Updated: Oct 6, 2021
The CONNEX2021 National Conference brought facilities professionals together for networking, education and celebration.
Over the past 18 months, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on multiple industries, and the world of facilities management was in no way immune to those trials and tribulations. Property closings, store redesigns and procedural adjustments are just a few of the obstacles placed at the feet of FMs and Suppliers, alike.
But through all the uncertainty, ConnexFM was a beacon for facilities professionals, providing guidance, support and — perhaps most importantly — hope. And nothing could exemplify this optimism more so than the CONNEX2021 National Conference, held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, from August 9–11.
The Future of Networking
Over 1,300 ConnexFM members and partners attended CONNEX2021. This year at registration, attendees were handed a badge that included an innovative networking tool — SMART Networking, powered by Klik. The technology, which first debuted at CONNEX2019 in Denver, has become incredibly useful in this era of increased virtual offerings and allowed for easy, touchless connections between members.
The functionality is simple: point your badge near a person you’d like to swap information with, press the light-up button and each person’s profile information will be shared on the Connex Events app. “This Bluetooth technology replaces the need to collect numerous business cards at every event you attend,” said Andrew Serfaty of Klik. “At the end of the event, you can log on to the app and export a list of contacts you made while at the show.”
A Warm Welcome
While members were meeting and greeting using SMART Networking technology, the grand welcome took place at the General Session on Tuesday morning. ConnexFM Board Chair Jordan Campbell, Manager of Architecture Preservation at Bottega Veneta, took the stage and addressed all members of the organization, sharing his enthusiasm at having everyone together in the same room again while giving attendees an update on the state of the association. “In the midst of all the uncertainty surrounding not just our industry but the world at large, ConnexFM already knew what we had to do during those first few months [of the pandemic],” Campbell said. “Your Board of Directors had weekly, and at times daily or even hourly, meetings to secure the financial and operational long-term success of our association. Tough decisions were made … but we all weathered the storm.”
Campbell was followed by ConnexFM CEO Bill Yanek, who discussed all the exciting efforts that the association will roll out in the coming months — most importantly, the organization’s dedication to its digital transformation. “It’s more than just ‘The Daily Grind’ (ConnexFM’s web series), it’s more than a website — digital transformation has to be a strategic play,” Yanek said. “The association must have digital content, and it must be [provided in] real-time and it has to be relevant. If I could put my philosophy on digital transformation, in a nutshell, it would be this: ConnexFM must be a 24-7-365 association.”
Yanek then turned to introduce the event’s keynote speaker, Simon T. Bailey. A former Disney executive-turned author, speaker and life coach, Bailey regaled the crowd with hilarious stories and insightful anecdotes. His presentation was structured around the idea of creating a “SPARK” — five principles designed to enhance a customer’s experience and used to convert them into customers for life. “For anybody who really understands the power of SPARK — how we see [customers] as guests, [create a] personalized experience, anticipate their needs, respond immediately and keep them loyal with acts of kindness — customers will begin to see the brand of what we do in FM,” Bailey said.
In-person and Virtual Education
Throughout the week, ConnexFM offered numerous education sessions — both in-person and virtually — for members to learn from experts in the field.
ConnexFM’s new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee made a splash at the event, donning new T-shirts with the Committee’s new logo and detailing its slogan: the ROI of DEI. Sherry Darden of CRISBY, LLC, presented on what she calls “Diversitology,” or the study of diversity. Darden explained that becoming a better listener and trying to remove learned biases can help you better focus on DEI, and in turn, see big benefits to your bottom line.
The committee sponsored another presentation later in the week about the benefits of applying for DEI certifications for your business. You can access a list of all small business certifications at go.connex.fm/Definitions, and ConnexFM will assist you with the application process.
Education turned to the future with a presentation by Nancy Giordano of Play Big, Inc. at the ConnexFM Executive Breakfast. A strategic futurist and author of the book “Leadering,” Giordano made the case that we are no longer in an industrial era, which will cause the business world to change exponentially. “We’re only 1% into the productivity revolution,” she said, challenging attendees to think about how they will navigate this uncertain chapter in human history.
Aside from the multiple learning opportunities, there was a heavy focus on the in-person convening of ConnexFM’s newly established Councils: Healthcare, Food & Beverage, Technology and Canadian. Three of the Councils were finally able to meet in person after numerous virtual meetings throughout the past year, while the Canadian Council was unable to meet due to travel concerns.
The Food & Beverage Council discussed its plans for future content and educational offerings to members, expressing the need to expand membership and participation in the Council. Also highlighted were how several focuses of this group may be beneficial to members of other FM fields. “Food & Beverage touches so many other verticals at ConnexFM,” says Jason Cherry, Construction Project Manager at Cracker Barrel, “with refrigeration being just one example.”
