Serious business: The LM Growth Summit

January 16, 2019 -  By
George Kinkead with Spring Touch Lawn & Pest Control (Photo: Seth Jones)

Wheels up Turfco President George Kinkead (left) talks to the Spring Touch Lawn & Pest Control team about the finer details of the T3100 spreader-sprayer. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Now in its eighth year, the LM Growth Summit is unique in the industry in that it brings lawn care professionals face-to-face with some of the industry’s leading innovators.

Sure, the opportunity exists to schedule these meetings at national or regional trade shows. But good luck successfully making 10 meetings with top level executives — let alone the owners of the companies or the actual inventors of the equipment — at any trade show.

The LM Growth Summit is designed so that every attendee meets with every partner, period.

“To be honest with you, I was kind of apprehensive before I came in because I was thinking I would be a captive audience,” says first-time attendee Mark Utendorf, president of Emerald Lawn Care in Rolling Meadows, Ill. “I didn’t feel like any of the vendors were really trying to push their product. It was very educational; the vendors were very well informed and that was the focus of the conversation — finding out what we’re doing and where their products may or may not help us.”

Attendees also liked the event’s organization.

“We are all kept to task to make our different meetings with the different vendors and suppliers,” says 2018 LM Growth Summit attendee Mike Caprio, regional business consultant for Lawn Doctor. “Too often you go to different events and you see people wandering in the halls or they’re on their phones.”

Shiplov gives a demo of PermaGreen’s spreader-sprayer. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Spreading the message Shiplov gives a demo of PermaGreen’s spreader-sprayer. (Photo: Seth Jones)

No wandering allowed at the LM Growth Summit — there are too many meetings to be made. Attendees are each given their own specific schedule of one-on-one meetings with the 10 different partners, ensuring every lawn care professional learns about how each partner can help his or her business.

This year 20 different companies accepted invitations to attend the LM Growth Summit. While it’s not as good as attending in person (lawn care professionals interested in attending can apply at LMGrowthSummit.com), we present our own one-on-one meeting with each partner in this feature story.

PermaGreen

Only one company has been to every LM Growth Summit, and that company is PermaGreen. Dan Shiplov, new product sales consultant for PermaGreen, says the one-on-one meetings are what bring the company back every year.

“You get undivided attention as opposed to a trade show, where people are more nonchalant,” Shiplov says. “You’re able to get to know people on a personal level and get a better idea of their needs.”

Shiplov was outdoors allowing attendees to take PermaGreen’s spreader-sprayer for a test drive. His focus was to point out the different ways the machine can maximize an operator’s efficiency.

The team from Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply talk to Dean Bryant of Massey Services. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Spreading the message The team from Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply talk to Dean Bryant of Massey Services. (Photo: Seth Jones)

“With attendees at this event, they are looking at efficiency and asking themselves what is going to save them money and what is going to make them money,” Shiplov says. “At PermaGreen, we’ve all been in the business, we’ve done the turf applications, we’ve experienced the labor costs, the fuel costs, the windshield time. We incorporate all that (knowledge) into our machines.”

One of the newer features to increase efficiency on the Triumph spreader-sprayer is a break-through applicator, which combats clumping in the hopper. Another feature is the machine’s mechanically regulated spreader-sprayer system.

“If you are doing even passes, the machine takes care of the rest,” Shiplov says. “The operator doesn’t need to mess with any gauges. If you give an operator something to mess with, they will mess with it. This is a big feature for us because it makes the machine foolproof.”

Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply

A funny thing happened before the LM Growth Summit began when one of the attendees emailed Brian Walker, area sales manager for Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply. The attendee politely declined the meeting with Ewing, Walker recalls, because the attendee didn’t do any irrigation installation.

Jud Hudnut of Prime Source meets with Jason Kregel, member-owner of My Turf, Byron Center, Mich. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Prime time Jud Hudnut of Prime Source meets with Jason Kregel, member-owner of My Turf, Byron Center, Mich. (Photo: Seth Jones)

“I emailed him back and said, ‘If you think all we do is irrigation, then that is exactly why we need to meet,’” Walker says, laughing.

Walker took the time to tell all the attendees about Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply’s culture and how the company goes about business.

“We’re a 96-year-old company, third-generation, family-owned. We have 240-plus locations in the U.S.,” Walker says. “We partner with our customers. We have classrooms in all our facilities because their education makes them a better customer for us.”

And for the attendee who wanted to skip his meeting with Ewing? Thankfully he took the meeting, because Walker had an important message for him.

“I told him we carry a full line of turf products but also outdoor living products — landscape lighting, hardscape and grills. In fact, we have just under 30,000 SKUs. It’s amazing the amount of stuff we carry.”

