Entrepreneurs are generally seen as a creative bunch. With independently owned businesses, they get to exercise full control, from deciding what colors the company's logo will use to branding and product updates. However, once business-minded individuals decide to forgo personal business ownership and invest in a franchise opportunity, they must necessarily give up some control and comply with franchisor decisions.

However, this does not mean prospective franchisees must subdue their creative spirits. On the contrary, many franchise systems like to see unit owners taking action to stand out. Being part of a franchise system merely means that before making any wild changes, franchisees should seek system approval.

"We walk a fine line between squelching the creativity and ingenuity of franchisees and protecting the integrity of our brand," David Lewis, the head of franchising at Express Employment Professionals, told Inc. magazine. "We encourage our franchisees to express their personality without changing the core branding. Some owners in our system choose to set up their offices with traditional desks and chairs in the lobby ... But our blue logo just wouldn't look right in purple just as the golden arches wouldn't be the same in pink."

Just because franchisees are barred from changing the color scheme of a brand's logo, for example, doesn't mean there aren't other ways unit owners can stand out in the marketplace.

One way franchisees attract consumer attention is by giving their operations some local flavor. For example, Natasha Nelson, owner of self-serve yogurt franchise Yogurtini, explains that specialty toppings such as jalapenos that work at her Tempe, Arizona, location wouldn't necessarily vibe with the clientele of units in Kansas City, Missouri, Inc. magazine writes.

Another great idea for personalizing a franchise is through connecting with a unit's community. Franchisees can look for opportunities to volunteer, sponsor or participate in community events, the magazine explains. This can help owners build friendships with local businesses and makes for positive PR.

But whenever franchisees are considering making a change, they need to ask themselves if it will be in the best interest of the system as a whole and communicate with their franchisor.

"Franchisors want to incorporate the best practices of franchisees," explained Lewis. "But if it isn't in the best interest of the organization, you risk damaging your relationship by making changes in secret. View the relationship as a partnership and your franchisor should too."

However, not all franchises support an equal level of creativity and freedom among their owners. Burang Riyadi, a franchise consultant from International Franchise Business Management, told the News Review that franchisees should remember that a franchise system is a bureaucracy and often relies on following procedure.

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