It’s 3:35 p.m. EST on a Wednesday and Steve Caldeira, CEO of the International Franchise Association (IFA), is sitting behind his desk at the Association’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., breaking from his hectic day to take a call to talk about his future and his past (an extensive resume skyscra).
Much like a chess player, Caldeira embraces the fundamentals but is not afraid of a challenge. One characteristic is evident in his approach: His focus on winning. Prior to joining the IFA, he built a resume resembling the portfolio of a multi-brand franchisee which culminated in a Run on Dunkin’. Caldeira spent nearly 30 years in government relations, politics, communications and fundraising. To say he wasn’t prepared for this moment would be a far cry, as stints on the franchisor, franchisee, political action and trade association sides elevated him higher than any predecessor before him.
The praise for Caldeira’s focus, drive and craftiness is no fluke. When Caldeira was a child he didn’t want to be President, a baseball player or a motorcycle rider. He had a pinpoint focus to help people and make a difference in others’ lives. Naturally, he built a passion for politics with a specific plan to get to Washington.
“All I knew was that I loved politics. I just loved all aspects of politics and everything that went into campaigns,” he said. “I didn’t want to be President, but I knew that if I could get to Washington I could build upon my skill set to make a difference.”
Along the way, he served as Executive Vice President of Global Communications & Chief Public Affairs Officer for Dunkin’ Brands, Inc.; Vice President of Industry Relations for PepsiCo, Inc.; Managing Director in the U.S. Public Affairs Practice for Burson-Marsteller in New York City; President and Chief Operating Officer (and Vice President of Communication & Marketing for the National Restaurant Association) NRA Educational Foundation in Chicago, Illinois; and of course his political and government affairs experience includes serving as political director to Ronald S. Lauder (R-NY)—former Ambassador to Austria, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and NATO Policy, and Chairman of Estee Lauder International—in his bid for Mayor of New York City in 1989; along with positions as Senior Manager of Political Affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Northeast Region) and Political Director for former U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato’s (R-NY) successful 1986 re-election campaign. Add his fundraising experience, presence on many boards, two young children and wife Jane, and you can call that one of the most complex, yet delicious, career cocktails created.
“I am constantly trying to figure out ways to listen, to learn and to integrate. I want to continue to drive the ball down the field and soak up as much information as possible to help support people,” he said. “I know I can’t please everyone all the time, but I want to be the best advocate and spokesperson possible. I am on a mission to protect and to enhance.”
His laundry list of accomplishments makes all of us seem lazy. Yet the modest Caleira isn’t doing this for the glory—he’s doing it to fill his addiction for making a difference in people’s lives through the power of political action.
With title in place, Caldeira is still a workhorse not only behind the desk, but on the tube as well. And though one thing is clear—Caldeira is not a fan of President Barack Obama nor his policies—the two share a similar passion for media exposure. During Calderia’s tenure, which began in 2010, he has plastered the news media with proactive exposure for the Association, placing a keen emphasis on educating the greater public on the importance of franchising and the value of protecting its assets and members.
No one can argue with the fact that Caldeira has earned the right to lead this industry, yet despite the accolades he remains focused.
“What drives me is to be the best that I can be. Each and every day I strive to support my staff and to represent the Association’s membership,” he said. “Accolades will come, but that’s not what it’s about for me. I love working to make a difference. I love being responsive. I love being able to move the needle for small business.”
It’s 4:15 p.m. EST, and Caldeira is just starting his day. This is the man franchisees, franchisors, suppliers and the like want leading the industry. For now, Caldeira is here to protect the future of the industry and support more and more franchisees entering into business for themselves, yet not by themselves.