Turfco

George Kinkead, president of Turfco, says he enjoys visiting the LM Growth Summit because of the attendees. They’re people he enjoys talking to, he says, because they are all hungry to grow their businesses.

Quali-Pro team (Photo: Seth Jones)

Talking turf The team from Quali-Pro stressed to LMGS attendees the breadth of their company — they have access to more than 100 AIs.(Photo: Seth Jones)

“They took the time out of their week to come down here and talk to other professionals,” Kinkead says. “It helps separate the people who are too busy to think about how to grow their business from those who are growing their business.”

Turfco was giving demos of its T3100 spreader-sprayer to attendees, and while Kinkead was presenting the machine’s various features, his main talking point was that his company wants to help them grow their companies.

“One of the biggest issues everybody’s running into is they have the ability to outsell what they can produce,” Kinkead says. “If you go 15-20 years ago, the primary problem was ‘How can I sell more?’ The people at this conference, they’ve already reached that point through sophisticated software or systems that answer the sales questions. So now what they’re struggling with is ‘How can I produce that efficiently?’”

One of Kinkead’s solutions to increase efficiency is the ease of operation of the T3100.

“There’s an incredible, unfortunate amount of turnover in our business,” Kinkead says. “If guys are running 10 trucks, it isn’t surprising to see two or three people turn over (regularly). So how fast can I get my new guys up and running, and how fast can I be making money? Even if a guy quits, the lawn care professional needs this machine out there running the very next day.”

Prime Source

LebanonTurf table (Photo: Seth Jones)

Talking turf At the LebanonTurf table, the discussion focused on labor-saving products like the company’s ProScape line of fertilizers. (Photo: Seth Jones)

North Carolina-based Prime Source is an entrepreneurial marketing company with a focus on developing, manufacturing and marketing select post-patent products, unique technologies and specialty products. Its goal for attending the LM Growth Summit was simple: The team wanted to educate people about who they are and what products they have available.

“There’s been a lot of guys here that didn’t know that several products are off patent because their sales guys aren’t telling them because they can’t tell them because that’s corporate direction,” says Keith Montgomery, chief business development officer for Prime Source. “It’s been good for us to be able to educate and then come up with a plan afterward working through one of our distributors.”

Prime Source has a broad portfolio of adjuvants, seed treatments, fungicides, herbicides and insecticides, and obviously the company doesn’t want any of those products being kept secret from customers.

“Some of the (national distributors) have contracts in place that are really loyalty driven and that are trying to block post-patents,” Montgomery says. “So we want to make sure LCOs know there is a value-added option out there.”

LebanonTurf

LebanonTurf produces fertilizers, grass seed and biological products to help lawn care operators create and maintain healthy turf conditions.
Mike Bandy, product manager, and Jeremy Bigler, landscape channel manager, were discussing how the company’s ProScape products can help LCOs overcome labor challenges by combining or even eliminating applications.

LM Growth Summit group photo (Photo: Lou Ferraro, Park South Photography)

2018 LMGS group photo The 2018 LM Growth Summit included 20 attendees, 10 partners, six experts and one double rainbow. (Photo: Lou Ferraro, Park South Photography)

“(ProScape) offers either fertilizer with pre- and postemergent herbicides or fertilizer with preemergent and insecticides, so those two groups are really focused on the value add, what can you do with less time,” Bigler says. “We’re focused on the labor issue — there’s just not as much time in the workday to get the work done.”

Bigler says the event kept him on his toes as the attendees wanted to pursue different topics based on geography and the scope of their business.

“Frankly, I learned from everyone — there were a lot of different viewpoints,” he says. “There were some products we were really focused on promoting, but then the conversation would go a different direction, based on the cues we were given.”

Quali-Pro

The men from Quali-Pro — Nick Strain, business manager, Jeremy Moore, national accounts manager, and Paul Fox, Florida area manager — were constantly on the move at the LM Growth Summit, not wanting to waste a single minute of the event. The attendees were all familiar with Quali-Pro, Strain says, but they were somewhat surprised to learn how big the company is.

Discussions at Anuvia Plant Nutrients. (Photo: Seth Jones)

‘The newest cutting-edge technology’ Discussions at Anuvia Plant Nutrients. (Photo: Seth Jones)

“I would say 80-90 percent of them know who we are, but I don’t know if they realize the breadth of products we have,” Strain says. “We have over 100 active ingredients (AIs) that we work with, we have specific proprietary combinations that we have in market, such as Negate. And we also have some ‘me-too’ products like Strobe Pro G.”

Some of the excitement from the group came from the new residential label on Negate, a sulfonylurea herbicide for broadleaf weed control in warm season grasses. Strobe Pro G was also a “big one” for the trio to talk about, Strain says.

