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Updated 29 Feb 2020

How Sorbet’s ‘servant leadership’ model encourages staff longevity

Ian Fuhr, founder of R500 million franchise group Sorbet, understands that great staff keep companies moving forward. 

Nadine Todd, 20 December 2015  Share  0 comments  Print

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The beauty industry’s average for staff turnover is high – 45% to 50% - and in its early years Sorbet was no exception.

Founder, Ian Fuhr, knew he needed to find a way to not only encourage employee loyalty, but to increase the quality of their service to grow customer loyalty as well. He developed a two pronged approach to achieve just that.

Related: Standard Bank's Franchise Breakfast: An insight on Ian Fuhr's Start in Business


Motivated employees need a greater inspiration than just money – although a well-thought-out compensation scheme goes a long way too.

Ian -Fuhr -sorbet -franchisor

1. Developing the servant leadership model

Fuhr firmly believes that if you elevate an employee’s purpose beyond just making money, you add meaning to both their jobs and their lives.

“One of the most important elements of our company culture and induction training is the servant leader model. Our therapists and technicians are in the unique position to make people feel better about themselves. They should walk out of a Sorbet feeling happier than when they walked in. Once our employees embrace this ideal, this stops it being just a job, and becomes a privilege and a calling.”

It also means Sorbet’s franchisees don’t need to continuously motivate their employees. “We just need to inspire them to be a part of something meaningful where everyone shares a common goal, and then they inspire themselves.”

2. Commission-based salaries

Of course, while a purpose is important, remuneration is too. To encourage a high level of service, Fuhr made a risky decision that has really paid off. He decided to decrease basic salaries, and implement a commission structure instead.

“A lot of employees up and left at the idea,” he admits. “Those who stayed were scared, but willing to give it a try.”

Despite a rocky start, the system has been a resounding success. “The aim is to always have all Sorbets fully booked, which means each customer’s experience from store to store needs to be consistent. Full schedules equal great commissions, and so everyone works together to keep the brand top class.”

Related: Sorbet hits the UK

In addition, there are five commission structures. The higher your level, the higher your commission, which encourages continuous training and even better service.


Find a way to give your employees a greater purpose than their paycheques. What does your organisation stand for? Who do you help, and how do you change lives? Focus on the purpose, and loyalty and productivity will increase exponentially.

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Nadine Todd

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