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NALP’s Elevate event impresses with must-see sessions and networking

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It was a packed house for the National Association of Landscape Professionals' opening reception at Elevate. Here, Syngenta's Carson Cashwell and Mark LaFleur catch up with LM Editor Christina Herrick. (Photo: LM Staff)
It was a packed house for the National Association of Landscape Professionals' opening reception at Elevate. Here, Syngenta's Carson Cashwell and Mark LaFleur catch up with LM Editor Christina Herrick. (Photo: LM Staff)
It was a packed house for the National Association of Landscape Professionals' opening reception at Elevate. Here, Syngenta's Carson Cashwell and Mark LaFleur catch up with LM Editor Christina Herrick. (Photo: LM Staff)
It was a packed house for the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ opening reception at Elevate. Here, Syngenta’s Carson Cashwell and Mark LaFleur catch up with LM Editor Christina Herrick. (Photo: LM Staff)

Elevate 2022 opened with a bang on Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla. More than 1,500 attendees gathered for the kickoff to the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ inaugural event with a welcome party sponsored by John Deere.

Alex Banayan, author of The Third Door, shared his experiences researching his book. While interviewing legendary music producer Quincy Jones, he learned a lesson that would change his perspective on failures in life.

Jones told him, “It’s only when you cherish your mistakes can you learn from them.”

Banayan said that’s when he realized, “Success and failure are not opposites; they’re both the results of trying – the opposite of success is not trying.”

Following Banayan’s opening keynote, Elevate attendees could choose educational sessions with tracks for specific interests of landscaping businesses: business excellence, customer experience, operational excellence, sustainability and team member experience.

Elevate’s trade show hosted campfire talks on topics such as culture, inclusion, technology and leadership. At the Innovation stage on the trade show floor, presentations centered on future-proofing your business, the future of lawn care and more.

The LM Team including Publisher Bill Roddy, Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones, Associate Publisher Craig MacGregor and Editor Christina Herrick hit the red carpet at Universal Studios' Island of Adventure. The LM staff couldn't escape a photobomb from Corey Peterson, branch manager at Pacific Landscape Management (back). (Photo: LM Staff)
The LM team including Publisher Bill Roddy, Editor-in-Chief Seth Jones, Associate Publisher Craig MacGregor and Editor Christina Herrick hit the red carpet at Universal Studios’ Island of Adventure. LM couldn’t escape a photobomb from Corey Peterson, branch manager at Pacific Landscape Management (back). (Photo: LM Staff)

Unique experiences

Aside from mainstays such as NALP’s Awards of Excellence presentations and Breakfast with Champions, the association hosted two behind-the-scenes tours: Massey Services and the Gaylord Palms Resort.

Another new event at Elevate was Ultimate Green Battle, a fundraiser for the NALP Foundation. Teams from green industry operations went head-to-head in a Family Feud-style game show, hosted by Marty Grunder, CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. and The Grow Group.

While networking and seeing familiar faces is a key part of any NALP event, private access to a part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure is a highlight of Elevate 2022.

Elevate attendees could ride three rides — with no waiting — and get a glimpse into the world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. It left many attendees wondering how NALP will top that experience next year in Dallas.

From the gridiron to the green industry

Former professional football player, author and sports analyst Joe Theismann closed out the event with a wide-ranging talk on life, success and how lessons learned on the gridiron translate to the green industry.

Theismann echoed Banyan’s sentiment about failure.

“I never had a failure in my life, only an educational experience that didn’t go my way,” Theismann said.

Theismann shared how important culture is in the locker room and in business.

“When you create a good culture, you have a chance to win,” he says. “Be proud of who you are and the company you represent.”

Theismann said NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs once told him that when he scouted for championship players he looked for character, intelligence and ability — in that order.

“Attitudes precede everything you do in your life,” Theismann said.

Sean Clifford (center), director of learning with Massey Services, leads Elevate attendees on tour of the company's headquarters in Orlando, Fla. (Photo: LM Staff)
Sean Clifford (center), director of learning with Massey Services, leads Elevate attendees on tour of the company’s headquarters in Orlando, Fla. (Photo: LM Staff)

‘A ton of positive feedback’

NALP CEO Britt Wood said he’s pleased with how the event turned out and was thrilled with the education sessions and must-see entertainment during the event.

“I got a ton positive feedback from attendees and exhibitors and from most people I talked with,” he said. “If you can educate, entertain and inspire people, that’s the goal. I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”

A few Elevate attendees shared their thoughts with us about their experience this year. John McAllister of Visual Scapes in Miami said he took home a lot of information about new technology and equipment.

“The classes were very informative and shared best management practices,” he said. “I had a great time and met a lot of good people.”

Nicholas DiBenedetto, president of ND Landscape Services in Georgetown, Mass., said NALP exceeded expectation for Elevate and he can’t wait to see what the planning committee has in store for 2023.

“These events have been life-changing for me given the fact that I have met lifelong friends and learned incredible things as well as witnessed the change and maturity of our industry,” he said. “I truly believe the NALP staff, planning committee, board members and volunteers knocked it out of the park this year and I am very confident the conference will continue to get better.

DiBenedetto said attending NALP events is a chance to learn and to see how the industry evolves and grows, and it was important for him to bring several team members to the event.

“This year I bought three young up-and-coming team members mainly to open their eyes to the professionalism within our industry,” he said. “I am completely confident I was successful in that goal.”

Corey Burgess, field operations manager for ND Landscape, said he was grateful to attend and learn from contemporaries and leaders in the industry.

“This event showed me how willing people are to spread their knowledge of the industry,” he said. “This event left me wanting to just be an overall better manager and landscaper. The ideas, training and strategy I learned from this event collectively made me more open-minded and also more willing to change. Also, interacting with vendors to see what is up-and-coming and new to the industry for the future was exciting as well.”

ND Landscape’s construction division foreman, Bill Daniels, said the atmosphere of encouragement and learning is something he thoroughly enjoyed.

“You had people who owned businesses to people who were foreman and yet at every breakout and Breakfast with Champions, there were several nuggets for me to take away with concepts, ideas or different ways of looking at a challenge,” he said. “The opportunity to network with vendors’ companies that support landscape businesses and other landscape companies was invaluable and to have it at such a wonderful place with an opportunity to build bonds with others in a relaxed atmosphere was terrific.”

Grace DiBenedetto, office administrator with Grassmaster Plus, ND Landscape’s turf care division, said the knowledge she gleaned during her time in Orlando is invaluable.

“Going to the Elevate conference for the first time was a wonderful experience,” she said. “The relationships, and the shared knowledge I walked away with are going to help the growth of our company but also gave me extensive tools for my personal growth as well. From Breakfast with Champions to the individual seminars and the expos in between were all very informative and I am looking forward to next year’s conference and to continue to learn from some of the best in the business.”

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