A Q&A With IFA's Government Relations
By Rebecca Chase
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at IFA. I had a basic understanding of the franchising world, but working at IFA made me realize the positive impact franchising has on our country and its economy. I learned that IFA represents 733,000 franchise businesses, employing nearly 8 million Americans and contributing over $800 billion to our nation’s economy.
These businesses facilitate diversity and inclusion by providing people of all ages and backgrounds with economic opportunities. About 30% of franchises are owned by minorities, compared to fewer than 20 percent of non-franchised businesses. Franchise businesses are all over your community- whether you’re grabbing a cup of coffee from Dunkin’, getting your oil changed at Jiffy Lube, or buying a footlong at Subway, you’re supporting your community and playing an essential role in our economy’s success.
During my internship, I worked with colleagues in the Government Relations and Communications departments. Both departments help IFA share franchising’s story with government leaders and the public. I had the chance to interview Stephen Worley, Senior Director of Communications for IFA, about working in these departments.
Stephen is IFA’s Senior Director of Communications. In that role, he leads IFA’s advocacy and policy communications and serves as a spokesperson for the association. Prior to IFA, Stephen served as spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, the U.S. Senate’s largest committee, which is responsible for the allocation of more than $1.2 trillion in federal funding. Stephen is a graduate of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi.
How do you think IFA’s voice makes a difference in government decisions regarding the franchising world?
IFA represents franchising worldwide. We have experience, connections, and expertise at the federal, state, and local levels of government and media, with an interesting window into how the American economy works and how policies affect it. We have skilled Government Affairs professionals on staff, but most importantly, we have members willing to tell their story and put a personal face on what can sometimes be rather abstract policies. Our engaged membership base – franchisee, franchisor, and supplier alike – is an incredible benefit to IFA and franchise businesses around the country. We’re able to combine our members’ enthusiasm with our own knowledge as IFA staff, and make a difference for franchise businesses.
How do you think bipartisanship benefits America’s franchise businesses?
The past decade of American politics has been marked by polarization. The constant swing between parties makes it challenging for businesses to plan for the next year, or even the next decade. A bipartisan approach, when people from different sides and backgrounds work to come to a consensus, can lead to policies that benefit all kinds of businesses, whether a franchise or not.
Is there any particular moment or memory working in Government Relations that stands out for you?
Earlier this year, we faced a challenging franchise relationship bill in Alabama. In short, the bill threatened the franchise business model by seeking to codify franchise contracts into state law. We sprang into action, holding “lobby days” with franchise owners and leaders in Montgomery and featuring op-eds written by franchisees in local newspapers. Our chairman David Barr – an Alabama franchise owner – appeared on Fox News to discuss this bill and wrote a piece featured in the Wall Street Journal. Through our combined efforts, we stopped what was once a fast-moving piece of legislation in a huge victory for Alabama franchises. This demonstrates how IFA’s advocacy efforts can work to coordinate a campaign with legislative lobbying, communications, and grassroots advocacy from franchisees, franchisors, and suppliers, helping shape public opinion and policy to benefit our members.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My day often consists of interaction with IFA members, members of the media, outside groups we work with to advance our goals, or elected officials and their staffs. My role is to coordinate the communications dimension of our advocacy efforts, which means I have to ensure that we’re making a compelling case to the public, media, and policymakers. My day tends to reflect our larger, strategic goals.
Why did you choose IFA?
I started at IFA in May of 2018. I’d worked on Capitol Hill for about seven years before that. Most recently, I was spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, which decides how the federal government spends money. In my transition from the government to the private sector, I quickly learned that IFA is special. IFA members have a unique role as economic drivers, job creators, and community builders. Other trade associations or business groups don’t have that, and it’s a testament to the value of the franchise business model.
What are the major qualifications for success in Government Relations?
It’s important to have a long-term worldview. It can be tempting for anyone working in or with the government to stay down after setbacks or to “rest on your laurels” after a success. Legislation and policy take time – our federal and state governments are designed to move slowly. That means it’s important to be thoughtful and not choose short-term “shiny objects” over your long-term goals. Of course, this pace can be frustrating when you’re working to advance something!
What do you think others should know about IFA?
It’s all too common to lump franchises together and think they’re all “big business,” but people should know about the role individual franchisees, their brands, and businesses who supply the franchise ecosystem play in promoting economic growth and creating jobs for people in their communities. We’re working to get there, but I wish more people had the opportunity to see the passion the franchising sector brings to their companies, their communities, and their employees.
The Government Relations team here at IFA is on your side. I was proud to be able to work with them and I know our members are too.
Becca Chase is a rising senior at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. Her internship with IFA this summer showed her how franchising can help grow the economy, revitalize communities, and provide workers and small business owners alike with critically important opportunities to succeed. She hopes to study strategic communications and political science in college next year.