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My LM Growth Summit Experience

February 23, 2022 -  By
Scot Jones, Steel Green Manufacturing co-founder and and Scott Lamon of Tynic Landscaping. (Photo: LM Staff)

Scot Jones, Steel Green Manufacturing co-founder and Scott Lamon of Tynic Landscaping. (Photo: LM Staff)

I’ve been reading Landscape Management for years, but because of the weirdness of the last few years, in 2021 I probably read it closer than ever. That’s how I saw a page buried in the back of the magazine about an event in Florida called the LM Growth Summit with a message to visit the website to apply and see if you qualify.

What the heck, I thought. I put the magazine down and applied.

Much to my surprise, a few weeks later Seth Jones, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, was in my voicemail. I had almost forgotten about applying by then. After a discussion with Seth, where he further explained the format and the agenda, I called my vice president of operations and told him to save the dates — we were both going to Orlando to see what this LM Growth Summit was all about.

What follows is my experience at the event, as best as I can recall, with the help of my new friends at LM magazine.

Day one

Upon arriving in Orlando we took a shuttle to Reunion Resort, a beautifully maintained property about 45-minutes from the airport. We entered the lobby to find the Landscape Management team waiting to greet us. This is when we were handed our schedules that were specifically made for me and my co-worker. And that’s when we further learned the way the LM Growth Summit worked, and how it differs from a trade show or educational seminar.

There are three groups of attendees at the event: representatives of 20-plus lawn care companies; representatives of 13 industry vendors; and the LM staff. Right off the bat, all 20 lawn care companies went to the top floor of the resort and took a seat. Then, one by one, the 12 different companies entered the room and gave us a quick 10-minute presentation. The following day, all 20 LCOs systematically rotated meetings, either outside on the driving range or inside the resort, with each of these companies.

That part was like speed dating for lawn care.   

After we got settled into our rooms, we headed up to the top floor of the resort and found our seats.

John Perry, president, Green County Fertilizer Co., addresses the LM Growth Summit on day one, during the boardroom presentations. Presentations were limited to 10 minutes each. (Photo: LM Staff)

John Perry, president, Green County Fertilizer Co., addresses the LM Growth Summit on day one, during the boardroom presentations. Presentations were limited to 10 minutes each. (Photo: LM Staff)

Boardroom presentations

The top floor of Reunion Resort is beautiful, half restaurant and half open-air patio with a walk-in pool. It’s an interesting setting for the boardroom presentations.

Chris Brasher, vice president of sales and marketing for Slingshot kicked it off. He took to the podium and asked us LCOs, “Who loves it when an employee calls off sick on a Monday in March?”

Nobody raised their hand. He then asked: “What if it’s three customer service reps?

“Eighty percent of business owners right now are experiencing a more than 20 percent loss of sales due to hiring challenges,” he said, telling us Slingshot can provide short-term solutions to help navigate our busiest times of the year. Brasher shared how Slingshot’s technology could help my business connect with more sales and customer service calls in a timely fashion.

Lytx’s boardroom presentation was part show-and-tell. Nicolas Freeman, senior account manager, passed around the company’s Lytx DriveCam, an in-vehicle event recorder.

I liked the chance to see the device up close. We take safety seriously at our company and I’m interested in how a device like this in our vehicles would reinforce our safety protocols. Freeman said companies who use Lytx DriveCam technology experience an 80 percent reduction in insurance costs.

The boardrooms were moving pretty quickly at this point. A lot of information was coming at us. Most attendees had notebooks and looked like they were in a college classroom while others simply listened attentively.

Nufarm took the podium with Rod Marquardt, national warm-season account manager and Jamie Heydinger, national cool-season LCO and key account manager. They briefly talked about their products like Anuew, Celero, Escalade 2 and Arena. Then they talked about how weird 2021 was (tell me about it.)

“We saw a lot of issues with armyworms across the country; that’s something we haven’t seen in 25 years,” Marquardt said. “Chinch bugs were across the northern parts of the country. That’s a pest we never used to hear about. And kyllinga spread to parts of the country that haven’t seen it before.”

After two-and-a-half hours, the boardroom presentations were wrapped. We had a short break, then we met at a new location at Reunion Resort. And yes, there was another beautiful pool surrounded by beautiful landscaping as well as a busy bar monopolized by the LM Growth Summit group.

