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The Competitive Advantage: The Value of ConnexFM

What do members have to gain from joining the association? Everything—as members will happily explain.

By Kate Rockwood

When it comes to membership in a professional association, the old saying that “mileage may vary” is apt. Some associations are merely hollow collectors of annual dues — empty affiliations added to members’ resumés. Others may attempt to provide support or encouragement but fall short of inspiring their members. After all, lukewarm coffee and lackluster PowerPoint presentations in a hotel conference center don’t get people excited about reimagining their profession.

But then there are the outfits that just get it — what your job truly entails, that is, and what would help you to do it better. If its members are to be believed, ConnexFM falls squarely into this latter category. Maybe that’s because it’s an association fueled by those members — people in the trenches every day, who know firsthand what fellow facilities managers and their partners need to succeed.

If your time with ConnexFM has helped you thrive in your position and you’d like to recommend membership to others in your field, let these enthusiastic thumbs-up from satisfied members be your guide to spreading the word. We asked them to tell us the chief benefits of membership, and these were their gratifying — and glowing — responses.

An Ongoing Education

Melissa Marria, Ulta Beauty

Not only does ConnexFM offer online resources to aid FMs and partner organizations in honing their industry knowledge, but it also bestows educational grants to assist members in obtaining postgraduate certifications and degrees. “ConnexFM’s Women in Action (WIA) Committee obtained enough funding to provide grants for the ProFMI course, the Pro Facilities Management Institute, and I earned my ProFM credential,” said Melissa Marria, Facilities Manager for Ulta Beauty, headquartered in Bolingbrook, Illinois. “It’s something I might have done eventually, but having that grant gave me a push.” And Marria said she highly values the learning and growth that came from getting that credential — and the fact that ConnexFM backed her to do so.

In addition, the association’s annual National Conference offers a wide variety of seminars and eye-opening lectures, Marria continued. “The educational sessions at the conference are wonderful,” she said. “The ones I attend are more on the professional-behavioral side. Understanding what matters to people, positive mental attitude — things you don’t expect to find at a conference.” One illuminating example: “Paul J. Long, the author who wrote ‘Fundamism: Connecting to Life Through F.U.N,’” Marria said, “It’s about improving self-esteem and overcoming challenges for not only yourself, but your colleagues as well. Creating an environment that promotes minimal stress and works towards making sure employees feel supported. Taking stress and turning it into something positive. Especially with what we do, that’s extremely helpful.”

Chris Jernigan, Cushman & Wakefield

Chris Jernigan, Executive Managing Director of real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, agreed. As he put it, “If we’re not learning, we’re not really moving forward. Membership in ConnexFM has allowed me to take a moment to learn more about topics near and dear to the industry — and it’s valuable to hear actual stories versus what you get with a Google search.”

Jason Miller, The Buckle

And Jason Miller, Construction and Facility Manager for The Buckle, said the abundance of available ConnexFM resources makes all the difference. “There are so many ways to educate yourself through ConnexFM,” he explained. “You can go to the ConnexFM website to find great resources to help you expand your knowledge and career, like white paper reports, webinars, best practices and so much more. It can help you with the exact problem you have right now. You can find resources on how to handle that problem and tweak it to your business model. Where else are you going to go to get that free information to help you solve your problem in the moment?” The value goes beyond the problem of the day, however. “It helps you realize you’re not in this alone,” Miller said. “Sometimes you get siloed in the industry, because of the nature of it. But if you stay connected within the community, that will make you successful. Knowing you can just pick up the phone is so valuable.”

Networking Opportunities — and Then Some

Interacting with those in your field is, after all, intended to be the chief perk of a professional association. But that doesn’t mean that attending events or meeting new people in the conference setting always reaps rewards — especially if those events aren’t designed to foster real connection.

With ConnexFM, however, connection goes well beyond talk of maintenance costs and sustainability practices. Here, it’s about getting to know the person as a person, not just as an FM or a supplier partner.

Marria advised that members take full advantage of the association’s vast web of professionals. “Network your little heart out,” she said. “The members have a wealth of knowledge and vast amounts of resources. And it really helps to talk things out. For instance, I have a standing call with some fellow members to touch base once a quarter to say hello and talk about problems, to both socialize and see what we can share to help with each other's challenges happening at the time.”

Kim Goei, Fexa

Kim Goei, President of New Jersey-based facilities management software company Fexa, explained that members have the benefit of vertical knowledge sharing. She points to how ConnexFM evolved from its former name, PRSM, to its rebrand revolving around connections — empowering members across industries to meet and share with each other on meaningful matters. “That’s valuable to all members. They can learn how other industries approach their customers’ needs. And that’s how I’d love to see ConnexFM continue to evolve, by focusing on those verticals,” Goei said.

