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Leading the Way

The ConnexFM2024 National Conference offered countless opportunities for facilities management professionals.


By Scott Mason


Facilities management (FM) professionals look forward to the ConnexFM National Conference each year, as it has proven to be the industry’s premier networking and educational event. Held this year at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN, from April 7–10, more than 2,000 multi-site FMs and suppliers gathered to share experiences and advice with their peers — and have some fun while at it.


For those who couldn’t make it to Nashville, here’s what you missed at this year’s event.


Building Connections


One of the most valuable aspects of ConnexFM membership is the opportunity to meet and network with your FM peers, and there’s no place better for this than at the National Conference.

The First-Timers' Reception at ConnexFM2024
The First-Timers' Reception at ConnexFM2024

From the moment of arrival, attendees were met with plentiful opportunities to see old friends and make new connections. Meetups for various members included:

  • ConnextGen and Legacy Council Mixer — This gathering allowed the newest ConnexFM members and the association’s most savvy veterans to mingle and share much-appreciated advice about the profession.

  • Committee and Council Appreciation Reception — ConnexFM extended a big thank you to all its members who volunteered their time for various committees and councils.

  • First-Timers’ Reception — This event brought all first-time National Conference attendees together to ensure everyone felt at home at the show.

Attendees networking at Quick Connect
Attendees networking at Quick Connect

Always a favorite, Quick Connect sessions feature a speed dating-like approach to connecting supplier solutions to multi-site FM needs. And the Exhibition Hall allowed attendees to get a full view of all member companies’ capabilities, capped off by the Grand Prize drawing, sponsored by Lennox.


Down to Business


ConnexFM National Conferences are known for their fantastic speakers, which again proved true at the General Session.


Bill Yanek, ConnexFM CEO, first took the stage to officially welcome all attendees and share the association’s vision with those in the audience.


“As we move through this year, we are going to relook at the strategic ends of ConnexFM and how we deliver that competitive advantage,” Yanek said. "The board will have a role, we’ll include some consultants, and we’ll be including the Connexion100 Committee as well.”


Yanek then introduced Tony DiSpirito, Senior Director of Construction, Retail Facilities and Enhancements at Sephora and outgoing ConnexFM Board Chair, to discuss his experience leading the association this past year. “It's my duty as your outgoing chair to share with you the state of the association,” DiSpirito said. “And I'm really happy to say that the association is strong and continues to grow. Looking back at 2023, membership grew almost 10% year over year, which is a great accomplishment.”

2024–2025 Board Chair Catherine Barnes
2024–2025 Board Chair Catherine Barnes

DiSpirito then had the honor of presenting the incoming 2024–2025 Board Chair: Catherine Barnes, Vice President of Facilities and Energy Management at RITE AID. She detailed her history with the association and how a career change in 2017, right as she was nominated to be on the board, required her to step away from the association. But she wasn’t gone long. “In 2021, the stars aligned, and I was offered an opportunity in retail pharmacy at RITE AID, allowing me to return to ConnexFM,” Barnes said. “When I rejoined, Jaclyn Frenzel called me and asked if I would be interested in running for the board again. I said, ‘Why not?’ I made the ballot and was elected to the board, and now I’m here serving as the Board Chair. It’s been a wild ride!”


Bill Yanek, Mike Rowe and Rob Almond at the General Session
Bill Yanek, Mike Rowe and Rob Almond at the General Session

Yanek then returned to the stage to introduce the participants for the session’s fireside chat: Rob Almond, CEO of NEST, and special guest Mike Rowe of TV’s “Dirty Jobs” fame. Yanek and Almond co-moderated the discussion with Rowe as they discussed Rowe’s rise to becoming a voice for and champion of trades workers across the country. “Stereotypes, myths and misperceptions that surrounded the trades first began to emerge around the same time we began removing shop class from our education [curriculum],” Rowe said. “In the 1960s and 1970s, higher education got a much-needed PR campaign, as we needed more engineers and doctors. [But] we weren't content to merely promote the benefits of a four-year degree; we had to do it at the expense of all the other education models.”


Rowe’s “everyman” persona and his knack for hilarious storytelling made this year’s General Session one of the best in memory.


Above and Beyond

Lawrence W. Whelan Lifetime Achievement Award winners Ron and Renee Prager (center and third from right)
Lawrence W. Whelan Lifetime Achievement Award winners Ron and Renee Prager (center and third from right)

Facilities management professionals and their companies were honored in front of an audience of their peers at the ConnexFM2024 Awards Luncheon. Emceed by Sherry Darden, CEO/Growth Strategist at CIRSBY, and Shawn Black, Regional Vice President of Business Development at CGP Maintenance & Construction Services, Inc., winners were announced for the following awards:


  • Lawrence W. Whelan Lifetime Achievement Award — Ron and Renee Prager, Brinco Mechanical Management Services, Inc.

  • U.S. Multi-site FM Company of the Year — adidas

  • U.S. Supplier of the Year — iVueit

  • Canada Multi-site FM Company of the Year — Best Buy Canada Ltd.

