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IFA was a shoo-in on Capitol Hill


When I’m riding a bike or trying to run, I hate hills. But when it’s Capitol Hill, I don’t mind climbing to new heights. As long as I’m wearing comfortable - but cute - shoes.

I don’t believe you can talk sensibly to your representatives about the issues that affect your business if your feet are killing you. And I don’t think they’ll respect your opinions if your footwear isn’t killer.

Shoes are important on Capitol Hill. If Dawn Kane, president of Hot Dish Advertising, had worn closed-toe shoes when she visited Senator Al Franken’s office during IFA’s Public Affairs Conference in September, she would never have had one of the Senator’s staff literally kissing her feet.

Franken (D-MN) wanted an office dog, so Momoko “Peach” Soltis, his labor and economic counsel, brings her dog to work. The cattle dog abandoned his stuffed mallard duck in order to lick Dawn’s feet as he lay under the conference table, listening to his boss. Unlike his boss, the dog has trouble keeping a foot out of his mouth.

Dawn’s next visit wasn’t as much fun. After grabbing a taxi ($8) to rush from Franken’s office in the Senate building to an appointment with Rep. Michele Bachmann, Dawn, John Fitzgerald of Gray Plant Mooty and I were stood up by her. IFA’s staff was asked to reschedule the meeting to 5:30 p.m. (well into the cocktail hour simultaneously occurring in the Longworth House Office, I might add) if we wanted to meet with her personally. The funny thing is, the three of us had the feeling Bachmann was actually in the office, but just not taking the time to meet with us. In fairness, Jason Straczewski, IFA’s director of government relations, did warn us there was no guarantee she would actually show.

Unfortunately, two of her regular staff members had left and the aide filling in wasn’t up on the issues. He apologized several times and took diligent notes, but I felt sorry for John and Dawn, who at their billable rates were investing a lot more in the conversation than they were getting back. John had quickly looked up Bachmann’s voting record on IFA-supported issues and noted she was 100 percent with IFA’s agenda.

At one point in the conversation with her aide, we could have sworn the woman who poked her head around the partition and then quickly retreated was the Congresswoman herself. But we could have been wrong. Michele Bachmann wouldn’t do anything quirky like that - would she? (Be sure and read the November/December issue of Franchise Times for the story behind the visit to Franken’s office. It was the talk of the reception.)

IFA’s senior vice president of government relations, David French, referred to the event as “Take your association to work day.” About 500 people attended, including the Franchisees of the Year, up from around 400 last year (attendees, not award winners). Chuck Todd, chief White House correspondent for NBC News, was the keynote speaker. Although he presented a multitude of interesting information about the political climate, one attendee afterward complained that it really bugged him that Todd hadn’t finished his sentences before going on to the next thought. I told him it was too bad IFA hadn’t also booked Todd’s wife. A good wife can always finish her husband’s sentences for him.

Another attendee I was chatting with commented on how relaxed IFA Chairman Ken Walker looked on stage. “He’s really funny,” he said. The consensus is that the closer Ken gets to the end of his term, the more relaxed and therefore, the funnier he will become. I’m planning on shadowing him at the 2011 convention in Vegas - he’s already pretty candid, but think about how relaxed he’ll be when he turns over the reins to Jack Earle, the third franchisee to lead the association.

After an afternoon visiting representatives, some of the well-heeled crowd celebrated at Central Michel Richard for the annual FranPAC fundraiser. Great food and exceptional conversation is always a good way to end a day of thinking on your feet.

Every trade association seems to be preaching the same method of interaction with staff and representatives: kiss them, slap them, kiss them. But the slaps are really just reminders of bills and positions they should be supporting to help small business. No one is supposed to argue.

Here’s some of what I learned during my time in D.C.:

  • When you return to the same restaurant a year later, don’t expect to find the jacket you left the last time you attended the FranPAC dinner waiting for you. Someone at Goodwill has a really nice jacket and I have a skirt without a mate.
  • Don’t hang out in the hall chatting when the Economic Impact of Franchised Businesses is being announced. When the speakers asked from the podium if there was any press was in the room, I missed my one-and-only chance to stand up at an IFA meeting.
  • I’m much more patriotic than the average American. I spend, rather than hoard my cash.

Executive Editor
Nancy can be reached at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com


Little known facts about  two well-known people

Scott Haner, director of franchise recruiting for Yum!, is following in the footsteps of the Colonel. No, he’s not selling pressure cookers, but he is a Kentucky Colonel. When Scott was a high school sophomore, he knew someone dating a judge, who made Scott an honorary Colonel. Thank goodness the judge didn’t make him wear the white suit.

John Geenen, first vice president of investments for UBS (the guy who looks like Jack Nicholson) was once a monk. After high school, he thought it was his calling, but instead Brother John was called on the carpet several times for noncompliance. For one thing, they expected him to take a vow of silence for a year. “How’d that go for you?” I asked.

“Not so good,” he answered.

Then they wanted him to shave his sideburns to the top of his ears. He refused. When he was called on it, he explained that he had prayed about the matter and that God wanted him to have sideburns.  Who’s going to argue with that?

I could live without the sideburns, but not without talking. 


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