Three Important Things I Learned at 'The Great Escape'

Vegas is stranger than I remember, you can go "anti-social" for a couple days and not implode, and landscape contractors have a tough, tough job.

I dropped in on my first PLANET Great Escape conference in Las Vegas February 21-22. I'd never been to this event, which is designed for company leaders to pick up some self-improvement tips while also enjoying some R+R.

It was great to see two good friends of mine, Jim Paluch and Tony Bass, on the schedule of featured speakers. While I was unable to stick around for Tony's workshops on Saturday morning, I did catch Jim's presentation on Come Alive Outside Thursday. I've been on board with that concept since its inception a couple of years ago. It was great to see how some of the industry's leaders in PLANET seemed to take to the concept, as well. I'm anxious to see how Come Alive Outside now evolves in 2013.

I also enjoyed listening to Janine Driver, a body language expert who demonstrated the importance of things like posture, facial expressions and other non-verbal communications. These things are incredibly important in not only sales situations with clients, but also when dealing with employees. The Behavioral tendencies of both managers and their subordinates can make or break a company's culture.

Great Escape nearly turned into the Great Lockdown, though. A shooting near the host hotel, The Cosmopolitan, had traffic snarled and many on edge early in the event. But things settled down and went back to normal—well, normal by Las Vegas standards, I guess.

Here are three things that have really stuck with me from this event.

Las Vegas is strange. Now granted, I'm a simpleton from a small town in Wisconsin and not much of a gambler or partier, but in years past I always enjoyed getting out and walking on The Strip to check out "the sights," so to speak. Well, this time some of the sights kind of freaked me out. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Going "anti-social" for a day or two is OK. No, I don't mean I locked myself in my room and didn't talk to anybody. I'd just made a decision to not check email or social media until the morning I got back home. I wanted to give my full and undivided attention to the conference, just like we all used to do 10 years ago. It was kind of nice. And you know what, I really didn't miss anything. Our magazines and website were still here when I returned, my wife was alive, my house didn't burn down ... everything was just hunky dory.

Landscapers have a tough job. Landscape company owners deal with a lot. They are under a lot of pressure and are forced to wear several different hats. This pressure gets the best of many. It even gets the best of the best sometimes. The Great Escape seems like a great place for leaders to go in order to rejuvenate and enhance their knowledge base. That learning takes place not only while listening to the guest speakers, but by speaking with other contractors from around the country. If you don't attend Great Escape or other events like it, perhaps you should consider it.