At the Healthcare Council meeting, members shared specific challenges regarding construction and sourcing, as healthcare multi-site facilities tend to have additional regulatory compliance needs when compared to a typical property. The Council plans on building and reorganizing their content library, bringing together all ConnexFM resources that provide value to the world of healthcare facilities, along with establishing a Healthcare Community page within the ConnexFM Communities. They also plan to conduct a survey of ConnexFM members to determine the group’s goals for the future.
The Technology Council discussed the main goal of the group: To make the lives of customers easier. The Council is currently curating a set of education modules to be showcased on the group’s landing page at connexfm.com, with each member being responsible for writing about a technology topic that benefits the overall membership. Their lead focus will be on system integration and teaching FMs why it’s important and essential to find technologies that can sync with one another, making FM duties simpler.
Staying Active in the Association
There were plenty of opportunities to meet and network with other facilities professionals at CONNEX2021, even for those who aren’t members of a ConnexFM Council.
A Vertical Roundtable event had attendees of all backgrounds mixed into groups to share and discuss challenges they’ve faced in the FM industry. After a rousing discussion, each table stood up and shared their “a-ha!” moment gathered during their conversations. Responses ranged from supply chain difficulties, to adapting to working remotely, to being incredibly thankful members could meet in person once again.
CONNEX2021 also saw many first-time attendees at the show this year, making the First Timers’ Networking event a huge success. New ConnexFM members were assigned to an experienced mentor and were able to ask questions about both the industry and association. Halfway through, new ConnexFM VP of Membership Julie Boggs, MBA, led attendees through an additional networking game to allow the first-timers to further interact with fellow newcomers.
The Women in Action (WIA) Committee held its annual networking reception at CONNEX2021. With a goal of empowering women in the FM industry, members of all genders gathered to support the group and to learn of the recipients of the 2021 Women in Action Professional Development Grants. Those women were:
Dana Dicintio, Steve Madden Ltd.
Melissa Marria, Ulta Beauty
Anne Reynolds, W Services Group, LLC
Jessica Salimbene, W Services Group, LLC
Krystal Vasquez, CRFP, Chain Store Maintenance, Inc.
Association on Display
The Exhibition Hall opened Tuesday afternoon with the ConnexFM Board of Directors gathering for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. With a snip of the scissors, FMs poured onto the show floor to meet and discuss potential business with Supplier members.
At the Connex Xperience booth, various committees held meetups for both tenured participants and for those looking to get involved.
The Connex Foundation, a 501c3 philanthropical arm of ConnexFM, promoted its Food Bank Challenge, imploring members from across the country to give back to their local communities and food pantries. “Our volunteers are what truly makes this group great,” said Brooke Cowart, Executive Director of the Connex Foundation. The Foundation also held a Top Golf charity event and announced the winners of the annual Connex Foundation Scholarships at the Awards Luncheon. Read more about the Connex Foundations efforts here.
The Young Professionals (YP) Committee held a meetup as well, highlighting those FM professionals who will play a big role in the future of the association. “We’re working on creating an official Mentorship Program, along with providing additional resources to assist members who may be looking for guidance,” said Alex DiPietro, Strategic Sales Manager at Herc Rentals. The Committee has put together a survey for anyone who is interested in becoming a part of the program. You can access the survey at go.connex.fm/MentorshipSurvey.
And That’s a Wrap
After an incredible week, ConnexFM members took the opportunity to blow off some steam at the “Adult Recess” closing party. Attendees were able to enjoy refreshments, play games and dance to ’90s and 2000s hits spun by a DJ.
CONNEX2021 was a huge success, bringing FM professionals together to network, learn and innovate. If you couldn’t attend this year, or can’t wait for the next event, don’t worry — there are more events on the horizon. ConnexFM will be holding Connexion events in Orlando and Phoenix later this year. Go to events.connexfm.com for more information and registration details.
And before we know it, it will be time for CONNEX2022 in Long Beach, California, in April 2022. On behalf of everyone at ConnexFM, we thank you for attending CONNEX2021, and we’ll see you again soon.
Take a Digital Dive for Photos, Videos and More …
Visit national.connexfm.com for more coverage of this year’s National Conference, including video interviews and photos from the event!
2021 ConnexFM Annual Award Winners
The ConnexFM Awards Program is the most prestigious recognition for your professional credibility and sets a standard of excellence for others to strive to achieve. The 2021 ConnexFM Annual Awards were announced at the CONNEX2021 Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, August 10.
U.S. Multi-Site Company of the Year
U.S. Supplier Company of the Year
W Services Group, LLC
Young Professional of the Year
Amanda Smith Senior Manager, Business Development, Superclean Service Company Inc.
Lawrence W. Whelan ConnexFM Lifetime Achievement Award
Former Director of Office Operations, ConnexFM