Buckle Up and Bear Down
ConnexFM2023 speaker Mandy “Bear” Rennehan shares her path to success and accomplishments in the facilities industry.
By Scott Mason
Mandy “Bear” Rennehan, Blue-Collar CEO™ and Founder of Freshco.ca (not to be confused with the Canadian supermarket chain), and HGTV Host, Designer and Contractor on “Trading Up with Mandy Rennehan,” grew up in the small town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, with dreams of something bigger. “I was always fascinated with [building] structure,” she said, “And to continue on that path, I came to the realization that I had to get out of there.”
Looking for work in the trades fresh out of high school, Rennehan said she started out with no money and no experience, cold calling potential employers to ask if she could work for free. “They’d hang up the phone on me because they thought I was crazy,” she joked. “I would call them back and say, ‘Listen, I know it seems strange, but you’re going to like me, and I’m going to add value to your organization.’”
Armed with sheer determination, Rennehan worked her way through the construction and facilities industry to where she is today — a successful CEO, a writer and TV personality. “My whole company and career were built on word of mouth and work ethic,” she said. “These greys [hairs] are very well-earned.”
At the ConnexFM2023 National Conference, Rennehan is scheduled as one of the event’s keynote speakers and will share her wealth of knowledge and advice for other facilities professionals to help them grow in their careers.
The Blue-Collar CEO
One of Rennehan’s distinguishing qualities is being able to work both sides of the desk — skills that have earned her the moniker of “The Blue-Collar CEO™” amongst her peers and colleagues. “I’ve always said that one of our greatest gifts is what comes out of our mouth and how we project it,” she said. “And what I started to realize is I wasn’t just great on the ground and on the job sites, but I was great in a corporate boardroom. I was authentic and I didn’t know any other way to be.”
Realizing this innate ability, Rennehan has made it one of her missions to bridge the gap between the C-suite and tradespeople. Even though facilities departments are one of the largest capital spends by almost every corporation, many executives have no idea what actually goes into repairing and maintaining the buildings they own. “I really noticed just how little [executives] understood about the word ‘facilities,’” Rennehan said. Getting these two groups to communicate and work in sync with one another is paramount to the success of any facilities program.
Recruiting the Best of the Best
Everyone knows the facilities management industry is staring a labor shortage problem right in the eyes. An aging established workforce combined with changing work habits has left the industry scrambling to hire for roles that were once easily filled. Savvy facilities professionals know that to feed a market hungry for fresh and skilled talent, they must broaden their horizons on who they’re recruiting.
Rennehan explained that, in her opinion, diversity means everyone has access to the same opportunities, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. “I don’t think it’s because opportunities weren’t there,” she said, “It’s just that when people see others who are all the same color, the same gender, standing in a room, they think to themselves, ‘Do they really want me in there?’”
Rennehan wants people to know that the answer is a resounding “yes” — if you have the skills and smarts for the job. “At the end of the day, no matter what group you belong to, talent is talent,” she said. “I just believe in good people. I want to simplify what diversity and inclusion means in the workplace.”
Trades Take the Stage
As Rennehan rose through the industry ranks, her frank yet fun demeanor led to more public-facing engagements, including HGTV Canada producing a TV show with her as the host. “Trading Up with Mandy Rennehan” aired its first season in 2022 and is available on Hulu for U.S. residents. It’s set in her hometown of Yarmouth, giving back to the place where she first realized her love for buildings and structures.
“Trading Up” features Rennehan performing renovations on three residential properties she purchased in Yarmouth, bringing on three apprentices to train and mentor throughout the season. She said she wanted to highlight the actual tradespeople involved in a renovation instead of the designers. “Because who do you think actually does the work?” she asked. “It’s really about highlighting the trades behind all these beautiful reveals that you see [on renovation shows], and that’s why the show has been so popular.”
Rennehan said that plans for a second season are already underway. Beyond her passion for highlighting the trades, she is also proud of the fact there is no manufactured drama on air. “I don’t have to make up drama — in residential construction, it happens all on its own,” she joked.
Leading the Right Way
As a longtime and influential member of ConnexFM, Rennehan is excited to have the opportunity to speak at the ConnexFM2023 National Conference in April. She plans to share with attendees what has worked for her career and advice on how to move the industry forward.
The title of her keynote, “The Relatable Leader, Are You One?” speaks to her electric personality and how people gravitate to her style of leadership. “Being a relatable leader, or how you authentically project as a leader, is really how you’re able to garner interest into who you are and what you’re trying to sell,” she said.
Another goal, as she cheekily stated, is “flushing corporate constipation.” Instead of keeping the status quo, companies need to evolve to make opportunities in the facilities industry fresh and engaging. “Everybody in that audience is going to want to know two things: How do I attract talent, and how do I keep them?” The answer, according to Rennehan, is authenticity and being as true to yourself as possible.
If you’ll be in Dallas for ConnexFM2023, make sure you’re in attendance to hear Rennehan speak at the annual Awards Luncheon — you won’t regret it!