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Sorbet’s Ian Fuhr: Servant Leadership Personified

Ian Fuhr the founder of Sorbet and serial entrepreneur is the embodiment of servant leadership.

Dirk Coetsee




“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”

-Rabindranath Tagore

Ian Fuhr the founder of Sorbet and serial entrepreneur is the embodiment of servant leadership. Sorbets’ unique culture, their sustained and growing success in a very competitive market, and their very low staff turn-over compared to industry standards provide the proof that the consistent application of the principle of servant leadership is a powerful catalyst for success.

Language cues can often give marginal insight into the complexity that is organisational culture: Sorbet staff are referred to as citizens (not as staff) and clients are called guests (not clients).

“Leaders and managers are generally under the impression that they must motivate. That is impossible. Leaders and managers can only inspire people to motivate themselves.”

Related: 5 Business Lessons From Sorbet’s Ian Fuhr

To remain true to the culture the Sorbet leadership are often reminded to ask themselves what the purpose is of what they are doing. Ian firmly believes that our higher purpose on this planet is to give. He quickly points out that you might feel betrayed when on occasions people that you have given to treat you badly and act disrespectfully, yet he constantly encourages the Sorbet “citizens” to keep extending their arms in the act of giving and find joy in service to others.

Truly being a giver attracts “givers” to you. There are over 300 000 “guests” on the Sorbet loyalty program that reciprocate the servant leadership mindset of the “Sorbet citizens”.

Within this established and rich culture when you focus on taking instead of giving you are referred to as an “I specialist”.


“Train people so well that they can leave you. Treat them so well that they don’t.” – Richard Branson.

“Barber Cheeze” a citizen working at Sorbet Man Menlyn Maine facing the very challenging task of trimming my beard could tell me who Ian Fuhr was and how he was inspired by him. He could also relay to me with great enthusiasm what his personal future vision was and how he aims to improve his skills to be able to grow in the organisation and make his future plans a reality.

At the same time, he managed to pay special attention to me as his “guest” and provided a service that I have never experienced at any other barber shop. Barber Cheeze like all citizens went through Ians’ induction training which has nothing to do with technical skills training but all to do with culture, service to others, and the “Sorbet way”. Even the technical skills training is underpinned by the Sorbet servant leadership values.

Related: How Ian Fuhr Built Sorbet – The Beautiful Business Empire

I want to personally thank Barber Cheeze for making my research and preparation for this interview a very pleasant experience. He provides at least partial proof that the Sorbet culture exists not only in words but in action. He provides proof that the Sorbet training program makes the citizens better givers and that Ian inspires them to do things that they never thought they were capable of. Over two and a half thousand citizens have gone through Ian’s’ induction training.

Ian’s’ own words – “I will continue doing the induction training until I drop” – reflects his commitment to help facilitate the creation of more and more servant leaders that will sustain this wonderful culture.

“The harder you work the harder it is to surrender” – Vince Lombardi

Related: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

Ian works tirelessly to expand the Sorbet brand and its culture. This industry leading brand has recently opened four stores in London, England and aim to expand on its service offering even further soon.

Leaders give new perspective, leaders create energy. I left Sorbets’ head office feeling energised and in a contemplative mood, reflecting on giving, culture, leadership, and above all being a servant.

Dirk Coetsee is an international Peak Performance Business and Master NLP coach. He is an entrepreneur and founder of DCGlobal business and life coaching. DCglobals’ purpose is to multiply the performance and growth of businesses and individuals. Contact Dirk directly at:

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Lessons Learnt

#Wealthiest List: 8 Self-Made Millionaires On How They Built Their Wealth

These inspirational self-made millionaires built businesses with nothing less than hard work and sheer determination.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Nick D’Aloisio Wrote a Million Dollar App At Age 15


At the age of 15, Nick D’Aloisio wrote an app while sitting in his parent’s bedroom in the UK. At the age of 17, D’Aloisio sold his app Summly – a mobile news summarisation app to Yahoo for a staggering USD 30 million.

As one of the youngest millionaires, D’Aloisio is also the world’s youngest entrepreneur to be backed by venture capitalists – having secured seed funding from Sir Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s billionaire, as well as raising USD 1.23 million from celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher.

“The number one thing I did that I think was wise was to get, through some of my advisers, was a Chairman; basically someone who was a very experienced business person, an industry veteran — Bart Swanson, who had been at Amazon and then Badoo. Then, myself and Bart really started finding people and growing the team.”

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Lessons Learnt

7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business

These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Brendan Kennedy


Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.

“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”

In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.

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Lessons Learnt

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt




You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:


The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.


The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.


It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.


It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.


Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

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