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  • Writer's pictureConnexFM

A Lasting Legacy

ConnexFM’s Legacy Group aims to provide wisdom and expertise to help drive the association into the future.

By Caroline Heller

As ConnexFM nears a new milestone — its 30-year anniversary in 2025 — a group of veteran members have banded together to form the Legacy Group to ensure that the history of the association and its earlier members are not forgotten while also looking to the future.

A History Lesson

Ron Rau, Phoenix Energy Technologies

When the association first sprouted in 1995, there were seven original founders who formed the organization and signed the charter. In its first year, roughly 225 other members, called charter members, joined the organization. Ron Rau, Executive in Residence, Phoenix Energy Technologies, joined right after they formed the organization and was at the first meeting. He has has been active ever since. About 3 years ago, after speaking with veteran members, he had an idea about creating a group that both recognized the people who had been around since the association’s beginning and allowed those longtime members to still be active.

“ConnexFM has a Young Professionals (YP) committee and a Women in Action (WIA) committee, but we didn’t really have a committee for members who have been around since the very beginning, people who still have a lot to offer the organization,” Rau said. So, Rau went to Bill Yanek, CEO of ConnexFM, with his idea, and soon after the Legacy Group got its start.

What is the Legacy Group?

The Legacy Group is, despite its name, still in its infancy stages in its formation — and one of the group’s first goals is getting itself established. They’ve already started designating Legacy Group members with lanyards at National and Mid-Year events, but they’re hoping to grow. “We’ve been going through the list of 200-plus charter members to find out who is still active, who is still around and who wants to be involved, as well as some past Presidents or Lifetime Achievement recipients to form our initial set of members.” Rau said. “We have a mixture of charter members and non-charter members already on Board.” The group hopes to honor and recognize older members while also providing them with an opportunity to still be involved with the association.

Bryan Walker, Triangle Sign Services

“It’s still in its infancy. It’s inclusive and certainly not meant to be exclusive,” said Bryan Walker, Director of Facility Services, Triangle Sign Services. “We’re still forming what it’s going to be. We want it to be something that serves all of us who have been around a while, but more importantly serves the association and leadership now and in the future.” They anticipate adding members who want to join in the future.

Some Sage Advice

One of the other goals of the Legacy Group is to provide mentorship and offer advice to younger generations. “There’s a wealth of knowledge and expertise within the legacy members to call upon. Most members have served on the Board or a committee, or maybe even served as a President or Chair at one time,” said Lynn Harnishfeger, CRFP, Director of National Accounts, Springwise. Harnishfeger has been involved with the association for over 20 years and served on the Board twice.

Lynn Harnishfeger, Springwise

“The market is changing in the sense of what’s happening in the world and where we are with inflation. But plumbing is still plumbing, electrical is still electrical and the trades are still the trades,” Harnishfeger said. “We want people to know that they can call upon the advice of people who have experience dealing with difficult issues.”

Bob Barnard, The Pavement Group

Another Legacy Group member, Bob Barnard, Director of National Accounts, The Pavement Group, echoed this sentiment. Barnard is a charter member and has been around since the association’s beginning in 1995. “We have firsthand history of ConnexFM and there is a lot of value in bringing that knowledge to the new generation,” Barnard said. “Those of us who have been here from the beginning know it hasn’t always been perfect. However, we have met and addressed those challenges, and, in the end, the organization is much better and stronger for its members.”

Serving Veteran Members and Young Professionals Alike

In addition to the incredible knowledge base that the Legacy Group offers younger members, it also hopes to serve older members as well by allowing them the opportunity to stay active.

“There’s a social aspect to it as well. Just because people retire doesn’t mean they don’t want to still be involved,” Walker said. “One of the reasons for the Legacy Group is to keep people who do want to stay involved, even if they’ve left the industry or retired, involved.” Walker has been involved with association since 2000 and served on the Board from 2013–2017 and as the Board President from 2015–2016. “Once you start getting involved in the organization, you tend to stay involved, because you realize you’re getting so much more out of it than what you put into it,” Walker said.

“I know when it’s time for me to retire, I would love to stay at least somewhat connected to the industry and the association that has quite honestly done so much for me and my career over the years,” Walker continued.

Ultimately, the group hopes to help the association as a whole. “We’re looking to help in any area that the Board wants us to get involved. We don’t want to put ourselves where we don’t seem to fit,” Barnard said.

The Legacy Group hopes it can help today’s and tomorrow’s leaders plan for the future.

“We don’t want to dwell on the past, but we do believe there’s validity in embracing what’s gotten the association to where it is today,” Rau said. “We want to recognize the doers and strategic people who have been helping the organization since the beginning.”

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