MLP Newsline - Page 16

Getting the Most Out of GROWS Executive Director of MLP, Virginia Wood, was interviewed for a Lawn & Landscape magazine podcast. We added a New England GROWS spin, and share her advice with you here. When you commit yourself and your team to a conference, it’s important to realize that there are actually three big opportunities: the educational track, the exposition, and the networking opportunities. Plan ahead and evaluate each aspect against your most pressing business challenges. You will come away with a treasure trove of valuable information. Everything you need to get business done is under one roof. CONFERENCE TIPS • GROWS offers 30+ traditional seminars presented by expert practitioners from around the country. Couple that with Sprint Sessions, a new Safety Arena, and Ask Extension on the tradeshow floor and you’ll find hundreds of opportunities to connect with industry thought-leaders. Research the conference presenters in advance and track down the ones you want to talk to. Better yet, contact them in advance and set up a time to talk at the show. • Virtually every accrediting organization offers CEU credit at GROWS. Plan your time wisely and you can take away enough credit to cover all your recertification needs. • Take advantage of the Speakers Unplugged program that allows for one-on-one time with industry experts. • Embrace the idea of teamwork. Strategize with your crew in advance and shake it up (e.g. designers go to installation talks, hardscape guys head to plant talks, turf experts go to pruning sessions). This idea opens the mind and stretches thinking. Everyone has an assignment. They split up the team and charge everyone with coming back with at least one great idea. EXPO TIPS • Tradeshows are not the same-old, same-old any more. Every supplier wants to talk to you and has something unique to offer – including great deals. • Do your homework. Don’t just wander through the show. Check the exhibitor list in advance and compare it to the challenges you face in your business. Look at who is offering new products that can improve your efficiencies and bottom line. Compare your current suppliers against their competition. Get to know the people behind the brands. • GROWS participants often comment that it takes a couple of days to really get through the show. Make the time you need to do just that. • Divide and conquer. Task your team members with making key connections. Then meet up, exchange information, and circle back to close the deal with vendors. NETWORKING TIPS • Step outside your comfort zone. With more than 10,000 attendees, you can literally meet thousands of green industry colleagues at GROWS. What an amazing opportunity to spark conversation, make new connections, and find out how others are dealing with similar challenges! • Reach out. Turn to your neighbor in a conference session, or in the coffee line, with an opening question ready, like: “what was your top take away from that last session?” or “I’m looking to upgrade my management software, any advice?” or “how long have you been in this crazy business?” • Stay for a while! Don’t jump in your truck and head back to the office at 5 p.m. People in our industry are well known for sharing information and ideas. Stick around and who knows, you may make a valuable connection that will carry you well beyond the conference. With the wide array of opportunities mentioned above, the biggest mistake I’ve seen is “trying to do it all.” Be strategic. Outline your goals, target your areas of concern, do your research, identify whom you want to see and set up times to meet, divide and conquer! Then give yourself time to experience everything GROWS can offer. After the conference • Meet up with your team either at the show or back at the shop. Everyone shares what he or she learned in a jam session that then gets integrated into the business plan for the coming year. • Ask each other general questions like: What did you learn? Why was it important? What trends did you see? What did you hear from others? How does it compare to what we’re experiencing here at our company? • And then drill down to craft an action, or engagement plan with questions like: Who is going to contact that specific vendor? How do we stay in touch with Professor Smith throughout the year? Who is going to get that student prospect here for a tour (or an internship) so we can convince her to come work for us? Significant change means casting a wide net and stretching in new ways in order to realize the full potential of the GROWS experience. “I love how New England GROWS gives me the chance to break away from the routine and allows me to catch up with friends, vendors and partners in the industry that I haven’t seen in ages!” Zach Navarro, MCLP Beebe Landscape Services • E. Windsor CT MCLP Committee Member MLP NEWSLINE GROWS Edition 2016 17