“(Strobe Pro G) controls a broad spectrum of weeds, it covers and adds another bullet to the arsenal of products we have that we can bring to support our customers,” Strain says. “Strobe Pro G is unique in a fungal application. It’s on a granular so the ease of application and the amount of diseases that it covers is unique.”

Anuvia Plant Nutrients

It’s said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. For the employees of Anuvia Plant Nutrients, that trash isn’t just a treasure, it’s also an environmentally friendly plant nutrient.

Chuck Barber, vice president of customer accounts, specialty, explained to LM Growth Summit attendees how Anuvia takes organic waste and changes it into something useful that lawn care companies can be proud to use.

“Anuvia Plant Nutrients really represents a new category, a new technology,” Barber says. “We reclaim organic inputs that would otherwise be discarded, and we reprocess it into a homogenized renewable granule that performs as both an immediate and a slow-release fertilizer.”

PBI-Gordon discussions focused on the latest and greatest products to help LCOs overcome their many challenges. (Photo: Seth Jones)

PBI-Gordon discussions focused on the latest and greatest products to help LCOs overcome their many challenges. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Barber says that while he was there to educate the attendees, he also spent an equal amount of time learning from the attendees.

“We want to learn more about their businesses,” Barber says. “That was a key point to us attending that meeting. We want to connect with that segment of the marketplace, and we want to pass along our message of sustainability.”

The one thing that stood out to Barber was the willingness of the attendees to learn about a new technology.

“I think that’s a key reason people attend (the LM Growth Summit), is to learn,” Barber says. “The people that are there want to see the newest cutting-edge technology in the marketplace.”

PBI-Gordon Corp.

Shawnee, Kan.-based PBI-Gordon Corp. came to the LM Growth Summit with a common question for attendees: If they could have an ideal product, what would that product look like?

“We were really trying to get a feel for their business, their agronomic schedule and what their biggest challenges are,” says Jay Young, herbicide product manager for PBI-Gordon. “Labor is always a problem for everyone, but from a weed standpoint, we want to know what people are looking for and how PBI-Gordon might help.”

<strong>Made in the shade</strong> Rob Edwards, VP of operations for Turfware, discusses the TR360 ride-on spreader-sprayer. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Made in the shade Rob Edwards, VP of operations for Turfware, discusses the TR360 ride-on spreader-sprayer. (Photo: Seth Jones)

A product that came up frequently was the company’s Avenue South, a broadleaf herbicide that is safe to apply in St. Augustinegrass and other sensitive warm-season grasses. Avenue South controls clover, dollarweed, spurge, dandelion and Virginia buttonweed, among many others.

“For the most part, attendees were familiar with us. Maybe not the company by name, but definitely our products,” Young says. “To have that many LCOs all in one location for two days was very valuable to us.”

Turfware

Rob Edwards is the vice president of operations for Turfware, but he is quick to point out that he is not your typical salesperson. That’s because Edwards is not only a former lawn care operator, but he’s also the co-inventor of TR360 ride-on spreader-sprayer.

“We built this machine over a 10-year period while we had, at our peak, 40 trucks out on the road,” Edwards says. “I can relate to the headaches of running an LCO, and that led to a lot of laughs.”

Edwards says the first thing he always points out about the TR360 is how it is “simply built,” making repairs easy. “I’m genuinely proud of that,” he says. The next thing that most attendees wanted to learn more about was the machine’s dual hopper, which allows operators to carry two different materials to job sites at the same time.

“The ability to regulate expensive products and not to have to apply it on lawns where people aren’t paying for it is an exciting part of this machine,” Edwards says. “That’s hundreds, if not thousands, in material and labor that we can save people.”

Building traction

At the very start of this year’s LM Growth Summit, consultant Ken Bogard kicked off the workshop session with a request:

“Everyone stand up, look at the person on either side of you … and say goodbye.”

The person next to you is not going to be the same person in three hours once we go through this process, Bogard said. He then led the lawn care attendees through the six components of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) — vision, people, data, issues, process and traction — outlined in the book “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business” by Gino Wickman.

Bogard, a professional EOS implementer with Nexus Business Solutions in Grand Rapids, Mich., works with companies to integrate the EOS into their operations. At the Growth Summit, he challenged attendees to identify their one-year, three-year and 10-year goals, evaluate their employees and build a strong leadership team. All attendees walked away having started their one-page plans — their roadmaps to creating “traction” and changing their companies for the better.

Mark Utendorf, president of Emerald Lawn Care in Rolling Meadows, Ill., appreciated Bogard’s approach to introducing and breaking down the EOS. “It’s all about execution, so figure out what your priorities are and figure out what you can do to address those individual priorities,” he said. “If you break it into those pieces, it’s much more manageable and less intimidating.” — Abby Hart

For LM readers who didn’t join us at this year’s Growth Summit, we’re giving away copies of “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business.

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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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