A Conversation with Stephen Worley, Senior Director of Communications for the International Franchise Association

Franchising touches every sector in the US economy. 

From hospitality and education to restaurants, hair salons, and automotive services, every vertical in the franchise industry was impacted by the pandemic. As a result, each business will face its own set of challenges as the nation reopens.

However, thanks to trade organizations like the International Franchise Association, franchising is more than an economic through-line. Rather, it’s a community of small business owners dedicated to helping one another prosper, through good times and bad.

As a testament to the community’s strength, the IFA recently released The Franchise Reopening Blueprint, a series of best practices drawn from franchise professionals across nine different sectors.

IFA Senior Director of Communications Stephen Worley joins us to discuss the industry’s path to recovery.

Reopening with the Brightest Minds in Franchising

How did the IFA develop such a comprehensive Blueprint so quickly?

A comprehensive document drawn from experts across nine different business sectors, the Franchise Reopening document is your guide to safely welcoming your clients back.

Stephen Worley Thanks to our unique and broad membership, the IFA was able to bring together the biggest names and brightest minds across different franchise sectors to develop a series of best practices to help franchises safely reopen. Over a two week period the IFA hosted conference calls and virtual meetings with CEOs, brand executives, franchisees, and outside experts to assemble recommendations based on business sectors.

From there we compiled what different brands were doing while incorporating advice from outside experts into a sector-by-sector document of best practices. However, I do want to be clear that The Franchise Reopening Blueprint isn’t intended to supersede any sort of federal, state, or local regulations. This Blueprint is intended to help franchises reopen and ensure the safety of their employees and customers.

What are some of the biggest challenges in the months ahead?

Stephen Worley I think the public will expect, and rightly so, that the businesses they visit will take these enhanced safety precautions very seriously.

One issue we’re tracking very closely is liability protections for businesses who make concerted good faith efforts to implement new cleanliness and safety procedures. What we’ve seen across the country is the plaintiff’s bar has been filing or preparing suits alleging that someone can trace an infection to a specific location, which is a challenging thing to prove.

Improving the Solution

How does the Paycheck Protection Program impact reopening the franchise industry?

Stephen Worley The Paycheck Protection Program has helped a lot of businesses, but there are a number of fixes that need to be made.

The IFA is focused on amendments to the repayment structure, which doesn’t work for many businesses, particularly ones that are fully closed. Those businesses would have to start repaying a loan before they are able to reopen, which is a challenge.

And there are other elements, such as the condition that 75% of your loan expenses go to payroll, and the remaining 25% goes to everything else. That might not work if you’re a business where only 54% of your expenses are payroll, or 43%, because you still have to pay rent and utilities. You still have to pay all these other expenses to keep your business operating beyond payroll.

Reopening the Franchise Industry Together

What have you learned from this experience that’s inspired you?

Stephen Worley The level of community, vision, and purpose out of IFA lately is tremendous. The Franchise Reopening Blueprint is proof of that. You see information, best practices, and tip sharing across different business sectors—even between businesses that may be competitors.

All of our members, staff, and Board of Directors really pulled together and volunteered their time, expertise, and talents to help the franchise community get through this. That’s incredibly heartening to see.

IFA leadership and staff stand united (though physically apart) on reopening the the franchise sector.

Beyond that we have a Franchising Gives Back program, where we highlight the good work that the franchise owners and franchisees do around the country. That section features stories ranging from massive corporate initiatives to mom and pop franchisees doing something to help.

I wish more people knew about the role that these small franchise businesses played in giving back to their communities. Whether it’s partnering to 3D print masks, delivering food to hospitals, or printing signs for free or at cost to help businesses get their message out.

Get Involved, Stay Involved

What should members be doing to help?

Stephen Worley This is the right time to make the most of your IFA membership. Whether that’s watching the IFA webinars on business operations and best practices, or participating in one of the 70 tele-town halls with members of Congress.

One of the best ways to make the most of your IFA membership is to join the Franchise Action Network, which is our grassroots arm. Simply go to franchiseactionnetwork.org and sign up. It’s free, easy, and the best way to stay in the loop on everything happening in Washington and around the country. The IFA is a great organization and you get as much out of it as you put in.

This is a tremendous amount of activity across such a multitude of fronts.

It’s been a real whirlwind. The franchise community is one of the harder hit sectors from the pandemic. All these different lines that franchise, from restaurants and retail to personal and business services, have either partially or fully shut down. As a result, government assistance and knowing where future relief is coming from is incredibly important.

From the beginning we’ve been in the middle of every policy discussion from the President down to mayors and city council members. We intend to stay in that mix for as long as this takes.

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