Friendships made and lessons learned are key takeaways from this year’s Syngenta Business Institute

By |  December 12, 2019 0 Comments
The Syngenta Business Institute Class of 2019 included: Front row from left: Thomas Slevin, Chris Carson, Brook Sentell, Melvin Waldron, Justin Mandon, Stephanie Schwenke of Syngenta, Ross Niewola, Josh Fuhrman, Tanner Charastecky, Parker Ferren and Tim Busek Middle row from left: Michael Gracie, Ryan Segrue, Paul Hamilton, Ben McNair, John Gold, Dave Marach, Kenton Brunson, Scott Rettmann, Jason Tharp Back row from left: Mark LaFleur of Syngenta, Mark Newton, Kevin Mark, Greg Jones, Jason Zimmerman, Joshua Kelley and Tennesee McBroom (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

The Syngenta Business Institute Class of 2019 included: (front row from left)  Thomas Slevin, Chris Carson, Brook Sentell, Melvin Waldron, Justin Mandon, Stephanie Schwenke of Syngenta, Ross Niewola, Josh Fuhrman, Tanner Charastecky, Parker Ferren and Tim Busek; (middle row from left) Michael Gracie, Ryan Segrue, Paul Hamilton, Ben McNair, John Gold, Ian Schlather, Dave Marach, Kenton Brunson, Scott Rettmann, Jason Tharp; (back row from left) Mark LaFleur of Syngenta, Mark Newton, Kevin Mark, Greg Jones, Jason Zimmerman, Joshua Kelley and Tennesee McBroom (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

For more than a decade, golf course superintendents have come to Winston-Salem, N.C., to attend the Syngenta Business Institute (SBI). It wasn’t an easy task for the team at Syngenta and SBI to select this year’s 26 attendees out of a field of 80 to 100 applicants.

Jason Tharp, Scott Rettmann, Kevin Mark and Ian Schlather serve as representatives from several breakout groups who have to work together to negotiate an agreement during a breakout session at the Syngenta Business Institute. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Jason Tharp, Scott Rettmann, Kevin Mark and Ian Schlather serve as representatives from several breakout groups that worked together to negotiate an agreement during a breakout session at the Syngenta Business Institute. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

It was an action-packed three days for the attendees with sessions on topics such as work-life balance, communication, negotiating and accounting.

Golfdom spoke with a few members of the class of 2019 to get a feel for their experiences and what they’re taking back to their own golf courses.

“One of the most important lessons that I learned and something I will implement in my daily plan going forward is communicating effectively with my staff,” said Michael Gracie, superintendent of Redlands Country Club in Redlands, Calif. “This is a work in progress, but probably the most important thing we discussed.”

For Dave Marach, superintendent of NorthBrook Golf and Grill in Luxemburg, Wis., a session on leadership among different cultures and generations hit home.

Conversations generated during roundtable breakout sessions were a highlight for Syngenta Business Institute attendees. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Conversations generated during roundtable breakout sessions were a highlight for Syngenta Business Institute attendees. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

“Since I am Generation X, it helped me understand how to get the other generations involved, work together and retain them as employees (more for the millennials),” he said. “It taught me what is important to them and how to connect with their needs yet accomplish what we need to get done on a daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal basis.”

Jason Zimmerman, CGCS, director of greens and grounds at Pelican’s Nest Golf Club in Bonita Springs, Fla., said the structure of the educational sessions allowed for a lot of interaction with fellow attendees.

“I really enjoyed the group and partner exercises, no matter the topic,” Zimmerman said. “I was also very helpful to sit next to different people every day to force you to work and/or problem solve outside your element or comfort zone.”

Gracie said the conversations that came out of roundtable discussions were another takeaway, noting “I really enjoyed the chance to talk with my peers about how they do things and why it works or doesn’t work.”

Learning from peers

A highlight of the SBI experience is the number of friendships created and developed among attendees.

“I met so many people that I know I will continue to be in contact with for years to come. The camaraderie during, and especially after the sessions, initiated some great conversations on how many different ways we all work to accomplish the same goals, regardless of location throughout the country,” Zimmerman said.

Melvin H. Waldron III, CGCS, superintendent of Horton Smith Golf Course in Springfield, Mo., said SBI offers “great networking opportunities with like-minded superintendents, where we are also delving into topics that we normally don’t get to discuss among our peers.”

“I thought the camaraderie was great,” he said. “We interacted with SBI alumni on social media, (and) it reminded me of college, where we all took pride in where we attended. We have continued communicating even after we have gotten back to our jobs and family.”

Thomas Slevin (left) and Dave Marach represent a buyer and a seller as they work to negotiate a mock deal at the Syngenta Business Institute. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Thomas Slevin (left) and Dave Marach represent a buyer and a seller as they work to negotiate a mock deal at the Syngenta Business Institute. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Don’t hesitate to apply

The class of 2019 recommends any superintendent who has not attended SBI in the past to strongly consider applying to be a member of the 2020 class.

“I would tell someone who hasn’t attended SBI, apply, apply, apply. It took me several attempts to be accepted but definitely worth the small amount of time to fill out the application even multiple times,” Marach said. “We all know how to manage turf with the changing times/theories (big or small budgets). It’s the administrative knowledge that we are either lacking or need to be brought up to speed.”

Gracie agrees, noting “I would push any superintendent to apply for SBI. It’s a really quick trip, but because of all of the information, you will walk away a better superintendent, and so many of the lessons will carry over to your personal life as well.”

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