pays close attention to any new innovations she could deploy at her operation for Ruppert events. (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)
Amy Snyder, director of public relations with Ruppert Landscape (center), says she enjoys NALP’s award ceremony and pays close attention to any new innovations she could deploy at her operation for Ruppert events. (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

“Attending Elevate events like The Breakfast of Champions really helps us learn about new ideas and best practices of others in our industry — and there is always something to learn from our competitors,” she says.

Barnes points to other opportunities for those in the industry to support the NALP Foundation, which provides scholarships and support for the next generation in the industry.

“The NALP PAC event is a great way to support and connect with the staff at NALP advocating on our behalf in D.C.,” he says. “The Ultimate Green Battle — the Family Feud game show — was a hoot, and the auction had some unbelievable trips and experiences offered, which raised a lot of money for the NALP Foundation.”

Coming together

Sneed says in Orlando, the Michael Hatcher & Associates team consciously spent time together at dinners and other team-building events.

“We made it a point to go out on team dinners for two of the nights,” he says. “Last year, we also did a Topgolf outing while we were there. We’ll all still be talking about that five years from now. It was incredible for team building.”

He says having the opportunity to attend an event like Elevate just helps expand his employees’ expectations to push the operation to new heights.

“You pull yourself out of the little leagues, the farm system, and you see what’s possible and start increasing your expectations,” he says.

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