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Servant Leadership Key For Healthy And Growing Businesses

The success of beauty brand – Sorbet – hinges on its people and their passion, argues its founder and CEO Ian Fuhr. Speaking at a UCT Graduate School of Business event in July, Fuhr said that if you focus on your people and create a working environment where they feel nurtured, cared for, content and inspired, they will be motivated to serve their guests to the best of their ability.

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Servant leadership in business is important particularly in the South African context, says Ian Fuhr, founder & CEO of Sorbet – a leading South African beauty brand.

“It [servant leadership] becomes more important in the South African context because the country is highly diverse …it’s about race, it’s about religion, culture, and language,” Fuhr said during a roundtable discussion on his new book at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) in July.

According to Professor Kurt April, chair of the Allan Gray Centre for Values-based Leadership at the GSB, servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organisations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the inclusive communities to which they belong. He adds that it starts with self-mastery. “If you cannot lead yourself, you will struggle to lead -diverse-others and head up organisations. It starts with the self, with true self-awareness that guides behaviour, choices and decision-making”.

According to Fuhr, building a successful organisation requires leaders to “accept and respect people who are different to us and to learn to live with each other”.

Related: Sorbet’s Ian Fuhr: Servant Leadership Personified

“There is no reason why we cannot build a rainbow community within our workplace. We have to understand each other, accept and respect people who are different to us, and learn to live with each other…and this is one thing we work on [at Sorbet] to get people to understand the importance of accepting and respecting people who are different to you. You might not agree with them but you need to respect that they have different views to yours and that you are not always right,” he said.

Servant leadership requires a paradigm shift and that you have to lead by example, Fuhr continued. In this spirit, he says the he personally does the induction training at Sorbet. “It helps that I am able to explain directly what’s important and why they [workers] have to believe what we believe in.”

The GSB regularly hosts business leaders to discuss and share ideas to improve business and society on its Distinguished Speakers Programme. Facilitating this event was GSB alumna, Heloise Janse van Rensburg  (MBA 2017), whose MBA dissertation was on “How the ‘Sorbet Way’ of Servant Leadership is Scooping Up Success”.

Fuhr established Sorbet in 2005 and it has become one of the largest beauty franchise businesses in South Africa, with just over 200 salons, including five stores in London.

Advising up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Fuhr said business owners need to have intuition “which tells you something is right”. “You have to have courage because there will be times when you want to throw in the towel… and determination because it’s a long journey. No business ever happened overnight. You should not be afraid to fail.”

In his book, The Soul of Sorbet: Building People, Culture and Community, co-written by Johanna Stamps Egbe, People and Culture Manager of the Sorbet Group, Fuhr emphasises the need to focus on employees and customers in order to grow a business.

“It’s like the age-old question: ‘What came first? The chicken or the egg?’ Similarly, in business we have to ask: ‘What comes first? The purpose or the reward?’ I believe that the purpose is paramount and the reward is the natural result.

“If you focus on your people and create a working environment where they feel nurtured, cared for, content and inspired, they will be motivated to serve their guests to the best of their ability with a positive attitude, and to touch the lives of those guests in a powerful way. This creates loyal guests who will feel good about themselves and enjoy visiting your business on a regular basis, and spending money on products and/or services.”

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

Fuhr added that “lean and mean” businesses might well produce short-term profits for the shareholders, but sooner or later the culture will impact negatively on productivity.

“There will be nothing to inspire exceptional performance and the culture of fear will begin to debilitate the business. Negativity will spread like a cancer. Demotivation will set in and customer service will no longer take centre stage. Despite the fact that they might be earning a good salary, when people are discontented and disillusioned in their working environment and unhappy about the way they are being treated, their anger and frustration become directed towards their managers. The internal conversations become nothing more than moaning and bitching sessions and the biggest casualty, by far, is always the customer who is now just an interference in the ongoing battle between management and staff.

“A short-term profit obsession can sometimes lead to fundamental blunders, particularly when restructuring is overdone and the staff complement becomes so thin that the business can no longer effectively serve its customers.”

It is next to impossible to grow a business without focussing on the people that make the organisation,” he concluded. As Stamps Egbe has said:

“How will you grow your business if you do not grow your people…that is an important philosophy.”

