Not in Kansas anymore

February 20, 2019 -  By
Photo: Seth Jones

Photo: Seth Jones

I’ve hit the ground running — or maybe I should say flying — in my first two months as editor-in-chief of Landscape Management. It’s appropriate I’m writing this column at 30,000 feet, on my way to San Diego for a conference. Aside from quiet weekends filled with basketball (both coaching my son’s first/second grade team and watching my Kansas Jayhawks) it feels like I’ve otherwise been traveling nonstop.

Last fall, in anticipation of my new role, I started taking trips to learn more about this industry I was about to immerse myself in. Of course, GIE+EXPO was an easy one, but I also attended one of Marty Grunder’s Grow! events in Dayton, Ohio — which was valuable — and I had the pleasure of hosting the LM Growth Summit at Reunion Resort outside Orlando.

But that was a few trips over a few months. In January, I got busy and packed in six cities in three weeks.

Batting leadoff was the Real Green Solutions 2019 conference in St. Pete Beach, Fla., followed by a home game, the Outdoor Connections Expo in Lawrence, Kan. Then it was a road trip to Omaha, Neb., for the Lighting Summit, hosted by LM editorial advisory board member Jerry McKay, owner of McKay Lighting. The fourth week of January took me to San Francisco, Pebble Beach, Calif., and Phoenix. That trip was for our sister publication (Golfdom) and our sports turf website (AthleticTurf.net) — visits to 2019 U.S. Open host course Pebble Beach Golf Links followed by a trip to Cypress Point Golf Club, then the Sports Turf Managers Association annual conference, where I was happy to see many familiar faces who cross over into the world of LM.

LM Publisher Bill Roddy and I agreed that we wanted to get our year off to a fast start, and that’s what we did.

The commitment to get on the road had immediate payoff. Before the Real Green event even started, while at lunch with Bill, we made some new friends in the industry. Sorry for the vague teaser, but I’m confident that conversation will lead to a future cover story. I would have never learned of that story had I chosen to stay back in Kansas.

The great stories kept coming at me quickly. I was among a couple hundred people who got to hear Real Green Systems CEO Joe Kucik tell the emotional story of how his father, a World War II vet, taught him the meaning of hard work and helped him get his business off the ground. In order to support his family, Joe’s father worked as a Detroit police officer during the days and a baker at nights. It was the origin story not of Real Green, but of Joe himself, and a key insight into one of the industry’s most successful businessmen.

At the Outdoor Connections Expo in Lawrence, I met Paul Eltschinger, owner of PaulHaul. A young entrepreneur, I learned about how he left behind both his formal education as a vocalist and a career as an arborist in order to pursue the success of the Little Helper, a four-wheel motorized cart invented by his uncle. These carts can move up to 900 pounds, and Paul’s biggest challenge is keeping up with demand. (Check out the LM Gallery to see an image of Eltschinger and the Little Helper, and visit PaulHaul.com to learn more about the cart.)

In Omaha at the Lighting Summit, I had the pleasure of meeting many interesting entrepreneurs, including Matt Nicol, who is profiled in this month’s “Five Questions.” A proud veteran of both the Army and Air Force whose military career has taken him around the world to fight for our freedom, I learned about how his post-military career in the corporate world was “sucking the life” out of him. He then got the idea to create Lightscape Outdoor Lighting, based in Columbus, Ohio. Seven months later, he quit his desk job and he’s again traveling, but now to luxurious properties to artistically light them. His story is fascinating, and I haven’t even mentioned his upcoming book or the movie he’s connected to.

I’m only two months into this new job, and at times I feel like I’m drinking from a fire hose. But I’m relieved that when it comes to great stories, this industry is clearly overflowing with them. My team and I have committed to packed travel schedules in order to report on this industry — if you’re at a conference and happen to sit down next to one of us, I hope you’ll say hi, and tell us your story

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist of 2014 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 18 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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