I sat down with David Louttit and Ken Klopp, territory managers with The Andersons at dinner. The Andersons is a company I already do business with, so it was nice to put some more faces to names. I picked their brains about the supply chain issues and what they’re hearing.

“It’s as bad as we’ve seen it since 2008 and it will remain like this until at least Q2 of 2022,” Klopp said.

Justin Watts, national sales manager for Prime Source, chimed in and said they’ve seen a dramatic change in the way their customers are buying materials because of this.

“People are planning ahead a lot more than they have in the past,” he said. “We’ve seen continued supply shortages in 2021 and guys trying to react to that to make sure for 2022 that they have what they need. We’ve seen really successful Early Order Programs with guys paying attention to shortages.”

Chuck Barber, vice president customer accounts, speciality, Anuvia, describes the company’s bio-based fertilizer and invites attendees to ask tough questions. (Photo: LM Staff)

Chuck Barber, vice president of customer accounts, specialty with Anuvia, describes the company’s bio-based fertilizer and invites attendees to ask tough questions. (Photo: LM Staff)

Day two

Day one was busy but day two would prove to be even busier. This was the day that our one-on-one meetings took place in the morning, followed by an afternoon round of golf (something I was dreading).

Our first meeting was with American Honda Motor Co. marketing manager Yuko Furuichi got me thinking about how we manage our two-cycle engine equipment maintenance intervals. I told her that’s one thing we struggle with, especially once our season is rolling.

Furuichi showed us an app Honda has to help us track how our crews use our small equipment. It helps us understand if we have the right amount of equipment, too much or not enough. She said this app helps the team become more productive and get a better sense of equipment repair and usage costs.

“(In the app) we visualize the daily equipment usage rates,” she told us. “Based on that data, we try to help landscaping companies understand if there’s any room to reduce the size of the fleet. And by doing that, improve productivity by reducing repair cost or equipment replacement costs.”

When we met with the team from FieldRoutes, Anthony Joseph, account manager, shared how his company could help us boost our digital presence. Joseph told us how important our website and online presence would be to hit my growth target and how FieldRoutes could help us get the business out there to potential clients.

“People are smarter, and smarter buyers nowadays are going online,” he told us. “They’re researching companies. They’re reading the company’s online profile to see who’s worked with them in the past. And then that’s how they’re deciding on customers are working with.”

After wrapping up there we walked down the hall to meet with Green County Fertilizer Co. It’s a Georgia-based fertilizer company I was somewhat familiar with, but now here we are meeting with the CEO and founder of the company, John Perry. He looks like a lumberjack but talks like a mad scientist. After telling us that “he’s never had bad sushi,” he started talking about why his company wanted to meet with the attendees.

“We’re looking for holes in programs, where people have a problem they need to fix,” Perry said. “We’re looking to benefit your company in a different way. We’re not necessarily trying to replace an entire program. We’re saying, here, this is something that will fit in well, it’ll fit into your comfort zone and you’ll be off and running with better turf.”

After one-on-one meetings concluded for the day it was time to play 18 holes of golf. I’ll admit I haven’t played since high school and even then, I don’t know if what we were doing really qualified as playing golf. But here we were, loading up into golf carts listening to the starter read us the rules of the 18-hole scramble.

George Kinkead, president of Turfco, discussed the importance of having equipment that was easy to operate with attendees. “The business is going through an amazing transformation right now. Everyone attending the LM Growth Summit is growing their business phenomenally,” Kinkead said. “The challenge they’re dealing with is labor. Labor is the No. 1 issue that is restricting their ability to grow. So we’re talking about training … they need to buy equipment that is going to help them with their next employee — the employee they don’t even have yet.” (Photo: LM Staff)

George Kinkead, president of Turfco, discussed the importance of having equipment that was easy to operate with attendees. “The business is going through an amazing transformation right now. Everyone attending the LM Growth Summit is growing their business phenomenally,” Kinkead said. “The challenge they’re dealing with is labor. Labor is the No. 1 issue that is restricting their ability to grow. So we’re talking about training … they need to buy equipment that is going to help them with their next employee — the employee they don’t even have yet.” (Photo: LM Staff)

FORE!

