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The 2021 Next Level Leadership Summit: Three Days of Growth, Guidance, & Greatness

The Next Level Leadership Summit is an annual conference held by members of the Next Level Network, a peer group of five professional landscape companies – Allied Landscape, Focal Pointe, Pacific Landscape Management, Lawn Management Company, and Stay Green Inc. The five companies look to each other for advice and ideas on bringing clients the best landscaping services in the country.

Each year, Focal Pointe team members look forward to taking part in the Next Level Leadership Summit and learning ways to improve all aspects of the business. This year, Focal Pointe hosted the annual event at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Spanning three days, the conference offered opportunities for learning from our peer group members, as well as targeted content from world-class keynote speakers.

Day One

This year’s event started with a tour of Focal Pointe’s flagship facility in Caseyville, IL, where our peer group members had the opportunity to view different facets of our business, offer ideas, and ask questions. After the tour, our guests faced a tough choice! They could either tour what some call baseball heaven – Busch Stadium – or, they could tour the Washington University campus in St. Louis, a campus that repeatedly earns honors as one of the most beautiful college campuses in America.

Folks who chose the Busch Stadium tour were treated to a guided tour by the stadium’s special events team. The stadium tour even included areas normally closed off during games. Attendees then got a chance to put their swings to the test in the Cardinal’s batting cages.

They didn’t get to have all the fun, however. The Washington University group enjoyed a guided tour led by Focal Pointe’s Cody Azotea. Focal Pointe provides landcare services for the Washington University campus, and Cody has been a critical resource in advancing the transformation of the landscape. The tour included Francis Field, where the 1904 Summer Olympics were held, the East End Campus renovation project (recipient of a Gold Commercial Landscape Installation Award by the National Association of Landscape Professionals), and a discussion of the intricacies of maintaining complex commercial properties.

Following the tours, the whole peer group met at Busch Stadium for a sponsor showcase, giving time for sponsors to promote their products and hear personal testimonials from attendees. The sponsor showcase featured landscaping tools from Wright, SiteOne, Toro, John Deere, Ariens/Gravely, RedMax, Caterpillar, and Ewing Irrigation; with Aspire, Integrated Payroll Services, Enterprise Fleet, Weathermatic, EnVue, and Hunter showcasing their own landscaping-centric business solutions.

The first day of the Next Level Leadership Summit drew to a close with a welcome reception and dinner hosted in the Champions Club of Busch Stadium.

Day Two

Starting with breakfast at the stadium, day two was filled with top-of-the-line keynote speakers who offered ideas from other industries that we can incorporate into our own.

Michelle Backes, a senior consultant at Trust Edge Leadership Institute, has advised clients from FedEx and Toyota to the New York Yankees and global governments. Pulling from her experience as a WNBA chaplain for the Minnesota Lynx, Michelle told personal stories about when trust was at the forefront of her work relationships. Not only was her advice drawn from personal experience, it was also factual. Michelle used statistics from the nation’s go-to study on workplace trust, The Trust Outlook, to help further illustrate the importance of trust.

After a lunch break, our second keynote speaker of the day was set to take the stage. As founder and CEO of Scaling Up, an executive education and coaching company, Verne Harnish has spent the last four decades helping companies scale up. Also a bestselling author, Verne has won eight major international book awards including the International Book Award for Best General Business Book for his latest book, Scaling Up Compensation.

Day two ended with the attendees splitting up and being paired with a Focal Pointe team member who took their group to dinner, showing attendees more of the local St. Louis culture.

Day Three

The final day of the 2021 Next Level Leadership Summit started with breakfast, followed by our third and final keynote speaker, John DiJulius.

With five books published, world-renowned customer service expert John DiJulius has quite literally written the book on customer service. Organizations across America including Starbucks, The Ritz-Carlton, Panera Bread, Chick-fil-a, and Marriott Hotels have adopted customer service practices taught by John. With all that experience, John gave a captivating talk about ways that companies can go out of their way to make sure customers are happy.

The end of John’s presentation sadly marked the end of the 2021 Next Level Leadership Summit, but left us stirring with ideas that could be adopted at Focal Pointe. Speaking with others in the industry who have different perspectives provides opportunities for growth through the experience of others, putting the keys to pushing our companies from good to great in our hands.

We want to thank everyone who made the event such a success, especially our sponsors and the Busch Stadium Special Events Team who did a great job coordinating the event. We can’t wait for next year!