A big win in Maryland-based Montgomery County and a focus on appealing to a younger generation were two key takeaways from the 2017 Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment Annual Meeting.
“This is one of the biggest wins in many years for this organization,” said Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE, about Montgomery County, where local officials tried to ban cosmetic lawn care products.
Hobbs said RISE focused on getting local businesses involved and “packed the courtroom” to help convey their message. You can read more about the attempted ban here.
“We learned a lot of positive things that when the next Montgomery County comes, we’ll be ready,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs also said 90 percent off RISE’s resources protect the lawn space because people won’t put up with cockroaches in their house, but they will tolerate weeds in their lawn. Even though most of the resources go to protect the lawn, the group must be unified when problems arise.
“If we don’t stand together, we’ll get pulled a part,” he said.
Embrace technology. Failure to adapt to technology in the workplace can cause you problems in your current job, and may leave you searching for one, said Gina Schreck of SocialKNX, a content and digital marketing company. Schreck, president of the company and one of the keynote speakers at the event, cited a study that said one in three people will be unemployable or out of business because they refuse to adapt.
“To me that’s a frightening number,” she said.
Schreck said video is king right now, and landscapers and LCOs should use that to their advantage. She recommended contractors should think of the 10 questions they’re asked the most, and make one-minute videos to answer them. Those videos don’t need to be professionally shot.
“We want real people telling us answers,” she said.
She predicts the next big thing when it comes to the digital world is trying to become the top result on voice command search devices like Siri and Alexa.
She also offered four tips to approaching new technologies.
1. Maintain a sense of humor and be excited you tried it.
2. Make sure your company stays out in front and is the leader. Schreck said that can be hard to do, but it’s worth it in the end.
3. Make sure as a leader that complacency is not allowed. Anyone who is complaining about a new technology should be addressed.
4. You need to explore more. “It’s ok to be weird if you are out front testing things,” she said.
A younger perspective. Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs, said the group ran a social media campaign geared toward reaching young families. The “And Not Or” campaign ran from April to June on Facebook and Twitter targeting millennial families in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Reardon said the results from the campaign proved that the next-generation homeowner wants to hear from the industry. Negative conversations about member products also decreased from the same time in 2016 compared to the pilot’s 2017 performance time.
The idea behind the campaign was to get the message out about the positives of a healthy lawn and change the perception about chemicals to a younger generation. This goes in line with the group’s effort to be more proactive on issues, instead of always having to play defense.
“When they are making those decisions – taking their own money and buying a product we provide and have to decide how they will control pests or grow their own tomatoes – (we want to) give them the opportunity to be engaged by us,” Hobbs said.
The right choices. When Joe Dittmar was watching the World Trade Center’s North Tower burn from the 105th floor of the South Tower, he knew he had to get out of the building.
He detailed how he was in a meeting in a room with no windows and at 8:48 a.m. the lights flickered. No noise or movement of the South Tower. Someone came in and told them they needed to evacuate, and still the group wanted to stay because they figured it wasn’t anything major.
Eventually they were convinced to come out of the room where he saw the destruction of the North Tower.
Having still thought it was an accident and not a terrorist attack, one of his colleague decided to use the restroom before leaving the South Tower. As Dittmar made his way down flights of stairs, the second plane hit the floor he was just on, killing his colleague.
Dittmar said his speech had nothing to do with the industry, but the lesson everyone should take from his talk was that every decision, not matter how small you think it is, can have major results.
“Making the right decision is not easy. But if you trust source data, you can make successful critical decisions,” he said. “You don’t need to be on the 105th floor during a terrorist attack. You can be anywhere and by listening you can make critical decisions that have effects on peers and partners.”
He can still recall vivid details from the event, including passing rescue workers on the 35th floor who were going up to save people, even though he could tell the workers recognized the slim chance of survival.
“The looks in their eyes told the story,” he said. “They knew.”