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Franchise News

Be Your Neighbourhood’s Best Buddy

Ubuntu is a treasured part of South Africa’s heritage – but it could be better applied in parts of the country’s business sector, believes Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters.

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“Businesses operate most sustainably when they are entrenched in and care about the community that surrounds them,” he says.

“Ubuntu means we are people through our interactions with each other and I firmly believe that a people-centred approach like that should be a strong thread in sound business development.”

Embedding yourself in the community is also good for business – as long as you authentically and truly work at being your neighbourhood’s best buddy, he says.

“Be about helping people get on with life, about making their lives easier,” he advises. “We always encourage new franchisees to take a fresh look at the neighbourhood where they are setting up so that they can be active participants and not just providers or suppliers.”

Corporate social responsibility applies some of this thinking but, says Mukheibir, if it is a “parachute drop”, one-off activation in a community, this is far less convincing than sustained communication and cooperation.

Cash Converters places such emphasis on this that it is a major focus of the strategies implemented by the company’s Local Area Marketing Manager Juan Botha. This approach enables each franchise in the group to be in touch with its neighbourhood through social and other local media challenges, giving them added strengths locally while being supported by the advantages and professionalism of national and international 21st-century business systems.

“All franchises and chains are aware that branches represent the company on the ground,” says Mukheibir. “But Juan opened our eyes to the importance of being good neighbours and not just another store along the street.”

If you are a neighbour buddy by acting as a central, participating and unifying figure in the community, your neighbourhood will in turn work for you. You can build awareness by sponsoring local events such as food festivals, cycling races or trail runs, especially if you can offer part of your own site as a venue, for example.

Related: Cash Converters Franchise Listing

You will establish real, long-term partnerships, though, by working consistently with community gatekeepers, from schools and welfare groups to gyms and conservancies. Adopt a community project and encourage staff to give their time and effort and this will generate goodwill that will be reflected back at you.

Such activities are about a lot more than column inches in community media, says Mukheibir. Building good relationships with communities can enhance your brand’s reputation, he believes. But being your neighbourhood’s best buddy can also make an important contribution to social cohesion.

“Plenty of people hark back to the good old days of mom-and-pop stores when everybody in the neighbourhood looked out for each other,” he says. “It’s not just nostalgia to want to rebuild that in our society – it makes sense.

“We all need to contribute to the safety and stability of our neighbourhoods, whether we are individuals or businesses. The season of goodwill is fast approaching – why not see what difference your business can make in your neighbourhood by then?”

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Franchise News

Clean Out, Clean Up – And Win Big With Cash Converters!

Spring is on the way and Cash Converters is celebrating the season of renewal with a bigger than ever Spring Clean Sale – and this year it gives you two very different opportunities to cash in.

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From 24 August to 2 September, you can help Cash Converters spring clean all its stores nationally by snapping up discounted items across all their different product categories. Then in the second phase starting on 3 September, Cash Converters returns the favour by giving away R200 000 over 20 days! A total of 100 customers will win cash prizes in this Spring Clean Special Draw of R10 000 per day from 6 to 25 September. To enter, all you need to do is sell Cash Converters an unwanted item that you have decided to spring clean.

Sorting through your cupboards for items that are in good condition but rarely used and that you are ready to sell could put you in line to be one of the lucky winners of a fistful of cash that will make your budget stretch further or give you a head start for early Christmas gift buys. If you have not yet managed to act on this year’s resolution to declutter your space, here is an excellent incentive to make good on that goal.

Many of us have items crowding our homes that turned out to be bad buys, were unwanted presents or are outdated for our needs. Trading in these items can help you trade up to something that suits you better – as well as giving you the chance to be one of the lucky cash winners!

Get ready to cash in on:

  • Spare phones, computers or cameras
  • Unused power tools or exercise equipment
  • Unwanted jewellery and watches
  • Unnecessary kitchen appliances and electronic goods
  • Surplus gifts or inherited items

“Essentially, we are paying you to spring clean!” says Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters. “Even if you are not fortunate enough to be one of our daily cash-prize winners, you will be cashing in on items you do not need. That is a welcome boost to anybody’s wallet with petrol prices and the VAT increase still eating away at our income.”

