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Seth’s Cut: The true value of being present

August 26, 2022 -  By
Many in the industry gathered at Aspire's Ignite user's conference in San Antonio. (Photo: LM Staff)

Many in the industry gathered at Aspire’s Ignite user’s conference in San Antonio. (Photo: LM Staff)

I was heading south, driving down I-35 from Kansas to Texas. As I passed by Fort Worth, the thermometer on the dashboard read 113 degrees. Ouch! Appropriate that I was heading to a meeting dubbed “Ignite.”

Ignite is the annual conference for Aspire Software users. More than 700 industry professionals rolled into San Antonio to attend the meeting. There were dozens of seminars, like “Operations management: Daily habits for success;” “Accounting: Managing inventory without surprises” and “Administration: Training your workforce.”

It was great to connect with many people in the industry and learn from them about their challenges, what they’re forecasting for the future and what they’d like to see from us along that journey.

Before we broke off into those smaller seminars, we were treated to a keynote speech from James Lawrence, the “Iron Cowboy.” Lawrence earned that nickname by completing 50 Ironman races in 50 states in 50 consecutive days. A documentary about his journey, Iron Cowboy: The story of the 50.50.50 is available online.

Lawrence was there to tell his story and relate his anything-is-possible attitude to the group. Two things he said struck a chord with me. One was his reminder that we didn’t have to be there at Ignite … we get to be there … so make the most of the opportunity. The other was a story about a time someone told him he wasn’t far from the leader and had a shot at winning one of those Ironman races. He replied, “I’m not trying to win; I’m just trying to finish.” His colleague scolded him and asked, if you’re not trying to win, what’s the point? Lawrence asked the room, at what point in his life and in anyone’s life, did it become acceptable just to finish? Shouldn’t we all be trying to win?

The Iron Cowboy isn’t the only endurance athlete that’s caused me to think about the way we do things recently. I was in a Zoom call with Bruce Allentuck, president of Allentuck Landscaping Co. I wanted to talk to Bruce about the recent Renewal & Remembrance event in Washington D.C., and also the upcoming inaugural Elevate conference, both hosted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

It was during the course of the conversation that I learned that Allentuck is also an endurance athlete (see our interview in this month’s 5 Questions.) It was interesting to hear how he doesn’t consider himself a top-tier athlete, even though he’s run more than 100 races. “Whatever I put in is what I get out,” he said.

While we talked about next month’s Elevate, he said something that reminded me of the Iron Cowboy. He reinforced that these aren’t events he has to attend … but meetings he’s grateful to attend.

“These gathering of our colleagues are so huge, I learn so much from other people,” Bruce told me. “Just getting to talk to someone in a bar or a coffee shop or a hallway — that’s how I’ve learned the most about how to run my business and how to be a leader. That’s the true value. The classes, the seminars are awesome, but the chance to mingle … there’s nothing that anybody won’t share with you at these meetings, and that’s huge. I don’t think it’s like that in every industry.”

This month’s cover story, written by Editor Christina Herrick, is about how the Elevate conference came to be. In these next few months, we get to attend our first Elevate in Orlando and then our first Equip Expo in Louisville in October. We’ll have other events, like that Ignite event, or any of the events our respected columnists host. We’ll attend and cover as many of these events as we can because we think these meetings of industry leaders are vital to the growth of the industry.

Like the Iron Cowboy said in San Antonio, it’s not that we have to attend. We get to attend.

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 in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 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

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