You Belong Here at ConnexFM!
The ConnexFM2023 National Conference provided education, networking and fun for attendees in Dallas.
By Scott Mason
A sense of belonging goes a long way toward happiness. ConnexFM leadership recognized this and made it their mission to provide a secure and inclusive environment for all FM professionals at the ConnexFM2023 National Conference. The motto of “You Belong Here” was on full display as facilities professionals from across North America gathered for the event from April 2–6 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Dallas. Multi-Site FMs, Suppliers and industry experts came together for a week of knowledge sharing, connection building and entertainment — with the largest conference attendance since 2019.
If you were unable to attend, or want to relive the experience, here’s a recap of this year’s event.
Kicking off the first full day of the Conference was the Connex Foundation’s annual IMPACT Charity Project. This year, the Foundation raised funds and items to help Kyle’s Place, a youth residential campus for teens aged 14–19 in Lewisville, Texas. Dozens of volunteers loaded up on buses to travel to the facility to make some much needed repairs and lift everyone’s spirits.
Special thanks go out to ConnexFM, its members and the National Conference attendees for supporting the Foundation’s efforts and making initiatives like these possible.
State of the Association
At Tuesday’s General Session, ConnexFM CEO Bill Yanek welcomed everyone and detailed the ConnexFM 2026 Plan, focusing on four core pillars, or LEAD. “We're going to continue to deliver you a competitive advantage for facility management,” Yanek said. “That's our core strategy, and we're going to do that through a different focus:
Elevating membership and membership offerings,
Accelerating career development and
Developing a talent pipeline.”
Joining Yanek on stage was outgoing Board Chair Pat Bacigalupo, Director Store Maintenance at Gap, Inc., to discuss the current state of the association. “I'm happy to report that the state of the association is pretty darn good,” she said. “Your association is financially strong operationally and investment-wise. Membership began to regrow post-pandemic, and conference attendance is approaching pre-pandemic levels. And the ConnexFM team is fully staffed.”
It was Bacigalupo’s honor to then introduce the incoming Board Chair, Tony DiSpirito, Senior Director of Store Transformation at SEPHORA. He relayed his excitement for his new role, expressing gratitude to members for their dedication to ConnexFM. “Your involvement here is what makes the association so special,” DiSpirito said. “Those of us that have been here awhile know that [ConnexFM] is so much more than an association—it’s a community. My involvement with ConnexFM has helped propel my career forward in ways I could have never imagined, and it’s largely because of the relationships I’ve been able to build with all of you.”
Not only did attendees hear from the incredible ConnexFM leadership team, but two celebrity speakers were on tap in the hours after opening remarks.
Yanek introduced Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw as the General Session’s keynote speaker. Full of energy and enthusiasm, Bradshaw raced through the crowd showing the love, handing out hugs to lucky attendees. He implored the audience to become better leaders by believing in respect, honesty and integrity, and by encouraging their teams to be better in the process. “Great leaders recognize talent,” Bradshaw said. “But great leaders also know how to put that talent in the proper positions to succeed and excel within a company.”
Following a short break, attendees reconvened for the Awards Luncheon and heard the conference’s second keynote speaker, Mandy Rennehan, Founder and CEO of Freshco.ca, share her inspiring career journey. Straight out of high school, Rennehan worked her way up the facilities ladder to become a leading voice and strategist in the industry. “Intention always wins,” she said, “and my intention is to make the facilities industry better and to give it more recognition.”
Meeting and Greeting
Creating connections is the lifeblood of the association, and this year’s National Conference had no shortage of opportunities for members to get together to network and share advice, stories and laughs.
The First Timers Networking Event brought together fresh faces and ConnexFM veterans to show these new attendees just how amazing the facilities management community is. Directly following was the Welcome Reception, offering food, drinks — and even a mechanical bull.
The National Conference continued with more face-to-face opportunities for members. Quick Connects allowed Multi-Site FMs and Suppliers a speed-dating setting to communicate needs and solutions. The Councils and Committees Reception showcased the diverse subgroups within the organization and allowed those who may not be as involved to learn more and join the efforts. And the renowned Exhibition Hall offered yet more chances for mingling and solution sharing. Throughout each day in the Exhibition Hall, the Councils and Committees took turns holding court for meet ups.
This engaging atmosphere fostered a week of collaboration and community, allowing members to head home with new relationships to help them in their everyday work.
ConnexFM prides itself on offering premier education opportunities to its members, and ConnexFM2023 was no exception. If you can think of a facilities management topic you wanted to learn about, odds say there was a session for you. Here are a few highlights from this year’s conference:
Establishing an Effective Supplier Diversity Program, presented by Ciara Lilly with Diversified Maintenance
ESG 102, presented by Tom Kay with SMG Facilities
Reset & Recharge: Experience a Fresher & More Positive Approach to Eliminate Stress, Negativity & Burnout, presented by Betsy Allen-Manning with Corporate Culture Training Solutions
The Rise of Medtail: Convenience and the Patient Experience, moderated by Joe Fairley with Laser Facility Management, and panelists Kenneth Jones with Heartland Dental, Catherine Barnes with Rite Aid, and Jessica Fumo with Visionworks
Using AI as a Smart Energy Strategy in Retail Stores, presented by Omar Tabba with BrainBox AI
THE UNSTOPPABLE YOU, presented by renowned speaker and former Ninja Warrior Alex Weber
And, back by popular demand, ConnexFM reintroduced live trade demonstrations — DEMO Labs — for a wide range of facilities fields. These DEMO Labs proved invaluable information, offering attendees an inside look and hands-on experience on several complicated topics. Included this year:
HVAC Unit Replacement, presented by Brinco Mechanical Management Services and Blue Northern Services LLC
Faux-Neon LED Signage, presented by Triangle Sign Services and Razzoo’s Cajun Café
HVAC Preventative Maintenance, presented by Brinco Mechanical Management Services and Blue Northern Services LLC
Roofing, presented by Pegnato Roof Intelligence Network, GAF Roofing, CP Rankin and Murphy Oil USA, Inc.
ConnexFM plans to expand these DEMO Labs for future conferences and events, providing the best possible experience and education for members.
Ending Things Right
After a long week, ConnexFM2023 attendees were ready to let loose. This year’s Closing Event was held at the Glass Cactus, where recording stars Uncle Kracker and Sugar Ray took the stage and brought down the house.
ConnexFM prides itself on delivering an awesome conference experience and is thankful for everyone who attended and participated in making this year’s event one of the best to date.