Green Media, a division of M2MEDIA360 — publisher of Landscape and Irrigation, Arbor Age, Outdoor Power Equipment and SportsTurf — is proud to present the 2012 selections for “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.”
Green Media’s “Most Influential People in the Green Industry” were nominated by their peers for their ongoing contributions to the Green Industry. The professionals selected for this honor were chosen from throughout the Green Industry, and exemplify a commitment to the industry and a widespread influence on their peers.
Green Media congratulates all of those selected to this year’s list of “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.”
Founder and CEO of Rich Arlington & Associates
“Why Not You?” is the title of Rich Arlington’s book, and those three words could not be more appropriate.
“[The book] gives people the inspiration and the power to believe that they can do it too if I’ve been through everything that I’ve been through and still did it,” said Arlington.
What Arlington did was come from humble beginnings, which at one point in his life included homelessness, and go on to build successful, multi-million-dollar companies in lawn care, landscaping, irrigation, snow removal and more.
“The simple fact of being homeless early in my life was a very eye-opening experience,” said Arlington. “And the attitude that I adopted from that experience is that there is nowhere to go from here but up. I still look at every day with that attitude. Today is the worst it can get; tomorrow it can only go up.”
Arlington took that attitude, and, following service in the Marine Corps, started his landscaping business with just a truck and a lawn mower.
“I had always mowed lawns, raked leaves, and shoveled snow as a kid to earn money,” said Arlington. “When my military career was over, and I came back home to Erie, Pennsylvania, I wanted to start my own business.”
He started mowing lawns in the area and got business through word of mouth and with the help of flyers he posted around town.
“My first year in landscaping, I did $4,700 in revenue for the whole year,” said Arlington. “I didn’t get off to a really great start, but I took a third-shift job so that I could live, and I would work the third-shift job all night and then, during the day, be a landscaper.”
Arlington said his experience in the Marine Corps was instrumental to his success, because he learned to overcome, adapt, improvise, adjust, and keep moving forward.
“That philosophy has taken me day after day in business, because you overcome and adapt,” he said. “You don’t sit there and dwell on the problem; you figure out how to go around it or over it.”
According to Arlington, the biggest transformation for his company was when he became actively involved with industry trade associations.
“I started to realize the problems I was facing every day in business were the same problems that hundreds and thousands of others were facing,” he said. “Having access to those trade shows, seminars, regional training and the online environment has transitioned our staff into a blossoming success.”
Arlington openly shares his story and his keys to success with others as a public speaker. He averages nearly 40 speaking engagements nationwide per year on topics such as finance, sales, operational efficiency, safety and team building. He has founded mentoring programs to help others in the industry, and also helped found the Snow and Ice Management Association’s “Build a Bid” and “Beyond a Bid” programs to help others in the industry understand their costs and bid properly for business success.
“I think the biggest attribute that I bring when it comes to influencing others is that I love teaching others,” he said. “I have no problem talking about my mistakes in the hope that they won’t make the same ones. And then I like to sit back and watch them grow.”
Arlington said he receives follow-up phone calls and e-mails from people who have attended his seminars, and that interaction with people throughout the industry gives him a tremendous sense of pride.
“When I look at a room at a seminar with 150 people in it, I’m only looking for one person to change something that makes them better,” said Arlington. “I’m not so vain that I think all 150 people will walk out and change their business. But if I can get one that takes some piece of that message and changes something, then I feel that I’ve done what I set out to do.”
According to Arlington, knowledge is only valuable when it’s taught to others; and if you keep it to yourself, it’s worthless.
“There’s no such thing as a stupid question, except the one you keep to yourself,” he added. “There are thousands of us in the industry who are willing to share — you just have to ask. Seek out the knowledge, and you will find it.”
Arlington said education is the key, and it needs to continue to improve. He urges industry professionals to seek out education and become involved with industry associations.
“Anybody who takes their business seriously is willing to listen to others,” he said. “They value the sharing of knowledge; they value the networking that can take place.”
