How Krisjan Berzins Found Leadership-Focused Education

Attending industry events has always been important to Krisjan Berzins, founder of Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape in Alexandria, Virginia. However, it isn’t easy finding seminars that pertain best to specific needs when many events cater to the masses. That’s why when Berzins came across NALP’s Leadership Academy event, he was intrigued. It was an event with leadership-focused education, specifically geared toward leaders. And it was industry-specific, too.

After attending last year’s event, Berzins felt “energized.” In fact, he enjoyed the event so much, he plans to attend again next year.

We asked Berzins to share what he learned from the Academy.

Leadership-Focused Education Lesson #1: Expect a High-Level Point of View

First and foremost, Berzins says landscape business owners should know Leadership Academy isn’t your typical industry event. This is not the type of event where they talk about routing or equipment purchases. He says at Leadership Academy you hear from some of the country’s best professors and receive an “executive point of view.”

Krisjan Berzins talks about leadership-focused education.
Krisjan Berzins

“You’ll be working with professors who teach some of our nation’s best and brightest. They’re going to bring a very different perspective to business,” Berzins says. “It’s very thought-provoking and there’s a lot of theory involved. We looked a lot at the future of our industry—and of business in general. We also looked at where things are headed in the world. I left there with a fresh perspective on business.”

Leadership-Focused Education Lesson #2: Expect to Learn from Tomorrow’s Leaders

Another valuable aspect of Leadership Academy was hearing from students, says Berzins. At last year’s event, a round table of students talked about what they were looking for in employers. As many know, the tides have shifted, and today’s businesses need to groom potential hires—not the other way around. So, Berzins says it was helpful to hear from young people expressing what they value in the workplace.

“A lot of them talked about wanting to feel appreciated at their jobs and that they weren’t there just to earn a paycheck,” Berzins says. “It’s definitely a different mentality from just saying ‘I need a job.’ Today’s younger generations really want a workplace where they feel like they’re making a difference and that the company they’re working for is making a difference. That’s made us reflect on some changes we could make at Kingstowne to be more appealing to young people.”

In general, Kingstowne says a big takeaway from the event was the fact that now is the time to embrace a younger workforce. This includes grooming students right out of high school who might want to make a long-term career out of the landscape industry.

“The fact is, the demand for our services is increasing but our supply of labor is decreasing so we need to change something,” Berzins says. “We’ve been complacent in sticking to the same labor force for many years now, but that’s dwindling. Now is the time to see how we can encourage young people to come work for us.”

Leadership-Focused Education Lesson #3: Expect to Learn about Yourself

After completing a personality exam and exploring the answers, Berzins says he also got a very introspective look at his management style and his personality at the Leadership Academy. Some of it he says he already knew. Other things he learned were surprising.

“I got some ideas about the ways I manage my business. Some were strong suits and explained why I succeed in certain areas. Others were flaws and things I should consider working on if I want to be better,” he says. “It was very interesting.”

In order to get the most out of the event, attendees must come with an open mind, Berzins says. Expect to hear from folks who are outside of the industry and have a different way of thinking. They will offer fresh ideas and provide what Berzins calls a “10,000-foot view.” This is an event for “big-picture thinking.” Berzins left with lots of ideas he plans to implement over the next five, 10 and 15 years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Leadership Academy is being held Sept. 16-18 at Cornell University’s S.C. Johnson School of Business. Learn more here.

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