SiteOne Landscape Supply hosted the 24th annual Women in the Green Industry Conference (WIGI) in Tucson, Arizona, on Sept. 19-22, providing tools to increase attendees’ leadership abilities, renew their confidence and build their network.
“All of our attendees, no matter their role, are leaders in this industry,” said Amber Baker, division marketing manager – West for SiteOne Landscape Supply. “Even if they’re not managers, they’re leading with their contributions by coordinating something that other people touch. This event absolutely offers support and actionable education for women to become leaders in their space.”
On Thursday, Sept. 19, 167 women gathered and met with SiteOne’s supply partners Hunter Industries, FX Luminaire, NDS, Belgard Hardscapes, Bayer, Syngenta, NuFarm, Epic Plastics, GPH, Global Syn Turf, Brinly Hardy and Project EverGreen during a mini tradeshow.
Afterward, keynote speaker Susan Packard, author and co-founder of HGTV, presented on the topic of “Emotional Fitness.”
Packard discussed the importance of not only identifying and managing your own emotions but being able to identify and respond well to others’ emotions as well. Her three steps to better EQ fitness are willingness, trust and using ‘We Principles.’ First, a person has to be willing to identify, confront and dispel unproductive emotions. Next, they must build authentic relationships founded on trust and then as a leader, focus on the “we” of the group instead of “me.”
“I think with technology it can be easy to forget your interactions in business are with other people,” Baker said. “Emotional intelligence is especially important in our business, ours more than a lot of other industries, because we’re so relationship based. Even if you’re not naturally a people-person, having these skills can benefit your career.”
Kicking off the next day packed full of educational sessions, Judy Guido of Guido & Associates spoke to the attendees on how to leverage and align in the green industry. Guido encouraged women in the industry to build their own brands and create opportunities in their lives.
“If you want to be heard, you have to use your voice,” Guido said.
Guido pointed out that many of the companies that are the most successful in the industry are competing on a different plane and to be successful, you have to find ways to do things differently from the other businesses. She also touched on how the labor shortage is more of a leader problem than a people problem.
Guido said that if you make your company a great place to work, people will want to come work for you. Because workplaces are a major source of stress and unhappiness, Guido advised leaders to work to remedy this. She added that owners need to invest in their workforce, as smart talent is critical to success.
“Trust and respect come from putting in a real effort to understand people,” Guido said. “Listen and speak from an understanding of the individuals’ needs and mindset.”
Breakout sessions were held throughout the day on Sept. 20.
“Growing Your Business Through Digital” looked at how technology can be used to find and keep customers. The five digital essentials are to know your customer, have a well-built website, create compelling content, use the right digital channels to spread your message and measure your performance.
“Building a Healthy Sandbox” focused on the communication touchpoints both customers and employees experience and how attendees should find the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within their own companies when it comes to communication.
“Using the Voice of the Customer” covered the methodology needed to get an accurate account of your customers’ likes and dislikes and how to make meaningful changes in response.
The session “Serving the Millennial Customer” dove into what millennial customers are interested in and their communication preferences. Some points made are that millennials like companies that give back to the community, they expect a mobile-responsive website and prefer easy payment methods.
On Friday during a lunch hosted by Hunter, WIGI’s longest-running sponsor, women were encouraged to ask five ice breaker questions related to personal and professional growth. Throughout WIGI, there were many networking opportunities, which many of the attendees say is their favorite part.
“It’s an opportunity to build long-term friendships and work relationships, mentors and to hear how other people have succeeded, how they’ve failed, how they overcome those and to take little nuggets from all of those aspects and be able to take them back and put them in their businesses,” said Deidre Eidson, a general manager with Massey Services, based in Orlando, Florida.
Tauny Nevius, a landscape consultant with Eternal Eden Landscaping based in San Antonio, Texas, has come to WIGI three times. She says women-focused events are important due to the support they provide.
“Women don’t process things the same ways as gentlemen do and it gives us other people to lean on but also to say ‘Hey, I’ve had that issue too,’ ‘Okay, what are you doing about it?’ so you get to converse and have some support,” Nevius said.
Saturday morning, Sept. 21, 77 of the women signed up to participate in Project EverGreen’s service project at Kennedy Park in Tucson.
Baker says that since Project EverGreen is a new partner with SiteOne, they wanted to take it to the next level and do a service project with them as well. Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen, says she worked with the city of Tucson and Mike Hayes, deputy director of parks and recreation for the city, to find a park that was in need.
“We always look for lots of things to do because no one wants to stand around,” Code said. “It was just a good fit, him knowing what our needs were and who was going to be here, and this was just a good fit size-wise and scope-wise”
The women divided and conquered, with some picking up trash in the park while others painted worn benches. Women with Hunter Industries instructed participants on the basics of single-stream rotors and then teams replaced sprinkler heads and made sure they were at grade. The team tested the new heads to make sure everything was running correctly.
“There’s no ego in irrigation,” said Christine Hawkins, a specifications manager with Hunter Industries. “There is fact. It either works or it doesn’t, so that is why you always have to test it after repairing the system. You can’t assume it works.”
To bring the event to a close, Eileen McDargh, chief energy officer of The Resiliency Group, spoke on the mental hardiness needed to bounce back from difficulties. McDargh discussed how connections either deplete or give energy, and how to form connections that provide energy.
“I think it’s important to lift up women in the industry,” Code said. “A lot of them own their own companies or some are in management positions. Some are just starting out, but I think it’s a good network to develop for professional development. You get a different experience when it’s just all women, so I think there’s an opportunity to be more honest and you can really share how difficult it really can be to be a woman in any business but specifically in our industry. I think that everybody’s going to go home with a renewed spirit to create change where they can.”