How Jeff Sandridge’s The Smartphone Medics Hit The $1 Million Mark In 2020 During A Pandemic

by Amara Zulfiqar
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After closing 2019 at $700,000, Jeff Sandridge of The Smartphone Medics decided it wasn’t enough. He wanted to do more – repair more devices, sell more units, do more for his community. He knew that to succeed in business, he had to think ahead and work on providing more to his target audience. And so, he set the ambitious 2020 milestone of a million dollars in revenue and was determined to achieve it.

Looking at their meteoric growth, the target Jeff had set for himself seemed very much within reach. However, there was something he did not account for that changed everything: the coronavirus pandemic. When it hit in early 2020, Jeff temporarily shut down his newly-opened location, losing all employees.  It was a difficult time; work had ground to a halt and bills were quickly piling up. He knew he needed to take drastic measures if he wanted to not just achieve his target but to survive. Yet Jeff was unwavering in his resolve, rising to the occasion to achieve his million-dollar dream.

Overview

The-Smartphone-Medics-RepairDesk-24Today, The Smartphone Medics are the highest-rated repair shop in Madison, Alabama, as per Facebook and Google reviews. With quick adaptations, multiple innovations, and brilliant ideas, Jeff has built a legacy that many aspire to follow. The year 2020 has been a milestone year for Jeff where despite the coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide shutdown, The Smartphone Medics managed to achieve its million-dollar mark.

The Smartphone Medics is a model cellphone repair shop with a prominent, stand-alone store on the main road with giant, inviting signs. It is one of the few repair shops that offer a Lifetime Warranty and the Lowest Price Guarantee. It prizes customer service with almost 800 positive reviews on Facebook and Google. From unbeatable Black Friday Sales to creating immense value in their products and services, The Smartphone Medic’s story is inspiring.

Laying the Groundwork

Jeff Sandridge started in the repair industry in 2010 when repair shops were not common. Doing repairs on his kitchen table, he would drive sales by advertising on Craigslist. This continued for a year, with his business growing quickly and his table piling up with devices. It got to the point where Jeff felt the need to rent out a dedicated space. So, he found a small 8’x8’ area for a kiosk in a shop, immediately rented it out. This new place would be where he would operate alone for another year.

During this time, the business kept growing thanks to Jeff’s technical prowess and pleasant mannerisms. He realized that if he continued working on the repairs, he wouldn’t be able to grow his business, since it demanded a lot of his time. So, to focus on strategizing, Jeff hired an employee he could barely afford. This gave him the chance to focus on advertising, growing the business, and reinvesting most of his profits back in the business. The profits weren’t significant to begin with. Thus, to make ends meet, he would deliver pizzas in the night to pay his employee. Working towards growing his business, Jeff began to flip phones, which proved to be a successful venture.

Down and Out

When the shop owner noticed how profitable Jeff’s little kiosk was, he pushed for his son-in-law to be brought onboard by Jeff and trained as an employee. Out of his good nature, Jeff agreed to the terms and trained the new hire. Once the son-in-law learned the repair business, however, the worst befell – Jeff was kicked out of the shop without warning, while the son-in-law took over his repair kiosk.

This threw him in a desperate state; Jeff had just lost the business he had been building for over a year and had to quickly scramble to recover. He swiftly rented out another 8’x8’ space without knowing if it would work; he had lost all his contacts and would have to find them again. Luckily, he was able to recover some of his clients through his website.

Ready for Round 2

After losing his kiosk, Jeff was back at square one and had to start again, but he didn’t lose heart. He hired a couple more employees, and before long, the business picked up. Around the time he hired his third employee, Jeff’s team could barely fit into the small kiosk they had. Repair jobs were lining up, and a bigger space was required to work on them comfortably. And so, Jeff ended up renting a bigger portion of the shop his kiosk was in.

However, the increased sales came with other problems. He didn’t have any POS software, operational SOPs or inventory management at the time. There was no way of knowing how much profit he was making, if at all. It was around this time that Jeff decided to get more organized.

