A Compelling Advocate
Even during his childhood, Chip Kunde ’87 had a love of politics, government, and history. “But little kids don’t think about becoming lobbyists when they grow up,” he says. “Actually, I wanted to be an architect, then I realized it required math.”
“The business touches government frequently, and it’s my job to make sure we have folks we can talk to when we have an issue that needs to be addressed.”
For the last 25 years, Kunde has worked in governmental relations, lobbying for the food and restaurant industry. Since April 2015, he’s been at Sysco Corporation, where he is the Vice President for Governmental Relations in Washington, D.C. “I’ve lobbied at the state level, at the national level. I’ve done work internationally,” he says. “All are different because of different processes and cultures. This work is perfect for me.”
Some of the issues Kunde negotiates include transportation, trade, tariffs, and taxes. “Many aspects of our business are regulated by the local, state, and federal government — everything from the trucks we drive, the employees we have, the buildings we operate,” he says. “The business touches government frequently, and it’s my job to make sure we have folks we can talk to when we have an issue that needs to be addressed.”
As an advocate for Sysco, it is Kunde’s responsibility to position himself as a knowledge partner to deal with ever-changing legislation. “The really neat thing about it is that there is not any one day that is exactly the same as the day before,” he says. He may spend days researching a piece of legislation, only to come to Congress and discover that the issue has been completely upended or dissolved. “There are definitely times that we may not see eye-to-eye on an issue, or you are dealing with a very emotional issue,” he says. His personal strategy for resolving conflict is “finding the way to ‘yes.’”
Maintaining balance and alacrity in policy negotiations requires Kunde to be both an apt communicator and conciliator. He credits UF with serving as a “launching pad” for his career. In addition to majoring in political science and government, he also actively participated in student government and Phi Kappa Psi.
Kunde says communication skills hold the utmost importance. “Also, get involved in organizations outside of your field,” he says. “What I do is about issues, but it’s really about relationships. Learning the skills to develop relationships and being able to engage one-on-one in groups is important to becoming a compelling advocate.”