And although Arlington’s seminars are all different and cover a vast range of industry topics, he tries to convey two core messages. The first is, “You can do it, do not give up, and keep fighting the fight,” he said. “Where I came from, by all rights, I should not have been successful, but I did it anyway. So anyone out there can do it.”
The second message is to reach out and realize that there are a lot of people in the industry who are willing to share and willing to help. “Don’t be afraid to walk up to some of the big players in the business and ask if you can sit down and have a cup of coffee,” said Arlington. “It’s amazing how many people in this industry are willing to share if people would just ask.”
For more information about Rich Arlington’s book, “Why Not You?” visit [ital>www.avtt.org/arlingtoninfo.html<ital].
Gerald “Jerry” Grossi
Owner and COO of Arborlawn
Jerry Grossi is unique. He is the only person to have served as president of the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) and the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).* This distinction is just one example among many of Grossi’s dedication to the Green Industry and the leadership role he has embraced throughout his career.
“I’m hoping that I have been most influential in this industry by sharing whatever knowledge or information that I have with others,” he said. “And whatever leadership abilities I have, I have been able to share them with the industry and promote our industry in a way that will add professionalism. I’m gung ho about professionalizing our industry, and making it so that we are recognized as those who add value to our industry and add value to people’s lives.”
Grossi served as PLCAA president in 2000, and president of PLANET during the 2011-2012 term.
According to Grossi, during the PLCAA period, the biggest challenges he faced were legislative and regulatory issues, and those are many of the same issues that continue today.
“At PLANET, I came at a unique time when our industry was flourishing, and then we got into a period where the economy weighed us down,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of challenges to keep our members — and the industry — fresh and current and moving forward.”
Grossi said the difference between the two eras is that the industry is now a lot more sophisticated.
“We are much more process oriented,” he said. “Our industry is becoming more complex. Our businesses are becoming more complex. What you were able to do 10 to 20 years ago, you are not able to do today. You have to be a much better businessperson. You have to have a lot more knowledge today to succeed.”
Taking the lead
Grossi’s leadership was also instrumental in the agreement between PLANET and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) to merge PLANET’s Green Industry Conference and Expo (GIC/GIE) with OPEI’s International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Expo (EXPO) to form GIE+EXPO.
According to Grossi, the biggest challenge in forming the partnership to create GIE+EXPO was the organizations themselves.
“They were both independent with respect to having their own shows,” he said. “PLANET and OPEI each had ownership, and they were proud of what they put together as their own show. It was their branding, their time to shine, their time to show to the industry and the public what they have to offer. We first had to overcome having to share a show rather than own a show. That was a big hurdle.”
Another challenge was the fact that combining shows increased the size of the event (which is now the ninth largest trade show in the country). Because of that size, and because of the format (having an outdoor and indoor demonstration area at the same time), the show has become pigeon-holed into Louisville, Ky., said Grossi.
“We’re limited on where we can take the show, because of its size and the model we have built,” he added. “Not that we can’t offer a lot, but there is one item we can’t offer and that is the rotation [to different cities].”
Despite the challenges, the combined event has been a success. “Even in the toughest times, we are still growing the show,” he said. “This year, attendance was up dramatically. For PLANET, attendance was up 20 to 40 percent. There was a similar number for some of our other partners, such as Hardscape North America, and dealer and distributor attendance was up. So, whichever stakeholder was involved, there has been good growth. I think we have the right combination here. I think it’s a real showcase for the industry.”
With regard to the future of the show, Grossi said it must continue to offer the “wow” factor.
“We have to continue to make it a “wow” show,” he said. “It has to be exciting every year. We have to continue to keep the show fresh. We have to keep our exhibitors and suppliers bringing new products, and be innovative in showing those off. We have to keep our education up to date and timely. We have to keep the show exciting, so those people who are coming back year after year have something different to see every year. And we are somewhat handicapped because we are going to be in Louisville, and we are contracted there several years out. So we have to do it by making the show exciting rather than trying to change it by adding different venues.”
