Breaking The Mold

Control Issues

One of the biggest issues for a franchisee is control. You've invested thousands of dollars to purchase a business, yet in a sense, you still have a boss to report to--a boss who could release you from your contract if you don't meet the franchise standards. "The negatives in franchising are the flip sides of the positives," says Caffey. "The No. 1 negative is coming to grips with the controls exercised by the franchisor. [But] there are business reasons for that, with many advantages. [Controls have] allowed a system like McDonald's to achieve something of a marketing miracle by being able to deliver a complicated product like the Big Mac, which tastes the same anywhere in the world. They've achieved that through imposing tight product and operational specifications."

When brothers Aaron, Michael and Simon Serruya, founders of Yogen Früz Worldwide Inc., look for franchisees, they don't search for mirror images of their own fiercely independent natures, but rather for self-starting entrepreneurs who can also follow directions. "Franchising is for the person who wants to be his or her own boss, but at the same time needs to be guided," says Aaron. "If you want to reinvent the wheel, go do that. But if you want to follow what's working, buy a franchise."

But is there any creativity in franchising? What input do you have into the business? It depends on the type of franchise and your definition of creative input. Franchises like Rita's Water Ice and Yogen Früz won't negotiate store layouts, products and management specifications, but franchisees can still infuse their personalities into their stores.

For franchisee Beverly McNutt, it's all in the service. "We get many compliments on how we train our employees, and how polite they are. Even though we're in a franchise, the franchise is second to me. These are my stores. This is how I want them run. My goal is to have the best Rita's store in the chain."

Some franchises require more creativity just because of the nature of the business. "I have to come up with unique ways of marketing myself using the methods taught by Complete Music," says Gard. "I have to do a Portland-style show, not a Texas-style show. That's where creative freedom comes in."

Laund-UR-Mutt franchisee Bernie Sturr is in a unique ground-floor position: Not only does he have the freedom to make merchandise decisions, but those decisions could even have a direct impact on the system as a whole. "We totally remodeled the retail area," says Sturr. "We brought in five lines of all-natural dog food not carried anywhere else in the Boulder area, and started offering grooming services one day a week right off the bat. [Franchisor] Scott Southwourth has seen what we've done with revenues in 18 months--we've tripled the business. That's given him ideas for new store layouts."

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This article was originally published in the April 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Breaking The Mold.

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