Jernigan added that liaising with fellow members of the industry can be tremendously beneficial in terms of garnering future opportunities. “It’s priceless,” he said of the chance to network at ConnexFM. “There’s an EQ, emotional quotient, component to getting out there and connecting with people. While the industry is about making facilities safe and welcoming, the same faces show up in different jobs throughout the years. And I often find that I know people well from ConnexFM when I’m meeting with new clients.” That can be a huge leg up in establishing trust.

And Miller further explained the importance of a connected industry. “Over the years, ConnexFM has fostered cooperation in our industry. I’ve seen this change since I first became involved — people have become less down and dirty competitive. It’s become more about what members can learn. If someone helps me, how can I help you? For instance, I can’t use every supplier out there, so I recommend suppliers from ConnexFM to other multi-site FMs. And word of mouth is huge in our industry.”

Smart Strategies for Getting Relevant Issues Right

As companies across the country continue to strive for more equitable workplaces and strategies for making diversity initiatives stick, it’s a critical time to get pointers from those who are excelling at bringing diversity and awareness to their workforces. Goei reported that co-founding and serving on ConnexFM’s DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) Committee has been game-changing for her. “We just did a ConnexFM DEI event with a bingo card, asking us to find someone who was born in a different country, someone who has an invisible disability and so on. There’s acknowledgement and encouragement when someone shares.” That kind of culture can make all the difference. So can talking to those who are getting DEI right. “One of the strategies is partnering with people who are doing it well,” Goei continued. “There’s a strength in numbers. Those who are approaching diversity well have so many insights they can share.”

Along with the DEI Committee, ConnexFM boasts several committees and councils based on relevant topics, with new committees added as industry issues arise. For example, the Women in Action Committee has been working to assist women in obtaining leadership positions within the industry. “To be a part of that is incredible. I have four daughters and have always wanted them to not be held back by their gender,” Miller, a committee seat holder, said. Miller also holds a role in the ConnexFM Foundation. “It’s an impact committee,” he said. “It’s focused on trying to expand the industry — they give scholarships to high school students looking to get into the field and give back to the community.” This year’s IMPACT project selection, Journey to Dream — Kyle’s Place, a nonprofit providing housing for homeless teens struggling with depression, will receive a major assist on a desperately needed facilities update so the staff can get back to doing what they do best — serving our youth. “We don’t always realize how much we can help others through our profession,” Miller said.

If landing a seat on a committee or council doesn’t come right away, it’s worthwhile to keep trying. The value of digging into topics that are driving changes industry- and world-wide? You’re sitting amongst the subject’s thought leaders, becoming a driver of change and making a difference.

A Strong Talent Pool

When it comes time to hire at your organization or recommend talent to a partner organization, belonging to ConnexFM instantly provides you with a wide array of qualified candidates. For instance, Jernigan said, “We, [at Cushman & Wakefield], create jobs for late-career technicians or service providers, affording them the chance to share their experience and expertise in an office environment. So, a plumber with 30 years of experience becomes a project manager or performs quote reviews. Their expertise can tell us whether to patch a piece of equipment or get a new one, and that adds a value proposition to our customers.” He went on to explain that members can very easily find those experienced candidates within ConnexFM.

A Helpful Dose of Perspective—and a 360-degree View

Perhaps the best answer to the question “What can membership in ConnexFM provide?” isn’t any of the aforementioned benefits, but all of them. “For me, there’s no one silver bullet in terms of the value,” Jernigan said. “It’s more of the layering of educational opportunities and collaboration. It’s like college, where you take an array of courses to be well-rounded. With ConnexFM, you find yourself really well-rounded.”

“For me, it’s really been about networking and connecting with people in similar roles,” Miller said. “It’s unique to be an FM and to experience some of the chaos that can happen in stores. I like that personal connection and getting to know who people are, and the more you put in, the more you get out. Get involved in a committee — it really doesn’t take a whole lot of time to make a difference. Make sure when you’re on the trade show floor that you talk to people. People change jobs in our industry all the time, and you never know who you’ll come across later.”

“By organizing myself within ConnexFM and some of the volunteer opportunities, I’ve learned many things I wouldn’t have learned in my traditional career path,” Goei added. “The organizations within ConnexFM have a lot in common. I’ve gained invaluable knowledge from my peers.”

But for Marria, the biggest upside of membership hasn’t been the practical workplace advice or even access to that educational leg up, although they are certainly critical to her success. It’s the nuggets of wisdom she says will always stay with her. “I think the number one thing that I’ve learned with ConnexFM is that the people are the most important asset in this industry,” she said. “When I started out, I thought success was defined as all of the building systems being in proper working order. But I’ve learned that if you don’t have good people or if you don’t treat your people well, you’re going to experience failures in your business. Everyone at ConnexFM contributed to helping me know just how important that human element is.”

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