In addition to his efforts regarding GIE+EXPO, Grossi has also taken the lead in driving irrigation as a specialty group within PLANET.
“One of the big issues for the future is water,” said Grossi. “It is a critical issue not only for certain parts of the country, but for regulatory agencies. Those water issues are not going to go away. Being involved with those issues is important for PLANET and our industry.”
According to Grossi, more than half of PLANET’s members are involved in the irrigation market — servicing, installing, or controlling irrigation systems.
“So there was a real need for PLANET to set up a way to get involved with the regulatory committees to control water for the future and be sure our story is told; but also to educate our members on the good use of water and help them from a business sense in their landscaping and irrigation businesses,” he said. “It just made a lot of sense for PLANET to get involved with water management and irrigation.”
Grossi has been an influential leader in the Green Industry at the local, state and national levels for several decades. But he did not start his career in the lawn care, landscape or irrigation markets.
After graduating from Michigan State University, Grossi and his business partner, Ed Dudgeon, went into the property care business, handling janitorial sales, as well as managing and maintaining condominium projects.
“We dealt with some landscaping and irrigation folks, and our difficulty getting good contractors turned us into contractors ourselves,” said Grossi. “Back in the mid-1970s, we started doing landscaping work and landscape management work.”
In the 1990s, the company dropped out of the full-service landscape maintenance business and focused on lawn care and irrigation businesses, and also transitioned more from the commercial market to the residential market. Lawn care, irrigation and holiday lighting/décor are the company’s core businesses today.
For Grossi, the things that have made him successful are business processes such as building the right model; making the model something they like to do; and then putting structure to it, building it, and hiring the right people.
“I have tried to build a team effort with our company where our managers are very involved in the day-to-day decisions and our strategic planning for the future,” he said. “When you engage people and you build the processes, you have a successful recipe.”
According to Grossi, other keys to his success are the people he has met in this industry and the subsequent networking opportunities.
“It has resulted in personal development on my side,” he said. “I have grown from it. I have learned from it. That is the biggest part of my involvement with the associations. I did it to help our industry and help myself, but I have certainly learned a lot through my involvement with other people like myself. The sharing and exchanging of ideas is something that needs to be done to be successful — not only business-wise, but also personally.”
Grossi would like to see other industry professionals get involved with associations at the local, state and national levels.
“We are still somewhat fractured in this industry,” he said. “There are a lot of people in this industry who are not members of PLANET. We can come together better to tell our story and promote it in a better way. We have to do a better job in painting that future for our industry. There is a lot of work to do, and hopefully I can help.”
* Note: PLCAA merged with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America in 2005 to form PLANET.
Manager of forestry and special programs at Arizona Public Service
Michael Neal has been the manager of forestry and special programs at APS since the mid-1990s. Responsible for managing the vegetation along more than 30,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines statewide, he supervises and coordinates the work of in-house foresters and contract line-clearance crews. In addition to vegetation management, he oversees the utility’s landscape maintenance and wildlife protection programs, and implements safety and education programs to internal and external customers.
Neal became the president (now chairman) of the Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund) in 2011. He is a tireless champion of the TREE Fund, and publicly encourages the support of arboriculture research and education as an alternative to random planting of trees without a plan for their long-term care.
Among his many affiliations and accomplishments, Neal is past president of the International Society of Arboriculture, past president of the Utility Arborist Association, and past president of Arizona Community Tree Council.
“I have been influenced by all of these organizations,” said Neal. “I have used what I learned from these groups to improve the importance of professionalism in our industry. I have always promoted the need for quality arborists, continuing education and the need for research.”
With regard to his involvement with the TREE Fund, Neal said that research has directly contributed to his professional development, and is essential to the development of arborists.
