The seventh annual Atlantic-Oase Professional Conference began Oct. 25, 2023, with check-in at the well-appointed hospitality room at the hotel, multiple tours of the factory and offices, and a welcome reception across the compound on the patio at the Blue Canyon restaurant. The warm, low-key get-together, a perfect introduction to the conference, was for many the first chance to put faces to the names and voices they interact with all year. The 80 or so attendees mingled and chatted with new and old friends and staff in the sunken garden below the restaurant.
After introductions by Jeff Weemhoff, President of Atlantic-Oase, and Thorsten Muck, CEO of The Oase Group, the group headed up the stone steps to the restaurant for a four-star buffet and liberal libation. For most, the evening ended in lively discussions and storytelling in the hospitality room next door — probably later than advisable!
The next day dawned with breakfast in front of the conference rooms at 6:30 a.m., with the keynote presentation by renowned entrepreneur and author Marty Grunder at 8 a.m. As president and CEO of the Grow Group and Grunder Landscaping, Marty entertained attendees with a funny, enlightening and wise look into his journey from very young businessman through years of building his business to finally helping his employees to grow and succeed. After the very well-received address, Marty continued with leading Numbers You Should Be Watching, which was held alongside Advanced Techniques in Water Gardening with Demi Fortuna and Jim Chubb so that all could attend.
The next group of classes included Kelly Billing’s brilliant Planting for Success – The Benefits of Plants, which outlined how plants don’t just beautify; they purify water under the most demanding conditions and deliver results impossible to achieve by other means. Sean Bell presented Diving into the Clear Water Pond System, a seminar on how to guarantee clear water in the backyard pond on a much grander scale. Thorsten, Jeff and Frayne McAtee introduced groundbreaking new lake management technology in Expand Your Market with Lake Therapy, a real eye-opener into the world of large-scale water management with powerful tools that deliver previously unheard-of results in real-world scenarios.
Waves of Innovations presented the latest Atlantic-Oase products and accessories designed to deliver better results with less effort, and in many cases at lower cost. Small business CPA Bruce Downie turned his attention to the dollars-and-cents information business owners need to make decisions about taxes, purchasing, software and applications in Navigating the Deep Waters of Business Accounting and Taxes. B.J. Linger offered timely, valuable advice (and some amazing Texas Twinkies – thank you, B.J.!) in Propel Your Business Forward, an exposé of the changes to the Google Business Profile and discussion of the importance of growing digital business profiles in a changing virtual environment.
At the end of the sessions, all gathered for the highlight of the conference — the naming of the award winners. Anne and Josiah Crusore were recognized by the Monster Award, given each year by Lloyd “Monster” Lightsey in recognition of the terrible impact of cancer and the positive impact of water features on those afflicted. Joel Hilles was named Atlantic-Oase Contractor of the Year for his many years of good work and the close ties he has developed with many on staff in his constant quest to grow in his craft and artistry.
Finally, the President’s Award, given to those who have had a tremendous positive influence on the water-gardening industry, was presented to Randy Stewart of Unit Liner. Randy, a unifying force in water gardening, invited all to attend his Water Garden Expo every year in Shawnee, Oklahoma — even erstwhile competitors! Randy and his family are also exemplary foster parents, leaving an indelible loving mark on the lives of more than 80 children.
After applause and more than a few teary eyes, attendees headed off on buses to Cleveland’s Music Box Supper Club, where a lively evening of local food, live music by the amazing Sunshine Jones Band and dancing — lots of dancing — awaited. Even after returning, attendees kept the hospitality room hopping until the wee hours.
Friday morning breakfast was the occasion for heartfelt farewells and plans to meet up again, perhaps at next year’s Atlantic-Oase Professional Conference!
About the Author
Demi Fortuna is Director of Product Information for industry leader Atlantic Water Gardens, traveling and working with contractors and distributors alike in developing targeted Atlantic sales support materials. Fortuna has over 25 years of experience in all aspects of water garden design and construction, the last ten years in product research, development, sales and product training. When he isn’t presenting complex topics via seminars and lectures in an accessible, enjoyable manner, he can usually be found up to his elbows in pond slime working with his two sons, Edwin and Ely, in their water feature design/build business August Moon Designs.