Who is Tony Urwin? An introduction

In response to reader interest, Tony Urwin (pictured) reflects upon a 35 year career in franchising spanning three top organisations which has given him the wealth of experience needed to advise upon the best ways to achieve success with franchise development

I have been a regular commentator on franchising issues since 1999. I write a regular column in this magazine, speak at Franchise Exhibitions, lead British Franchise Association (bfa) seminars and serve as an industry expert for national and regional news outlets. I thought that, by now, I had addressed every imaginable franchise-related topic.

At least I believed so until just recently. After the publication of the last issue of The Franchise Magazine I received a kind email from a reader who thanked me for helping to focus his mind and see the real challenge in this recession for true entrepreneurs ('Fill in the Gaps', The Franchise Magazine, February/March 2009). He added that he had read several of my columns and asked why it was that I never addressed: 'who you are and what your company actually does?' I went back to review my old columns myself, and indeed, that is one area that I have never covered here. Forgive me, and please allow me a brief, overdue introduction.

My name is Tony Urwin and I am the managing partner of Franchise Development Services North and its lead consultant. FDS North, itself a franchised office of Franchise Development Services International (FDSi), has most of the Northern UK as its territory. This means that we largely work with companies headquartered in the North West and North East England and Scotland, though not exclusively.

As the managing partner, I oversee our two offices (our headquarters in South Manchester and our North East Regional Office in Sunderland) and coordinate the activities of our four full-time staff, two associates and many professional affiliates. Both offices handle franchise development projects of all descriptions. In addition, I take charge of the more challenging projects such as Joint Venture and International Franchise Development Programmes.

FDS North offers a host of services for aspiring, new and established franchisors. For those considering franchising their business, we offer free introductory advice sessions, initial business analyses (a professional feasibility study with the development of a franchising business plan where appropriate) and franchise development programmes (where we define, structure and build the franchise business offering and the business, legal and marketing tools and documentation required).

For new and established franchisors, we offer a full service franchisee recruitment programme, franchise advertising services (with print, web and directory solutions), territory mapping, international franchise development programmes, IT solutions, PR services, and more.

I founded FDS North in 1999, and have worked tirelessly ever since to build and maintain the reputation that we enjoy as the gateway to sustainable franchise business growth. We work hard to ensure that the franchises we help develop are around for many years to come, and that dedication has paid off. Franchises I developed almost a decade ago are still with us as regular clients. As I've always argued in this space, franchising is about building lasting relationships.

As you may have guessed, I was not new to franchising when I founded FDS North. I came to consultancy with 25 years of industry experience. In my previous life, I helped one of the most venerable names in shoes to systematise their operations, franchise their business and establish new franchise owners. From there I was recruited by what is today the largest media and entertainment company in the world to establish a retail franchise network across the Middle East. Both provided me a profound education in the dynamics of national and international franchising and the prerequisites for achieving lasting success.

My educational background is curious but not inappropriate. Born in the port city of Newcastle Upon Tyne, I completed my studies in Naval Architecture. The name can be misleading: Naval Architecture is actually an engineering discipline concerned with the research, design, development, evaluation and maintenance of sea-going vessels. What is franchise development but the research, design, development, evaluation and maintenance of market-going operations? Both must be robustly made and diligently managed if they are to stay afloat. The MBA that I later gained from Strathclyde University allowed me to focus my skills on the intricate business of franchising.

In the next issue, I will introduce you to my fellow consultants and some of our key staff, and allow them to talk to you about what it is they do. I thank you for your interest, and hope to be able to help you with your franchising needs.