How to Master Mobile Repair…Or Deck Building

The other day I was biking to work in Chicago when I passed an advertisement for a company called: Just Decks. As their name implies, they only build decks. Not attics or basements or sidewalks. Just decks. Their tagline is great: Because when you do one thing, you do it right.

Tagline that inspired this post.

This got me thinking about one of our core tenets¬†as a business. It’s not quite exactly the same but similar: Only do what we can master, and master what we do. In other words, if we can’t guarantee an absolutely expert repair every time, we won’t do it. When we officially adopted this philosophy, it had immediate impact on our business.

18 months ago we were fixing all sorts of different mobile devices. The Apple devices were by far the most popular (iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch). But we were also offering to fix phones from Motorola, Samsung, and HTC. We fixed about 20 different devices in total. Then, 18 months ago, we fully embraced the master repair philosophy and scrapped every single repair we did except for the three different Apple products already mentioned.

Why did we do this?¬†Because we couldn’t master all those different repairs.The problem was not our technical abilities. The problem lay in the frequency of the repairs as well as the suppliers of parts.

Some of these devices we’d only fix 3 or 4 times a month. When you do something that infrequently, it’s hard to truly master it. We also had to consider that we had locations in Seattle, Redmond, and Chicago that employ about 20 people. Training people on a new repair is not an insignificant feat. If you’re only going to fix it 3 or 4 times a month, it’s really hard to justify the training time and expense.

Then there was the problem of finding parts. These less popular devices are not well supported when it comes to top-notch vendors selling a high-quality product at a reasonable price. Instead, what we were getting were vendors that were unreliable, selling B-grade parts, and charging A+ rates.

The one big exception to all of this were the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. We fixed a lot of those every day. This meant our technicians were getting tons of experience on those devices and we were having no problems finding high quality parts at reasonable prices. (One thing that happens for sure when you’re part of a billion dollar industry, which the iPhone repair business is, you have lots of great suppliers in the marketplace.)

If we were to truly live our master philosophy, we needed to make a big change, and we did that the day we dropped every repair except for the big three from Apple and the results were fantastic. Over the next 8 months our sales as a company went from roughly $40,000 per month to $120,000 in January 2013. In other words, we got rid of 80% of our repairs and our sales tripled! That’s the power of mastering a craft.

Of course, things change. In early 2013 it was obvious that the Samsung Galaxy S phones were just as big or bigger than the iPhone. So in March of 2013 we decided to add our first new device in over a year – the Galaxy S3. This fit perfectly into our mobile repair strategy because this was another repair that would offer the kind of frequency needed to master it.

We spent 6 weeks developing various techniques for the Galaxy S3 repair and then rolled it out. It took another couple of months for us to really nail it down but by August of 2013 we did just shy of $200,000 in sales as a company – about 30% of that came from the new Galaxy S3 service. We had officially mastered another repair.

Of course, there were mistakes along the way. We decided to start offering water damage repairs for the iPhone because we were getting so many requests for it. We did our homework, purchased sonic cleaners, developed special cleaning solutions, drying techniques, etc. Then spent 6 months offering the repair only to realize that, our effective success rate was 50% (you can see the details of that here).

50% is not what we consider success. So, with a lot of soul searching and going back to our fundamental philosophy on repairs, we decided in early August to discontinue that water damage service. (Side note: I don’t think it’s coincidence that the month we decided to kill that repair became the single biggest month in our history up to this point.)

Today, we get lots of requests to fix a whole variety of different mobile devices. We would love to be able to do that. It’s so hard to say no to people that want our help. We love helping people. But at the end of the day, we are better able to help a lot more people by sticking to a limited number of common repairs that we can – and have – mastered.

That discipline is how you master mobile repair…or decks…or just about anything.