Thankfully I was paired with good players in my group, so there was no pressure on me to play well. Allan Fulcher, vice president of turf for Quali-Pro was in my group. It was after about the fifth hole — and a couple very good shots — that he admitted he once made a go at playing professional golf. (I’ll add though, that out of nowhere, I had the longest drive of any of the players in my group … the highlight of my round.)

Being on the golf course for a little over four hours gave everyone a chance to get to know one another. Fulcher is extremely passionate about the industry and gave me some insights in what he foresees as a challenge for the industry in the next decade: pesticide regulations.

“You have certain cities banning different pesticides and different applications of certain molecules, even if it isn’t an EPA ban,” Fulcher said. “I think a lot of these are starting to snowball together.

One here, one there. It’s even as localized down to the HOAs. With the EPA as a whole limiting products, two or three of our biggest products could take a hit. Not just for our company but industry-wide, talking to other manufacturers, there aren’t a lot of new active ingredients in the pipeline to target turf pests. When the EPA starts targeting existing chemistries it makes it difficult looking into the future, to combat these problems.”

Mike Stephan, owner of Ultralawn in Euclid, Ohio, drove away from the LM Growth Summit in a new Ford F150 that he won as part of FMC celebrating 25 years of its Talstar product. (Photo: LM Staff)

Mike Stephan, owner of Ultralawn in Euclid, Ohio, drove away from the LM Growth Summit in a new Ford F150 that he won as part of FMC celebrating 25 years of its Talstar product. (Photo: LM Staff)

At the conclusion of golf, FMC sponsored a barbecue dinner where they gave away a truck. We didn’t win the truck but the barbecue was excellent. One thing I can guarantee about the LM Growth Summit — you never go hungry.

 

Steel Green’s co-founder Matt Smith introduced the SG36 at the LM Growth Summit and to talk directly to attendees like David Drennan, Andrews Lawn and Landscaping. (Photo: LM Staff)

Steel Green’s co-founder Matt Smith introduced the SG36 to attendees of the LM Growth Summit and talked directly with attendees like David Drennan, Andrews Lawn and Landscaping. (Photo: LM Staff)

Home stretch

The last day, a half-day had arrived. I started my day outdoors with the guys at Steel Green Manufacturing, Matt Smith and Scot Jones, two of the co-founders of the Indiana-based company. Based on their presentation from day one, I knew they were going to show off their new SGXL, a 120-gallon zero-turn sprayer that can be converted to a 350-pound spreader and can store an additional 10 bags of fertilizer (five bags each side) for the field.

“We’ve gone through a bunch of changes, a bunch of prototypes, which is what we’re known for — listening to customers and making changes until they’re completely satisfied,” Smith told us.

My last one-on-one was with Anuvia. I met with John Fowler, vice president of sales. He has a handshake that would break your hand and a laugh that fills a room.

Anuvia bills itself as “the future of fertilizer.” The Florida-based company produces environmentally friendly plant nutrient products. We learned about the lengths the company takes to create a fertilizer that leaves behind only clean air and clean water as byproducts. It was a real “how the sausage is made” meeting. After that meeting ended, my LM Growth Summit had adjourned.

Or so I thought. While waiting for the shuttle bus to the airport, I found myself in a conversation with Luke Hawthorne, owner of Emerald Lawns near Austin, Texas. Turns out he learned about Anuvia at the same event several years ago, and now he’s a customer.

This is one of the things that made the LM Growth Summit unique — hours after meeting with the company itself, and even after the meeting had adjourned, by happenstance I was chatting with a fellow lawn care operator about that same supplier and how their products were performing for his company.

Networking with industry peers — fellow LCOs, manufacturers and the LM staff — was really what the event was all about. It was two-and-a-half days that my company found very valuable, both right then and moving forward.

John Kinkead, southern regional sales manager, Turfco, took advantage of a steep slope near their outdoor demonstration area to show off the capabilities of their spreader-sprayers to attendees of the LM Growth Summit. (Photo: LM Staff)

John Kinkead, southern regional sales manager, Turfco, took advantage of a steep slope near their outdoor demonstration area to show off the capabilities of their spreader-sprayers to attendees of the LM Growth Summit. (Photo: LM Staff)

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