FDS celebrates 30 years on the franchise frontline

Founded in 1981 by Roy and Judy Seaman, Franchise Development Services has become globally renowned among the franchise community

The publishers of The Franchise Magazine, Roy and Judy Seaman, have celebrated the 30th anniversary of Franchise Development Services (FDS), a company that has helped hundreds of people expand their businesses by franchising and several thousand become franchise owners.

From a small home office in Norfolk, the company was registered on October 20, 1981, and the couple have seen FDS grow into an international operation.

Judy explained that the genesis of FDS was a matter of necessity, as she and Roy were running a number of businesses at the close of the 1970s and decided to find a business with good growth potential. The deciding factor was when they discovered there wasn’t a company anywhere in the world that served the various sectors of the franchise market that educated, motivated and delivered professional services to established and prospective franchisors and franchise owners.

“Part of our research was attending the International Franchise Association convention in America in 1980, and realised that franchising did have significant growth potential and shortly after our return from the US, we received a call asking if were able to help them with a UK franchise development programme,” reflects Judy. “We said that we could and so had our first client, Autosheen, which is still franchising to this day.”

Roy continues the story: “Originally we planned to lay the foundations during the first seven years, expand to a national operation over the next seven years and go international during the third phase. However, word had got around the world so quickly about FDS that we launched our first international franchise, FDS Singapore, in 1983.”

Two years later, in September 1985, the first national Franchise Agreement was awarded to Gordon Patterson.

“Gordon had originally come to Norwich with his business partners, who were interested in franchise opportunities,” explains Roy. “However, Gordon was more interested in what FDS was doing and after we told him that we planned to franchise our business in the future, he replied: ‘Why wait?’ As a result, FDS’ expansion by franchising began well ahead of the timescale we had planned.”

That same year, FDS helped to bring the Domino’s Pizza franchise to the UK, after Roy had been asked by the company’s founder, Tom Monaghan, to conduct a pre-entry study about bringing the business into the UK.

Over the ensuing decades, FDS has helped a whole host of now household names expand their operations including McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Molly Maid and Subway.

“It has been a delight seeing companies grow from little acorns to businesses with franchise branches all over the world,” enthuses Roy.

In addition to seeing other businesses expand, Roy and Judy have seen FDS flourish from a consultancy-only operation to a multi-faceted concern including hosting seminars, producing operations manuals and publishing a portfolio of titles.

With the help of the late Ed Meacham, Roy and Judy created the company’s first major publication, The United Kingdom Franchise Directory. This proved such a success when it was printed in 1984, it won the Aslib Economic and Business Information Group Award for The Best New Business Information Source.

This was followed a year later by the inaugural edition of The Franchise Magazine containing editorial and promotions featuring then up and coming franchise opportunities, many of which are still successfully trading today including Tie Rack and Swinton Insurance Brokers.

The launch of The Franchise Magazine caught the eye of Richard Branson at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Richard had nothing but praise for the publication and just this year, he once again gave the ‘thumbs up for franchising’ after meeting Roy and Judy while the couple were at the Trade Investment Convention in Trinidad and Tobago.

Roy and Judy have always made sure that FDS has embraced new technology and used their publications to act as launching point for a number of websites, starting with Franchise-International.net website in 2000 and most recently three mobile phone apps.

“From the many letters, communications and telephone calls from clients and readers, we have received over the years, we know that The Franchise Magazine has provided an extremely valuable service,” says Judy.

Running parallel with the success of its publications, Roy and Judy expanded the network of FDS franchised offices, with 1999 being a particularly memorable year, which not only saw the launch of FDS Midlands and FDS North in the UK, but also its first European franchise, FDS Spain.

The latest additions to the FDS network have been FDS South East in 2008, and FDS Australia, which started operating in 2011 under the ownership of Paul Wheeler and Mike Fuller, who masterminded the rise of the Cartridge World franchise into a worldwide brand.

Roy and Judy intend on FDS being an important part of the UK and international franchise industry for many years to come. Such is Roy’s dedication to promoting the sector, he has had several meetings with various MPs and hopes that the coalition government will soon embrace franchising as many other governments have done. The UKTI has already agreed to hold seminars to encourage more British companies to export their brands by using the franchise model, as has been done so successfully by the likes of Mothercare, Burberry, Laura Ashley and The Body Shop.

Industry leaders congratulate FDS

“Congratulations on a magnificent 30 years in franchising, it has been a pleasure working with FDS.”
Troy Tappenden, Managing Director, Dream Doors

“A very happy 30th anniversary to Roy, Judy and everyone at FDS Ltd – a fantastic achievement and you can be very proud of your high regard in our industry.”
Godfrey Lancashire, Managing Director, London House International

“Roy and Judy Seaman and FDS were already on the franchise scene when I joined the British Franchise Association more than 20 years ago. Persistence is a quality central to the business of franchising and Roy Seaman is nothing if not persistent. The Franchise Magazine is highly regarded, his ‘franchised’ franchise consultancy business is one of the top established franchise consultancies in the UK and further afield. It is impossible to go to any mainstream franchising event anywhere in the world without finding Roy handing you the latest issue of his The Franchise Magazine and sporting his trademark tie of the flags of the world. Thirty years of serving the franchise community is quite a record. It deserves a most hearty round of applause.”
Brian Smart, Director General, British Franchise Association

“I want to give you and all the team my deepest congratulations – 30 years is a very nice track record and proof of things well done from many points of view. You must all be very proud of what you have achieved. The short-term is easy, the long-term real success. So I just can say a few simple words: ‘Congratulations and thank you.’”

Adrian Soler, Managing Director, FDS Spain

“On the 30th year since your company’s founding, the International Franchise Association would like to congratulate you on your continued commitment to help grow franchising worldwide. Your years of service have proved that you consistently deliver a valuable service to your clients and informative material to your readers that ultimately provides employment and opportunity for millions of people worldwide. Thank you and congratulations!”
Scott Lehr, Vice President, U.S. & International Development, International Franchise Association

“From all of the staff, franchise owners and associated employees, suppliers and customers at Caremark Ltd, we would like to wish FDS a very happy 30th birthday. We would like to extend our greeting to formally thank the FDS team for assisting with the building of the Caremark brand and the business over the years and add a hearty thank you for being a valuable partner in our development.”
Craig Henthorn, Managing Director, Caremark Limited

“Many congratulations on 30 successful years serving the franchise community. Your hard work and dedication is an inspiration to us all.”
Richard Holden, Head of Franchising, Lloyds Banking Group

“Leathes Prior is delighted to wish FDS a very happy 30th birthday. Leathes Prior has worked with FDS during the last 27 of those 30 years and together we have provided expert advice within the franchising industry. Thirty years is a tremendous landmark and we are delighted to be celebrating this with FDS.”
Ed Savory, Associate, Leathes Prior

“Congratulations to FDS on reaching its 30th anniversary.While the heroes of franchising are usually the franchisors who create global businesses, there are many others – consultants, lawyers, accountants and even publishers – who have created the infrastructure that has developed and popularised franchising worldwide. FDS is one of the leaders in this field and you should be rightly proud of the assistance you have given to so many new and established franchisors.”
Simon H. Lord, Publisher, Franchise New Zealand magazine

Written by Fraser McKay