Steve Romaniello: 2013 IFA Chairman
Steve Romaniello, CFE, will assume the International Franchise Association’s Chairmanship at the end of the 53rd Annual IFA Annual Convention in Las Vegas. Franchising World sat down with Romaniello to learn about his passion for franchising and his priorities for the association in the year ahead.
FW: You have been involved in the IFA for many years, what do you see as the most pressing issues facing the organization and the industry?
Romaniello: Without a doubt it is the economic climate and the inability of policymakers to pass pro-growth legislation that will help the franchise industry, and all businesses for that matter, grow, create jobs and get this economy growing again. IFA has worked aggressively in the past few years to increase our presence and influence in Washington, D.C. and in state capitals around the country. But, we must do more. We reached a milestone last year by reaching over $1.2 million in receipts for FranPAC, the IFA political action committee, that allowed us to support pro-growth candidates that understand the importance of supporting franchises and small businesses. It was a great achievement, but we need to keep the pressure on by increasing the level of PAC receipts even further this year. In addition, our grassroots program, Franchise Congress, has increasingly become an important tool in our government relations toolbox and we need to continue investing and recruiting participants to help get our message to policymakers. Our ability to participate in the public policy process and be successful is by far the most important effort we can undertake as an organization and that will continue to be a priority for us this year.
FW: Besides public policy issues, what other priorities will you promote in 2013?
Romaniello: There is one thing I found in common at every company where I have worked; when franchisors and franchisee collaborated, we were successful. So, improving franchisee inclusion will be an important focus for us. I had the pleasure of working with Mike Leven, who is now the president of Sands Corporation in Las Vegas back in 1988 when he led Days Inn, in 1990 when he led Holiday Inn and again in 1995 at U.S. Franchise Systems. These were the early years of my career and Mike became a very important mentor to me and showed me through his actions that by collaborating with franchisees, everyone can win. For us to be effective on the policy front in Washington and in state capitals around the country, we must have franchisees, particularly multi-unit franchisees, those local constituents in districts all across the country, actively involved and supportive of what we are trying to accomplish. That’s why we are going to turbocharge our franchisee member recruitment efforts. And we will continue to invest in technology to ensure the association has the technological foundation to build on as the way people connect and communicate continues to evolve.
We are investing in digital communications so we can deliver information to members when they want it and how they want it.
We also know that investing in technology is crucial if we are to remain relevant to the next generation of franchise leaders. Digital communications are not only changing the way all of us do business today, but they are changing by leaps and bounds how associations recruit and retain members today and for the future. By making investments in the technological foundation today, we will be able to stay ahead of the curve and develop tools to help our members address these challenges, and opportunities, in their own businesses.
Another priority is centered on the notion that for this association to be most effective, the IFA must become the definitive source of franchise information. So we will continue with all of the research projects already under way or announced, such as our quarterly economic outlooks and monthly Franchise Business Index, but now is the time to take it to the next level.
For example, the franchise industry must continue to be front and center as Congress begins work on comprehensive tax reform this year. So, we commissioned a study to analyze how different proposals will impact our businesses. We expect the study to be completed this spring when we will share it with policymakers, the news media and opinion leaders to position IFA as an important stakeholder in the debate.
FW: Where did you get your passion for franchising?
Romaniello: Even though they weren’t in franchising, I got my passion for the business model from my parents. They owned a paint store in Connecticut when I was growing up and I saw firsthand how hard they worked to make it successful by themselves. There were good times and there were bad times. As I have had the chance to work with thousands of franchisees and small-business owners throughout the years, I often think of my mom and dad who did go at it alone. While not a guarantee of success, I wish my father had the benefit of a good franchise to help him. I know there still would have been highs and lows, but there would have been more of the good for sure because throughout my career, time and time again, I have seen franchising, when done correctly, help to make amazing lives for people, generation after generation.
FW: What is something about you that folks would be surprised to know?
Romaniello: I love what I do today, but my two dream jobs are being the general manager of the New York Yankees and teaching high school history and coaching the baseball team. ⎯
IFA Chairman’s Snapshot
- Chairman of the Board of FOCUS Brands Inc.-2008
- Managing Director of Roark Capital Group-Joined Roark in 2008
- Chairman of Winsgtop-2010
- Focus Brands President and Chief Executive Officer—2003-2008
- Carvel President of the Franchise and Foodservice Division—Joined Carvel in 2002
- U.S Franchise Systems, Inc. President and Chief Operating Officer—Appointed 2000
- Holiday Inn Worldwide’s youngest vice president—1992
- IFA Board of Directors and Executive Committee—Current
- IFA Educational Foundation Chairman—2011
- Awards Committee—2012
- FranPAC Advisory Committee Chairman—2012, member since 2007
- Diversity Institute—2005 since institute’s inception
- Minorities in Franchising Committee—2003-2006
- IFA Ronald E. Harrison Award Winner—2009
- Tufts University B.A., 1988