Landscape professionals gather for Grow! 2019

March 6, 2019 -  By
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It has been two weeks since I attended Grow! 2019, but I still have ACDC’s “Thunderstruck” stuck in my head. I can think of few better pump up songs and the repeated chant of “thunder!” sounds remarkably like “Grunder,” which I’m sure wasn’t lost on attendees.

The event, which drew about 350 attendees to Denver in February, is hosted each year by Marty Grunder and The Grow Group. This year, attendees were treated to a tour of Lifescape Colorado, a landscape design, construction and maintenance company located just outside of downtown Denver. They explored Lifescape’s unique facility — an old church — and heard from members of the firm’s leadership team about their roles in the company and how they foster a healthy company culture.

Attendees were treated to a tour of Lifescape Colorado's facility. The gym of the church that now serves as their offices is partially used for storage. Photo by Clara Richter

Attendees were treated to a tour of Lifescape Colorado’s facility. The gym of the church that now serves as their offices is partially used for storage. (Photo: Clara Richter)

With two cocktail receptions, plenty of breaks and assigned seating where you may not know the person you were sitting next to, there were also plenty of opportunities for networking.

“Any networking is better than figuring it out yourself,” says Matt Seiler, owner of Hidden Creek Landscaping. “No matter the size of the company, we all have the same issues.”

Attendees also heard from speakers such as Grunder; Jennifer Lemcke, COO of Weed Man USA; Frank Mariani, owner of Mariani Landscape; LeAnn Ostheimer, director of design and sales at Lifescape Colorado; and Eric Chester, a best-selling author and workplace researcher. LM’s own Bill Roddy also took a turn behind the mic to discuss marketing strategies.

While all of this was educational and — for someone still relatively new to the industry — eye-opening, for me the highlight of the event was sitting down to chat with Jayden Kazantsev. Everyone who attends Grow! is motivated to learn how to grow their business successfully. But Kazantsev stands out from the crowd a little bit. He’s 15 years old.

Kazantsev just happened to be on a chairlift with Loriena Harrington, owner and horticulturalist for Beautiful Blooms, who was in town for Grow! She and Kazantzev got to talking, a phone call was made and the next day he arrived in downtown Denver with his mother in tow (likely to make sure he wasn’t going to get kidnapped by a bunch of strangers) to learn tricks of the trade from some of the best in the business.

Marty Grunder, left, poses with Jayden Kazantsev, who took the day off of school to come to Grow! 2019. Photo by Clara Richter

Marty Grunder, left, poses with Jayden Kazantsev, who took the day off of school to come to Grow! 2019. (Photo: Clara Richter)

He participated in “The Frank Tank,” part of the event where attendees can pose some of their most pressing business questions to a panel (consisting of Mariani, Lemcke, Bob Grover, Mike Rorie and Kevin Kehoe), who will give no-holds-barred feedback. Kazantsev is thinking of hiring his first employee, but doesn’t know if it’s necessary. He wanted the group’s feedback on whether or not it was a good idea. It’s a good idea, they all told him.

I sat down to chat with Kazantsev and after about five minutes of being interrupted by people who wanted to hire him full time, give him internships and write him letters of recommendation for both Colorado University and Colorado State University, he told me a little bit about himself.

Kazantsev has been in business for two years and has six clients who he regularly mows for. He has one 21-inch non-self-propelled push mower and one plug-in electric weed whacker. He says he has run into trouble because some of his newer clients don’t have plugs on the outside of their houses. He started his company, JMK Lawn Service, to fulfill a passion for business.

“I always have these things I get stuck on,” Kazantsev explains. “I’m in business school at my high school. I love business and I thought (starting my own business) was a way to do invoices and have people pay online.”

He says getting a his business started and coming to Grow! are both about taking a leap of faith and going outside of his comfort zone. He is trying to take every opportunity to learn from individuals in the landscape industry so he can take his business to the next level. Attending Grow! was definitely a chance for him to do that, even though he risked a lot to be at the event.

“I took today off of school,” he tells me. “I will probably have to stay up until midnight doing my homework. I have a biology test tomorrow, but I decided to come and risk maybe getting a B on my test.”

So many landscape professionals started small, just like Kazantsev. In fact, when Grunder asked the group how many of them started their companies by dragging around a lawnmower behind a bike or pushing it from house to house, about three quarters of attendees raised their hand. This speaks to the heart of the industry and its members’ determination and ability to grow their companies from something small into large, successful businesses.

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Clara Richter

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