“Our industry created the TREE Fund for the purpose of identifying and funding research projects that will advance our profession, and I am committed to supporting its mission in every way possible,” he said. “We have an obligation to support the research that sustains our industry, ensuring that the same opportunities that advanced our careers are available for the next generation. Every dollar we invest in research and education comes back to us, and, yet, compared to other industries, arboriculture research is significantly under-funded. It is within our power to address that shortfall.”
Neal has also been heavily involved in the area of utility arboriculture and vegetation management, including serving on committees such as NERC’s FAC-003 standard drafting team and other initiatives. His efforts were essential to the implementation of an ANSI standard for Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM), and led to a Best Management Practice being published for IVM.
He said he would like to see utility vegetation management programs get the respect they deserve.
“Utilities manage more trees and ecosystems than any other Green Industry,” said Neal. “Utilities have done more to improve the way of doing proper arboriculture and vegetation management practices compared to our peers over the last 20 years. We need to do a better job of communicating our success to our peers, communities and governmental agencies. Those utilities that are not following best practices should be educated on the advantages of following sound science.”
Head groundskeeper, Louisville Bats
Tom Nielsen is head groundskeeper at Louisville Slugger Field for the Louisville Bats Triple-A franchise. Nielsen, recipient of the prestigious Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) George Toma Golden Rake Award for 2011, is known for his mentorship of many in the industry, but in particular students that pass through his outstanding internship program.
He has mentored 30-plus employees who went on to continue working in the Green Industry as either head groundskeepers or assistants in professional baseball, universities, high school athletics and landscape companies. Some of those who have gone on to notable careers of their own include Jake Tyler, head groundskeeper for the Toledo Mud Hens; Chad Laurie, head groundskeeper for the Buffalo Bisons; Thomas Trotter, head groundskeeper for the Nashville Sounds; Steve Ruckman, director of field operations for the Richmond Flying Squirrels; Dan Blank, head groundskeeper for TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series; and Ray Sayre, head groundskeeper for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
“I am willing to help anyone interested in the Green Industry,” said Nielsen. “I speak with several schools and private groups every year. I plan to continue doing the same work mentoring and promoting the Green Industry in the future.”
Nielsen works tirelessly to convey the importance of sound maintenance practices to the administration, players and fans. Nielsen also won STMA’s Field of the Year in 2002 and 2004, and was named the International League Sports Turf Manager of the Year in 2009.
When asked about those who have influenced him, Nielsen pointed to his parents, Ted and Gloria Nielsen, who instilled in him a great work ethic and desire to succeed.
“Professionally, it is George Toma,” said Nielsen. “He taught me professionalism and the ‘and-then-some’ attitude, which is doing your job as best you can plus some. Don’t settle for average. Another big influence was the late Gary Vanden Berg, former head groundskeeper with the Milwaukee Brewers, for giving me my start in sports turf management and being a positive role model.”
Nielsen’s dream for the industry is to help raise the standards of groundskeepers, which will, in turn, bring more respect and higher wages. “This is accomplished by increasing expectations both in physical appearance and communications skills,” he said. “There are a lot of very intelligent, experienced professionals in our industry, and we all deserve respect.”
He urges others in the industry to work hard, stay enthusiastic, and be open-minded to new ideas and techniques.
CEO of Brock International
Introducing innovation to an industry takes a lot of perseverance. But that’s never stopped Dan Sawyer. As the founder and chief executive officer of Brock International, a manufacturer of base systems for synthetic turf, he has helped engineer safe playing surfaces while actively promoting sustainability.
Sawyer first started redefining possibilities in the early 1990s while working for Jay Medical, a medical products pioneer that significantly improved wheelchair seating. Sawyer then applied his valuable insight on how forces impact the human body in launching Brock in 1999. The company’s premier product, Brock PowerBase, is a shock pad and drainage layer used beneath synthetic turf fields. It has been proven to reduce G-max, which may reduce the risk and severity of concussion. Nothing like it existed before Sawyer and his team envisioned the technology. Today, more than 25-million square feet of Brock products is in play underneath athletic fields worldwide.
