Learning business at the nail bar
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).