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Member Exchange Networks (M.E.N.)

It has been nearly 1-1/2 years since the formation of the first CFA Member Exchange Network (M.E.N.) group. Representatives from CFA member companies in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Illinois met in Waterloo to exchange information about how their companies operate, their challenges, their solutions, and the state of the industry. Since then they have met two more times and the date of their next biennial meetings has already been set.

While non-disclosure agreements were signed prior to the first meeting, in-depth discussions only occurred after people became comfortable sharing how they operate their businesses. This can take several meetings. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of information to discuss. Everything from implementation of new technologies to bonus plans and personnel issues have been on the agenda for meetings. M.E.N I, the name I have given this group until they come up with their own, is now operating on their own.

They determine the meeting times, agendas, whether or not they want to let others participate in their group and all other aspects of the effort. CFA assists in the formation of the groups and can provide programming support where feasible.

CFA members have always been generous in sharing their experiences, both good and bad. If someone makes a mistake, they would like to make sure that others in our network don’t do the same. Likewise, if they have a tip or technique that can save time or money, they share that information with other members. The current effort on Fall Protection is a classic example of a small group of members sharing their experiences and work on an issue with the entire organization. The M.E.N concept takes the informal discussions that occur at the annual conventions and board meetings to the next level in a structured environment. It has the potential to involve more members and for them to interact at a time of their convenience and discuss subjects of their concern. The relationships developed within these groups often extend beyond the scheduled meeting times.

There is interest from CFA members in the Northeast and Ohio to establish additional M.E.N groups so we looking to start M.E.N II and M.E.N III in the near future. It takes a minimum of 5 non-competing companies to start at group but 6-8 is the ideal number. More than that number makes it nearly impossible to get meeting dates agreed upon.

The CFA serves as a facilitator and support network to get the groups started. We have a standard non-disclosure agreement, sample agenda, suggestions for running and scheduling meetings and a host of other ideas for starting a group. We also act as a clearing house for those interested by checking with potential members regarding non-competition and whether or not participants can work with each other. Once the group is started, they are on their own.

If you have interest in participating, please give me a call or send me an email at If there are a large number of competing contractors in a given region, a second group may be organized.

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