‘The only thing you’ll get when looking back is a stiff neck’ – Founder of the Sorbet Group, Ian Fuhr, talks paradigm shifts and culture-driven leadership

Written by Staff Writer



CEO of The Hatch Institute and Founder of the Sorbet Group, Ian Fuhr, has come a long way since starting his very first business in the late 1970s. Today, he is a respected serial entrepreneur with seasoned experience in leadership and creating exemplary business cultures. For Ian, culture always comes first; without it a business cannot thrive. 

In this week’s Business Unusual podcast, Ralf Fletcher, CEO of Topco Media chats with Ian  about facing failures head on and turning challenges into research for future business success. Together, Ralf and Ian unpack themes surrounding self-belief, crossing industry lines, building a strong culture that motivates employees, and learning to compromise. Ian provides insight into culture-driven leadership, building credibility, and  challenging the status quo.


Key takeaways to listen out for in this podcast:

  • Entrepreneurs cannot be afraid to make mistakes. Failure is the path to success – every entrepreneur needs to fail at least once on their journey to learn what not to do in the long run. 
  • Beware of ‘arrogance’: Often success blinds us completely and we miss out on important tips. Remember that the only thing you’ll get when looking back at old successes, is a stiff neck – stay humble. 
  • Be careful of making naive assumptions about the market you’re working in; know your competitors, the culture of the field, and stay abreast of market trends. 
  • When you miss the mark, brush it off; you have to learn to be flexible and agile – pivoting is a required skill. 
  • Self-belief is a vital characteristic. When you doubt yourself, you are setting yourself 10 steps back.
  • Try not to be ‘contaminated’ by the ways of predecessors and older business conventions – fresh eyes are ideal and will allow for disruption in your field – be a ‘pioneer’ and challenge the status quo. 
  • When culture and service perfectly align it’s magic – this is the secret recipe for success and involves nurturing your people and purpose. 
  • It’s all about service before rewards/money. Coach and teach your employees to serve well, and the financial rewards are bound to come – this is ‘the soul of Sorbet’. 
  • It is essential to remain aware of the social and cultural circumstances of your team and customers. The socio-political environment in South Africa is highly sensitive. We must create conducive work environments for transformation and progress. 
  • There is a sense of hopelessness in the country at the moment and business leaders need to foster more hope, opening the mounds of employees and customers, and learning to compromise and do things differently to get better results across the board. 


*To listen to the full podcast, please click here


Ian Fuhr is a serial entrepreneur, founder of the Sorbet Group – the largest chain of beauty salons in South Africa – and the CEO of The Hatch Institute: building a new breed of Leader purpose-fit for South Africa. His first business, K-Mart, catered to the black market in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since then, Ian is passionate about fostering successful business cultures and creating a common purpose of obsessive customer service. 

In the early 1990s, Ian launched a labour consultancy called Labour Link, to assist businesses navigate race relations within their organisations during one of South Africa’s most tumultuous periods. He then launched Sorbet in 2004,  which grew into the largest beauty salon chain in Africa. Today, Ian is passionate about grooming ‘cultureneers’ through his personal and leadership coaching and business support services at the Hatch Club. 



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