The new chief executive of the Franchise Council of Australia, media and communications professional Steve Wright, takes up the role on 8 January 2008.
He arrives at a tricky time for the franchising industry. Franchise inquiries are about to get underway in Western Australia and South Australia, following agitation by Jack Cowin’s Competitive Foods, the KFC franchisee in WA.
The inquiries have been welcomed by many franchisees in the industry who perceive a lack of justice for franchisees in many of the big, as well as small, franchise systems, but criticised by the Franchise Council of Australia for being an inappropriate response because franchising is currently regulated at a federal level.
The Franchise Council, previously led by former parliamentarian Richard Evans, has been criticised for its lack of representation of franchisees, given that the vast majority of its members are franchisors.
Wright, who is currently a director of Gavin Anderson & Company, a strategic communications firm, says it’s too early for him to talk about the outlook for 2008.
But, he says: “There are obviously some very important issues before the industry… the inquiries in WA and SA. And we are going through some change at the organisation aimed at making the body more representative of all the parties to franchising.”
He says that his appointment does not represent a shift in the FCA’s priorities. “The organisation is in a good strong position, although there could always be improvements. The industry is working well. But there are always ways to make sure the relationships work as best as they possibly can.”
Wright has no direct franchising experience, but he denies it’s a disadvantage in his new role. “There is an abundance of directly industry related experience on the board of the Franchise Council. That is where I will take my direction… and there is a skilled administration centre doing a good job of supporting members’ needs and requests.”
He says the breadth of his experience across industry representation and understanding of small business from his experience are his strengths.
Before joining Gavin Anderson & Co, Wright was director of stakeholder relations at Hutchison Telecoms, director of public affairs for Cable & Wireless Optus and spent more than eight years at Telstra in public relations and marketing communications roles.
He and his wife are directors of a small information technology and media consultancy. “I’m very familiar with challenges of small business. I am in involved in one myself. It’s not unfamiliar territory.”