20 September 2014

Get That Feeling (Ian Fuhr)

So, I’m a Sorbet regular. What they call a ‘guest’. Nails and hair. Weekly.

But I wouldn’t have read this book, no matter how much I like the brand, unless I recognised the guy on the cover (I went to school with one of his children).

And I certainly wouldn’t have expected to enjoy the book. After all, how many ‘serial entrepreneurs’ do you know who can tell a good story; pepper it with business tips (and life tips and Aha! moments); give behind-the-scenes insights into a top franchise brand and offer a glimpse of the country’s political history…

…all without penning a self-aggrandizing, back-patting tribute to themselves?

Very few, right? Well, Ian Fuhr can. So, as you may have gathered, his book - Get That Feeling: The Story of a Serial Entrepreneur - was not what I expected.

As a small business owner, it was instructive. As a student of history, it was fascinating. As a Jew living in South Africa, it was heart-warming. As a writer, it was pleasant and easy to consume. And as a Sorbet guest, it was quite delicious.

I don’t want to give away too much, but here’s a summary, a share and a tidbit:

The summary

Ian Fuhr has covered a lot of professional ground since ‘76, from retail, records and race relations to beauty treatments, haircare and Joburg’s popular Lion Park. And along the way, he’s broken new ground, succeeded, failed and succeeded again.

The share

Fuhr is fanatical about service, sharing valuable lessons for entrepreneurs and self-starters, like ‘brand first, profit second’, corporate culture is not always transferable, there is nothing you shouldn’t do to ‘win back’ an unhappy customer, and ‘either live by your stated value system or remove the posters’. Love that last one.

The tidbit

Fuhr is surprisingly upfront for a businessperson writing an autobiography, admitting that, in 1976, ‘I was a white guy in a lower-end retail business [K-Mart] and I realised I needed to understand a lot more about the reality of black people to survive.’

Once, when training an employee, Ralph, to be a K-Mart manager, Fuhr discovered that Ralph was one of the leaders behind a boycott of K-Mart. Ralph’s life was “so bad outside his job” that he said he had to act for change. ‘It was then that I reformed my management strategy and became more political in my thinking,’ says Fuhr, who was one of the first business owners to appoint black directors and shareholders.

Bottom line? If you like local non-fiction, you’re interested in what makes successful businesses (and their people) tick, and you need something good to read, dip into the Sorbet story. It is, as you’d anticipate, fresh, sweet, uncomplicated and guilt-free.

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