Grow! 2024 attendees visit RJ Lawn and Landscape

Almost 800 people traveled to Des Moines, Iowa for the event. (Photo: LM Staff)
Almost 800 people traveled to Des Moines, Iowa for the event. (Photo: LM Staff)

It was a packed house — exactly 786 people — at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Landscape and lawn care professionals from around the U.S. traveled to Des Moines for a chance to learn from industry consultant Marty Grunder and his colleagues at McFarlin Stanford, to visit RJ Lawn & Landscape, network and meet with industry vendors.

The three-day curriculum included more than 50 classes and a three-hour tour of RJ Lawn & Landscape, a family-owned company offering commercial and residential lawn care, irrigation and fountains, landscape design and installations and snow removal. Company owners Ryan and Annette McCarthy and their team welcomed attendees as they went from station to station to see how RJ gets the job done, with lectures on their facility and fleet management, snow removal, creating a successful work environment, financials and reporting and recruiting.

Ryan McCarthy spoke with attendees as they made their way along the tour of RJ Lawn & Landscape. (Photo: LM Staff)
Ryan McCarthy spoke with attendees as they made their way along the tour of RJ Lawn & Landscape. (Photo: LM Staff)

Ryan McCarthy talked to the group about their facility and their equipment. McCarthy is dipping his toe into battery-powered equipment and had a truck on display that was loaded with battery-powered equipment. He discussed how his company is learning from other companies on how to best make the switch. An important lesson he learned from a company in Chicago was to make sure the equipment is all easily recharged each night.

“The idea is, they’ll back in and plug in a welding wire into the actual breaker box. That puts power to all the outlets,” Ryan McCarthy told the group as they looked inside the vehicle. “That way they never have to move anything day to day, the only thing they have to do is unplug that one wire. Everything else stays in the chargers as needed. It’s all about convenience and scalability, if we’re going to move forward, we need to think of how we’re going to do this.”

For Colton Ballantyne, superintendent with Alpha Landscapes, Slater, Iowa, the tour of RJ Lawn & Landscape was a highlight of the event.

“There’s a lot of innovative stuff (at RJ Lawn & Landscape), we’re here to bounce some ideas off of each other,” he said. “We’re in-between setting up a new shop so there are a lot of good ideas here for our new shop.”

This was his first time attending Grow! Along with the tour of RJ, Ballantyne pointed to the seminar, “Facility Must Haves: What are the Best Companies Doing When Designing their Facility,” presented by Tommy Cole and Jason New of McFarlin Stanford, as a highlight of the event. “They went over stuff that pertained to everything we’re doing,” he added.

A Grow!(th) mindset

Vince Torchia, vice president at The Grow Group, was thrilled to see so many attendees in Des Moines. He says the event comes from humble beginnings from when Grunder hosted his first Grow! 28 years ago in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.

“What makes the event continue to grow is two things: No. 1 is the company tour. We tour a facility and learn from their team on everything they do. The facility tours are amazing,” Torchia told Landscape Management. “The other thing is we have a lot of breakout sessions. Those breakouts are for leaders and members of the team to learn on very specific subjects. The subjects are on finance, culture, sales, marketing, hiring, recruiting, equipment, technology updates… it’s clear what break-out education attendees want to go to.”

Lisa Greenwell, vice president at GreenSweep, Silver Spring, Md., has been attending Grow! regularly over the last several years. She said a highlight of this year’s event was seeing how two of her teammates — new to the industry and first-timers at Grow! — were seeing the industry in a new light.

“We’ve been to Grow! in previous years, this is a good opportunity for us to connect with our peers,” Greenwell adds. “We have a growth mindset. We’re always looking for ways to improve. We’re always able to pull a few nuggets, if not several, to implement into our strategic plan for long-term growth.”

Grow! 2025 heads back to Ohio

Grow! 2025 next heads to Columbus, Ohio, to tour Hidden Creek Landscaping, a residential and commercial landscaping and design company. The company was started by Jason Cromley and Matt Seiler in 1998. The two friends met at the college bar where they both bartended. They put their bartending tips together to make their first material and equipment purchases.

As the event came to a close, event host Marty Grunder asked the audience for some key takeaways. “Everyone is a salesperson,” was offered, as well as “keep chopping wood.”

“It’s a constant focus on where we’re going and what we’re doing,” Grunder told the audience. “Keep chopping wood, keep doing what got us here in the first place. Focus on those basics.”

Photo: Seth Jones

Seth Jones

Seth Jones is is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. A graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Seth was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. He has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories.

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