Matthew Haller shares his insights on advocacy and the strength of the franchise industry
Matthew Haller, the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) recently-appointed president and CEO, started his new position with some serious momentum. Having been on the front lines of franchising’s most challenging year, Haller is ready to lead the IFA — and the franchise industry — into its best days yet.
Haller has been a key player at the IFA for the past ten years in several roles. In 2017, he was promoted to senior vice president, government relations and public affairs, holding that position until moving into his new seat as president and CEO. Haller replaces Robert Cresanti who stepped down at the end of his contract on March 31, 2021.
This past year, Haller and the IFA have worked tirelessly to help franchise businesses survive through uncharted territory. The IFA advocated for the industry on many fronts, including ensuring that franchisees were eligible for aid through the Paycheck Protection Program and by leading the fight against the PRO Act (legislation that effectively turns franchise owners into middle managers and increases legal liability for franchise brands).
Haller sees the PRO Act as a major threat to franchising, but says the IFA is committed to keeping it from passing. Although the PRO Act made it through the House back in March 2021, Haller believes it’s unlikely to move forward in the Senate. “Through advocacy and engagement, we will keep the PRO Act at bay,” he says.
The lure of franchising
Like many people in the industry, Haller came from a non-franchising background but quickly fell in love with the franchise model. “There’s no industry that’s more powerful or has a greater ability to influence public policies,” he says.
Born and raised in Washington D.C., Haller calls himself a political junkie, but his intimate relationship with the nation’s capitol goes way beyond politics. He’s a die-hard sports fan who roots for all the Washington teams, including the Capitals, the Nationals, and the (presently unnamed) Washington football team.
Haller came to the IFA with a strong advocacy background, working with associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He says he is a natural communicator and will use that skill in his new role to bring more awareness to franchising. “Most franchise companies look like America…we need to tell franchising’s story and amplify its messages to the right people.”
As the IFA’s president and CEO, Haller will go beyond government relations to give more international exposure to franchising. “This is an area that needs improvement,” he says. “Most people don’t even really know what a franchisor is. People think of franchising as the big fast-food restaurants that are out of reach for most of us. Franchising has so much more to offer — and at lower investment levels — than people realize,” he says. Haller believes that academic institutions will be pivotal in raising awareness and putting franchising top of mind as a potential career path.
Also on Haller’s agenda is a more wholesome, 365-day-a-year engagement strategy. “We need to convene our members more frequently to solve some of franchising’s biggest issues,” he says. “Right now, franchisees are navigating unprecedented challenges including employee and childcare shortages and vaccination issues. Using video conferencing and other virtual tools is something IFA committee and affinity group members will utilize to get things done.” Two newer affinity groups include The Black Franchise Leadership Council and The Franchising Pride Council, both created to promote diversity in franchising.
“Some of the smartest, most talented people in the world are in franchising. We want to hear from them so we can grow and evolve.”Matthew Haller
Increasing the number of its board members is another way IFA will move the industry forward. “Some of the smartest, most talented people in the world are in franchising. We want to hear from them so we can grow and evolve.” Haller credits former IFA Chair David Barr for initiating his “more shoulders against the wheel” movement which raised the cap for IFA board members from 40 to 75. Haller says the increase will make for a more diverse representation of the industry.
In addition, the IFA is ramping up its hiring efforts with senior-level talent. Besides filling Haller’s former position, IFA will be adding several key roles.
Haller is looking forward to reconnecting with the franchise community in person, especially at the 2022 IFA Annual Convention in San Diego. “It will be a great time to celebrate the industry’s resilience,” he says. In the meantime, Haller wants everyone to know that the IFA is working and open for business and he wants everyone to get involved.
Franchising’s unique culture
Matthew Haller loves franchising’s collaborative culture. “The way people interact in franchising is truly unique,” he says. “Even among competitors, people are always willing to collaborate and share best practices.” Haller wants to spread awareness for the industry on a wider scale. In fact, it’s on top of his list of to-do’s for the coming year. He believes that increased member engagement and awareness will ultimately lead to a stronger industry. Here are some of the ways IFA will improve franchising under Haller’s leadership.
Ongoing advocacy: The IFA will continue its mission to ensure franchised small businesses are treated equally and aren’t penalized because of preconceived notions about franchises. Haller sees the PRO Act as the number-one threat to franchising and will continue to halt its passing through advocacy and engagement.
Exposure: Haller wants to create a broader awareness of franchising internationally and as a potential career path.
More engagement: An all-hands-on-deck approach from the franchise community is what Haller says will make the industry stronger. He invites everyone in the industry to share their voices and get involved in IFA initiatives.
Industry alignment: Haller wants to enhance the professionalism of franchising by making the IFA’s Certified Franchise Executive program a priority industry-wide.