Apart from all the excitement around the opportunity to win big, the outcome is win-win for everybody, says Mukheibir. Whatever you choose to trade in for cash in hand could well become the treasure that somebody else has been looking for. He believes the Spring Clean process also has an important message for South Africans.

“We are specifically running this promotion during Heritage Month because it helps enable a key change in mind-set that we need to entrench if we are to live sustainably on our beautiful planet,” he says.

“It has been estimated that the City of Johannesburg’s landfills will be full in just six years’ time, for instance. But enabling items you do not need to have a second, useful life, or astutely buying quality second-hand items you do need, is taking action on the reuse, recycle, repurpose message of our times. That makes you one of the savvy consumers who are doing what they can to save our planet for future generations.”

Related: Cash Converters Franchise Listing

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Franchise News

5 Ways To Teach An Old Business New Tricks

Cash Converters took a hard look at their product offering and realised that dealing in second-hand jewellery should become a major part of their product offering given the fact that the vintage trend really took root in the SA market.

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Do you have hidden gems concealed in your longstanding product offerings? Taking a new perspective on buying and selling patterns established over nearly quarter of a century at Cash Converters Southern Africa made CEO Richard Mukheibir realise a business lesson he needed to put into practice – and one he felt worth sharing with any other SA businesses looking for a wakeup call that can help them grow in today’s slow economy.

Reinventing your brand to keep it fresh and successful means everything from refreshing your logo to sharpening your strategic vision, he believes. That led him to relook the company’s product offerings and spot the gap where they could supply better.

“Dealing in second-hand jewellery has always been a side-line for us, another minor part of the product mix we offer,” he says. “But as the vintage trend took root in South Africa, we realised that instead of just ticking over and maybe not even earning its floor space, this could potentially be a good earner for us.”

In just six months, the 13 pilot stores have already significantly outstripped their annual target and other franchisees in the group are clamouring to join the initiative.

Mukheibir has broken the experience down into five key learnings:

1. Extend the brand

The typical Cash Converters customer tends to be about 40 years old and male. But improving the jewellery offering, the company realised, could attract more female customers. It chose to start by focusing the extended product range on fashionable silver items to cater for women in their 20s. 

Related: Cash Converters Franchise Listing

2. Establish a support team

Mukheibir did not hesitate to bring in expertise in this area, recruiting Scott Townsley to project manage the initiative. This enabled the company to leverage Townsley’s 21 years of experience in the jewellery industry with the likes of American Swiss and Arthur Kaplan. One of Townsley’s first moves was to establish alliances with jewellery workshops to machine polish second-hand jewellery and give the customer the reassurance of a third-party valuation certificate that can also be used for insurance purposes.

3. Price smart

Pricing reselling of second-hand jewellery at about half of retail prices for new products created bargains at the company’s jewellery counters. This made them all the more tempting to customers already attracted by their sparkling, nearly-new state and vastly improved display.

4. Display, display, display

Jewellery was previously mixed into the company’s display of other small, high-value items. Townsley pulled it out of there into a standalone display and devised a common merchandising formula, including layout and props such as charcoal-coloured display fabric to show off the jewellery to its best.

5. Success breeds success

“Jewellery is a luxury item, part of a consumer’s discretionary spend after the basics of food and clothing,” Townsley says. This means that sales staff need some creative flair as well as understanding the advantages of merchandising together a chain and bracelet that are part of a set. Staff also need to have the personality to interact positively with customers, as well as having confidence instilled in them thanks to being well briefed and trained to deal with questions during the selling process. Product-knowledge training introduced includes understanding hallmarks, basic familiarity with semi-precious stones and understanding the most popular types of purchases, from trending silver pieces to solitaire engagement rings.

Related: How Cash Converters Grew Through Franchising

The outcome of this initiative has been a win-win, says Mukheibir – enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff and a jump in the company’s jewellery business, with the new-look displays being rolled out as quickly as possible across the group.

“The initiative only needs minor realignments on the shop floor and implementation can be slotted into the company’s workflow without major disruption,” he says. “This brand extension required minimal investment for useful rewards. It shows how it pays businesses to re-examine opportunities that could be sitting under their noses.”

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