  • Canada Supplier of the Year — Facility Plus

  • Innovation in Corporate Responsibility — NEST

  • Young Professional of the Year — Krystal Vasquez, Branded Group

  • Outstanding Volunteer of the Year — Tom Kay, SMG Facilities 

  • Service Excellence Award — Kirk Beaudoin, adidas


Up-and-coming facilities professionals were also honored by the ConnextGen recognition program, highlighting those under 35 who are ready to make a significant impact on the industry. The inaugural winners were:


  • Corey Godzyk — Amoskeag Maintenance Services

  • Zach Tanner — Painter Bros

  • Eric Palomares — DaVita Kidney Care

  • Dani Smith — Identiti

  • Nicholas Martin — Broadway National Group

  • Kayla Osteen — Brighter Image

  • Allison Schniepp — Cushman & Wakefield Facility Solutions

  • Danielle Walsh — Herc Rentals 


ConnexFM would like to again congratulate all of this year’s winners and nominees!


Thought Leadership


Not to be overshadowed, each year’s National Conference provides attendees with insightful and timely education sessions to better help FM professionals, and this year’s slate proved to be some of ConnexFM’s best offerings to date. Here’s a brief recap of a few of this year’s prominent sessions:

Attendees at one of the ConnexFM2024 education sessions
Attendees at one of the ConnexFM2024 education sessions
  • Be Great!, presented by Kirk Beaudoin, adidas. Attendees were encouraged to unleash their full potential by focusing on the soft skills needed to succeed in the industry. 

  • Asset Repair vs. Replacement Decisions — A Financial, Analytical and Operational Approach, presented by Dr. Clair Nixon, Texas A&M University. An interactive workshop where attendees were encouraged to bring their laptops to follow along, Dr. Nixon shared calculations for how FMs can determine whether it is a part or machine that should be fixed or replaced. 

  • Leveraging CMMS/EMS to Drive ESG Compliance & Data Reporting, a panel discussion featuring Tom Kay, SMG Facilities (moderator); Raj Beniwal, EcoEnergy Insights; Leum Fahey, ServiceChannel; Basant Shingatwadia, Facilio; and Blake Standen, BrainBox AI. This discussion highlighted key features and benefits of using computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and energy management systems (EMS) to help with environmental, social and governance (ESG) tracking and reporting, which has often defaulted to being an FM’s responsibility. 

  • Facility Operations and AI: What Do Retailers Need to Know?, a panel discussion featuring Todd Brinegar, BrainBox AI (moderator); Robbie Drake, Murphy Oil USA, Inc.; Cody Shive, Amazon Web Services; and Joshua Witte, Dollar Tree, Inc. Panelists discussed the factors that led them to embrace artificial intelligence (AI), their decision-making process in selecting AI tools, the outcomes they have witnessed and valuable lessons learned working with this disruptive technology.

  • Beyond the Widget — Building Genuine Connections Across the FM Ecosystem, presented by Sherry Darden, CIRSBY. An education session for the conference’s nonexhibiting suppliers, Darden shared skills and insights needed to forge lasting connections, fuel personal growth and achieve professional success at and beyond the conference. 

  • The Connected Store of the Future, presented by Steve Hoffman, McKinsey & Company. Hoffman detailed the technologies transforming the retail experience, how these advancements are driving changes in consumer behavior and expectations and what retailers can do to stay ahead of the curve.

HVAC Demo Lab
HVAC Demo Lab

ConnexFM2024 also featured four DEMO Labs — live demonstrations providing attendees the opportunity to touch, feel, see and understand the critical components of a facilities ecosystem. Featured this year:


  • Security Glass Film, presented by Isaac Friedman and Sidnee Doogah, NJ Glass and Metal

  • HVAC, presented by Curt Picard, Brinco Mechanical Management Services, Inc. (moderator), and Ken Pantin and Thomas Pantin, Blue Northern Air Conditioning, Inc.

  • Plumbing, presented by Charles O’Hara and Ismael Rios, MaintenX

  • Artificial Intelligence/Building Management, presented by Kelly Jenkins (moderator), Tyler Lemery and Zach Stevens, Delta Control, Inc.; and Steve Hamby and Sandeep Hemrajani, EcoEnergy Insights


If you missed any of these educational offerings or the others not mentioned above, the ConnexFM2024 Conference App offers digital takeaways to help supplement or summarize the session.


Wrapping Up


Country music star Neal McCoy
Country music star Neal McCoy

To wrap up this year’s National Conference, country music legend Neal McCoy took the stage to give attendees a true Nashville sendoff. Following McCoy’s performance Rubik’s Groove, a classic tribute party band, had attendees up and dancing until the very end of the night.


ConnexFM would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s National Conference for making this the premier event for facilities management professionals. And another big thank you goes out to all ConnexFM2024’s sponsors who helped bring this year’s event to life.


Attendees celebrating at the Closing Event
Attendees celebrating at the Closing Event

If you missed the event, join in on the fun and professional development at ConnexFM’s 2024 Mid-Year Conference at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas from Sept. 23–25. Registration opens this summer, and you can visit the Mid-Year Conference website to learn more about what will promise to be another amazing ConnexFM live event!


Check out the ConnexFM2024 photo library to relive all the memories.

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