Learn­ing busi­ness at the nail bar

Pretoria News Weekend - - OPINION -

ON a Fri­day, my work day starts later than usual. This is the morn­ing I have for those quick chores – pay bills, grab a cof­fee, buy gro­ceries, or do my nails.

I’ve been to many beauty sa­lons around Pre­to­ria East but, since a friend Manusha and I met for cof­fee and did our nails at the new Sor­bet at Lof­tus Park, this is where I’ve re­turned.

I was aware of the Sor­bet story, a favourite at mo­ti­va­tional sem­i­nars and in busi­ness cour­ses, and had bought and been given some of their beauty prod­ucts over the years.

I was im­pressed when they came with a sa­lon with treat­ments for men, and then in­tro­duced their own line of make-up for all shades of South African skin.

As an ed­i­tor, a num­ber of new books are de­liv­ered to me and, on Thurs­day (the day be­fore my most re­cent ap­point­ment), I re­ceived a gift bag from Sor­bet, which in­cluded the new book The Soul of Sor­bet by their founder Ian Fuhr.

I started read­ing as soon as I got home, and although I’m not fin­ished yet, I am im­pressed by the story of how Fuhr, who launched Sor­bet in 2005, went on to build South Africa’s largest beauty fran­chise with more than 200 branches, which he later sold to Brian Joffe’s new Long4Life.

In this book he gives in­sight into what made this lo­cal brand (at first con­fused with ice cream!) not only achieve early suc­cess but con­tinue to grow rapidly and in­no­vate in the mar­ket­place.

As I read, my thoughts turned to my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of ther brands – in­clud­ing our own beloved Pre­to­ria News which re­cently cel­e­brated 120 years – and what we can learn from Fuhr’s story.

As a busi­ness guide rather than a bi­og­ra­phy, there are ex­pla­na­tions about the dif­fer­ence be­tween profit-driven and peo­pledriven busi­nesses, the im­por­tance of ar­tic­u­lat­ing goals, brand build­ing and ser­vant lead­er­ship, for ex­am­ple.

The big­gest dif­fer­en­tia­tor for Sor­bet, Fuhr says, was to cre­ate “the Soul of Sor­bet” within its com­mu­ni­ties, where staff (called “cit­i­zens”) work to­wards a higher pur­pose to serve and touch the lives of oth­ers.

Furh of­fers this as one of his build­ing blocks to suc­cess, with oth­ers in­clud­ing cre­at­ing a sense of be­long­ing, hav­ing open and hon­est com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels, show­ing em­pa­thy, sup­port and help in the work­place, be­ing trust­wor­thy, tol­er­ant, hav­ing in­tegrity and earn­ing re­spect.

All this came to mind as I sat in the “good hands” of Noxy, chat­ting about this and that as she buffed and painted my nails for the week ahead. Our con­ver­sa­tion drifted from some­thing as mun­dane as what nail colour I’d like to whether she’d met Fuhr (yes, she did dur­ing train­ing), and I re­alised I got more than my nails done: I’ve learnt some rel­e­vant busi­ness lessons at the same time.

● The Soul of Sor­bet, sub­ti­tled Build­ing Peo­ple, Cul­ture and Com­mu­nity, by Ian Fuhr with Jo­hanna Stamps Egbe, pub­lished by Pan Macmil­lan at R280 (ebook R224).

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