Sawyer has become a vocal advocate for concussion prevention education. With the perspective of handling hundreds of installations for clients, ranging from NFL teams and major universities to community parks, he feels many brain injuries can be prevented through increased awareness, as well as through better technique, equipment and treatment. That’s why his company became an Official Education Partner of the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), a Boston-based non-profit organization founded to advance the study, treatment and prevention of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups. In this capacity, Brock has provided funding that helped SLI deliver its two-hour Advanced Concussion Training (ACT) program to more than 1,000 football coaches in the Los Angeles Unified School District, 2,500 coaches in the Chicagoland Youth Football League, and more than 3,000 Chicago Public Schools coaches and athletic directors, as well as programs for parents and athletes.
“I think Brock must continue to educate people that the process of preventing brain injury starts at the playing surface level, and we have to take an active role in educating others about brain injury prevention programs,” said Sawyer.
He added that he believes technology can be used to go beyond what even natural turf can do.
“Just as there have been developments in footwear and helmets, I think the surface can ultimately become one of the key technological components in the sports program to help prevent brain injuries while maximizing sports performance,” he said.
Still there are hurdles to overcome. According to Sawyer, one hurdle is the idea that the cheapest alternative is the best use of public funds.
“Too often, price is placed before quality, but we know that a life-cycle costing approach to the field system today pays off in spades in the long run,” he added. “The other hurdle is to make people understand that laying carpet over stone is not the best we can do, and when it comes to safety, we have to do our best.”
Executive director of the Equipment & Engine Training Council (EETC)
As executive director of the Equipment & Engine Training Council, Inc. (EETC) since 2000, Jim Roche has been responsible for handing out dozens of awards to his peers for their outstanding contributions to the EETC, a non-profit association whose mission is to address the shortage of qualified service technicians in the outdoor power equipment industry through education, certification and training.
So, after all that Roche has accomplished with the EETC it is rather fitting that he was selected as one of the “Most Influential People in the Green Industry,” shortly before he retired on Dec. 17.
“Jim Roche brought professionalism to the EETC in his role as executive director,” said Jim Starmer, senior advisor, Servantage Dixie Sales. “He helped make the EETC an organization highly respected throughout the OPE industry, focused on the education and training of skilled technicians, for the benefit of all industry participants. It was a huge task, but Jim, with his wife Rachel at his side, succeeded in providing professional leadership to the EETC, strengthening an organization that will benefit our industry for years to come. As a former board member of the EETC, I am honored and proud to have known and worked with Jim and Rachel, to be able to call them friends, and to thank them for what they have accomplished for our industry.”
Roche developed a strategic plan for the EETC’s mission, led the development and implementation of the EETC’s school accreditation program, managed the EETC’s national technician certification program, and launched the EETC’s website, among many other things.
“Jim was always looking to promote an industry that he truly believes in,” said Dave Worden, SkillsUSA program director, EETC board member and long-time friend. “It allowed people like me to present and deliver information with a passion that is becoming rare. He gives, and will continue to give, you his best and support the cause and also look at how he can help out others. He is a mentor, a passionate leader, an honest man doing what he could to try and ‘pay it forward’ in an industry that was at times harsh and cold. He has a sense of humor and was always available. He looks out for others and is always ready to help advise and promote the association and the industry and its partners without the political stress showing.”
Said Roche, “The power equipment industry is small enough that you know an awful lot of people that are in the industry, and if you burn your bridges as you go, you’re not going to be in the industry for very long. But if you become part of it, if it becomes part of your soul, you’re going to be extremely successful and you’re going to be rewarded financially as well. But if you don’t put your soul into it, if you don’t put your heart into it, you’re just spinning your wheels and kind of wasting your time. That’s always been my philosophy of the power equipment industry.”
If you would like to nominate a Green Industry professional for consideration for the 2013 list of “Most Influential People in the Green Industry,” you may e-mail that person’s name, contact information, and why he or she has been influential to the Green Industry, to firstname.lastname@example.org.