Events to Remember

The key is to connect peers, teach valuable lessons, and work with event participants to develop realistic plans for applying the lessons they learned.

By Kristen Coulter, Director of Communication, JP Horizons

Business leaders often attend a professional development seminar, write down some notes in a binder, put it on a shelf when they return to the office, and get back to the daily grind. It’s a situation that costs companies money without producing many results.

One company has worked for more than 20 years to change that reality and create life-changing events that energize, educate, and connect leaders from around the world. JP Horizons, an organization dedicated to helping landscape leaders and businesses grow, has presented events that have stood the test of time and continue to make a difference in the lives of thousands of participants, their companies, families, and communities.

“We want to create an event that captures both the mind and the heart of participants, so they can learn through that experience,” says JP Horizons’ Bob Coulter. “Every activity, exercise, or part of the presentation is developed to tie the lessons together so people can feel them and see them in a tangible way.”

JP Horizons has hosted many different types of events that have connected with the hearts and minds of participants and inspired those business leaders to improve their careers and companies. Despite the changes in location or theme, JP Horizons finds ways to connect peers, teach valuable lessons, and work with participants to develop realistic plans for applying the lessons they learned.

Connecting Face to Face

Each year, JP Horizons partners with a team of SMART Companies—Green Industry vendors who share a commitment to education and professional improvement—and landscape businesses throughout the country to put on Face to Face events. These one-day company tours allow participants to observe a successful regional landscape business, connect with other landscape professionals to discuss the best practices they can apply to their companies, and develop action plans for professional improvement.

“When we put agendas and programs together, the purpose is to find the best ways to connect individuals. This encourages participants to turn their experiences into long-term improvement for themselves at work and in their lives,” Coulter says.

JP Horizons’ events have helped individuals develop life-long friendships that continue to enrich their lives. This peer interaction is also essential to reinforcing lessons learned and sharing best practices.

“We’ve found over and over again that people learn more from their peers than they do from presenters. The real-life experiences are more relevant than concepts, themes, or hypotheticals. It really connects with people at a higher level and causes them to understand how the lessons relate back to their business in real terms,” Coulter says.

The SMART Company sponsors also form partnerships and bonds with contractors that benefit both parties.

“Each and every time I participate in events such as Come Alive Outside or Face to Face, I have the chance to listen as contractors discuss with one another the issues they are facing in their businesses. Each time one of these challenges presents itself, I look at it as a learning opportunity to hear whether or not they have a solution. If not, I may be able to pass along information I have gleaned from our clients,” says Nanette Seven, a SMART Company sponsor and vice president of Include Software. “We also take this information one step further; depending on the issue, often we are able to come up with a solution and build that into our software.”

Face to Face events have helped companies generate and apply proven plans to develop their people, streamline their processes, and increase their profits.

“There are thousands of examples of individuals who have experienced a JP Horizons event who have gone back to their job and hit a sales goal, improved the performance of their department, or solved a nagging problem,” Coulter says.

This commitment to personal and professional development allows each organization to shine in their market. The results participants generate after a Face to Face event create a better client experience, a more inspiring place to work, and a successful financial standing.

“There’s a direct correlation when you evaluate successful businesses with the development of their people. Time and time again, those companies that are recognized for growing and achieving goals all have employees who are improving and growing their contributions. If the owner invests in the development of their people, that investment is returned by the achievements of the people. If they don’t invest, the people get stuck where they are, and the business doesn’t grow,” Coulter says.

A New Event Experience

JP Horizons recently launched a new type of event experience. The company invited its leading clients to Chicago and challenged them to develop a new way of thinking. Participants were encouraged to throw out their conventional approach to selling patios, maintenance work, or snow contracts and instead sell customers on a lifestyle.

Instead of focusing on one feature in a landscaping program, companies should talk about the benefits individuals, families, and companies receive when they Come Alive Outside. This battle cry to “Come Alive Outside” can help companies make deeper connections with clients, improve the health of our communities, and reconnect families over outdoor experiences.

JP Horizons President Jim Paluch explains why the mission to Come Alive Outside is essential to Green Industry companies’ growth:

“It is a solid foundation to build on. In creating an event that goes beyond just the time spent in a seminar, participants must connect with the concepts being shared at both an intellectual and emotional level. Intellectually, people can see that Come Alive Outside is tangible. They can present it in their sales and marketing to help develop the client base that they want to work with. They can present it to their team in a way that energizes them by understanding what they really provide for the customer. They connect on an emotional level, because the participants clearly see the health risks in not going outside.”

With the battle cry to Come Alive Outside in mind, JP Horizons led 80 participants, divided into five teams, on an educational adventure through Chicago’s Millennium Park. As participants observed the energy surrounding spaces such as the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Gardens, and the Cloud Gate, they discussed what elements of those spaces could be applied to their culture, marketing, and sales. Teams discovered lessons such as the fact that leading companies must create a passion for outdoor play and adventure in their business’ culture. These participants realized when their companies’ teams are energized and inspired by an idea, their energy will engage customers’ interest and passion.

“We try to find a combination of practical examples that people can relate to, challenge them to look into the mirror to see what they need to improve on, and find the application for what they saw and experienced,” Coulter says. “In Chicago, they looked at a site and identified the marketing of that site. Then they took the lessons from that experience and translated it into their companies.”

The Come Alive Outside event generated one of the strongest responses JP Horizons has ever received from participants. They left Chicago with a renewed sense of energy and passion toward growing their businesses with this meaningful message.

“I like the way the education was presented,” says Patrick Dietz, marketing manager for Douglas Dynamics. “Come Alive Outside is such a powerful concept, but it’s so simple. JP Horizons started by introducing the concept, and then they gradually brought it to business terms that each participant could understand and apply in their own way to their companies.”

Leaving the event, participants were determined to develop a plan with their employees, and 11 companies already have reported the immediate action they have taken to share the message to Come Alive Outside with their communities.

“Just like all of our events, the participants connected with the message, because it was relevant and presented in a fun and unique way that made sense,” JP Horizons’ Paluch notes.

Events like this are what connect the participants’ hearts and minds together. “These exercises make it all come together. By engaging in a participative way, your learning goes up and you apply what you learned,” Coulter says.

As JP Horizons’ leaders look to the future of their events, they will continue to energize people to look for improvements in their processes, relationships, and personal development. Says Paluch: “We are excited to continue to develop concepts and techniques that allow participants to feel comfortable in sharing ideas, generating new ideas, and then taking the action to turn those ideas into results.”

Kristen Coulter is the director of Communication at JP Horizons, a company that provides education and consulting to landscape companies across North America. For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.