South African Entrepreneur, Ian Fuhr, who now trains executives on the importance of organizational culture has shared his advice on importance of Start-ups, prioritizing culture over their business’s bottom line.
For 10 years, Ian Fuhr personally inducted every new Sorbet employee, saying that understanding your customers and how you make them feel is the most important concept to get across.
Ian Fuhr, founder of the Sorbet Group, launched The Hatch Institute ‒ a personal and business leadership coaching company focused on creating a new breed of culture-driven leaders, during business closures and economic decline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
According to Fuhr, when he launched Sorbet in 2004, he had a culture framework he had spent decades designing and testing, learning as he went along. The result was that he had a very clear idea around the type of culture he wanted to champion, and he started implementing it from the moment Sorbet was launched.
Fuhr believes the organizational culture was responsible for its growth, and why Sorbet became the largest and most successful beauty salon chain in Africa 10 years later.
Over the years, Fuhr has become known as a culture champion. In many respects, he believes culture is the single most defining factor in the success of a business.
Start-ups are generally about inception and survival. Entrepreneurs spot a gap in the market or a problem they want to solve, and they build as they go.
As the business gains traction and some cash starts flowing in (and the business owner can no longer do everything themselves), employees are brought on board. The business grows organically, and the culture takes on a life of its own.
That’s often where things start to go wrong because at some point, the business becomes big enough that clients begin to not only expect excellent customer service, but a predictable and consistent experience.
This is only possible if every employee understands the purpose of the business and shares the same vision and values. In other words, there needs to be a strong, unified culture that binds everyone in the organisation together.
Unfortunately, by the time many business owners realise this, there already is a culture in place, it’s just not the culture they would have envisaged, if they took the time to think about what they wanted their company culture to be in the first place, that is.
Fuhr advised that, not only do the foundations of a strong organizational culture need to be put in place, but the existing culture must be dismantled, and old bad habits must be unlearned, which complicates matters enormously.
You don’t need to have 500 employees before you start worrying about your culture. You don’t even need 30 employees. You can be a one person business looking forward to finally hiring another sales rep to support you.
The first ingredient to any successful business culture is understanding your Reason for Being, and this is something you should be focusing on from the moment you launch.
Clearly, culture is not a perfect science. Anything that requires human endeavour is vulnerable to the frailties and inconsistencies of individuality.
Humans are the most inconsistent creatures on earth, so to get 100% buy-in to any philosophy is not a realistic objective. There will always be those who do not believe what we believe, who do not see the power of placing service before self-interest and who will always take more than they give. As a result, there are bound to be some service failures along the way and some disappointed clients.
Ian Fuhr advises entrepreneurs not to wait for their business to grow before building a strong organizational culture. As an entrepreneur, put the right foundations in place as early as you can and use your culture to leverage growth.