After having tried RepairShopr and RepairQ, Jeff discovered RepairDesk. After signing on with the service, his store operations were simplified greatly. He could quickly add inventory, keep track of his growing staff, keep his finances in order, and issue repair tickets from the same POS software. 

Things were going so well that Jeff moved into an even bigger location and opened another one at the NASA Center in Huntsville, AL. He continued to grow his business by engaging in partnerships with school systems and big organizations for repairs.

Expanding Horizons

Around this time, Jeff saw potential in retail selling cellphones and accessories and expanded in that direction. Initially, the sales were slow and Jeff tried to accelerate them by paid advertising. While that didn’t have a sizeable impact, his store manager and long-time friend, Hunter Reeves suggested offering financing devices. The expansion into device leasing turned out to be a major breakthrough. He collaborated with Progressive Leasing to offer devices to credit-challenged customers. That’s when the device sales picked up. He found that putting the devices up on Facebook MarketPlace or buy-sell apps worked best, so he hired a dedicated person to manage their MarketPlace presence.

Business from the device sales was picking up. So much so that device sales started to account for 50% of the monthly revenue. On the other hand, the repairs became expensive. As a result, Jeff lost some of his high-revenue-generating partnerships because they no longer wanted to get their devices repaired. Instead, they wanted to upgrade to a new device. Moreover, the competition was also increasing, as more repair stores began to crop up. All these factors prompted Jeff to further simplify the repair side of his business.

He discontinued complicated repairs, repairs for less popular devices, and less profitable repairs. These measures proved to be very fruitful. He also tried his hand at micro-soldering and trained his employees. However, he realized that micro-soldering required immense finesse that his employees were unable to achieve and he had to work on such projects himself. Showing his business acumen, he decided to outsource micro-soldering.

In a few short months, Jeff grew his store to eight employees, two locations, and a lot of business. He quickly became popular for his Black Friday Sales, which started bringing him a substantial amount of revenue. 

Third Time’s a Charm

Jeff’s next step was opening a third location. He had only started renovating it when tragedy struck. Jeff came down with an unknown illness. After a year-long battle with the illness, and countless visits to doctors, he could not find the time to invest in three locations. So, he decided to close down two of them and put all his eggs in one basket. He dedicated his remaining energy into one location and nurtured it to grow, which led him to a brand-new location along the Lee Highway in Madison, AL.

Jeff opened the doors to his store in early 2020, aspiring to leave a legacy in the repair shop industry. However, his greatest challenge was yet to come.

The Greatest Challenge Yet

The-Smartphone-Medics-RepairDesk-25In 2020, The Smartphone Medics aimed to achieve their $1 million target in revenue. Jeff Sandridge began the year by moving into a bigger, much more expensive location to scale up his repair business. His team was high on energy, motivated to make it a great year for the company. Jeff was ready to take off into the stratosphere.

And then the pandemic hit.

Come March 2020, the entire world went into lockdown, affecting all businesses, big and small. The lockdown adversely affected Jeff’s business, pushing him into a financial crunch.

“At the beginning of [2020] is when we moved, and I honestly didn’t know if I’d be able to afford the rent because it was twice as much as it used to be. But I felt like it was the right step because that was the goal. We shut down for maybe a week or two completely, doing no business, and that’s when I realized, ‘Hey, we gotta do something because I’ve got bills I gotta pay, or we’re gonna go bankrupt.’”

The-Smartphone-Medics-RepairDeskThe Smartphone Medics shut down for two weeks completely, and Jeff worked from home for two months with little help. Only one employee, Reko Armstead, came in to help out.

“The employees were scared to come to work. I couldn’t get anybody up there, so after the month that we were shut down and then the next month or two, I was just pretty much running it by myself. I had one other employee doing some repairs. It was just the two of us for about a month and a half. So, that kind of really nose-dived our profits and everything.”

Running a Business During the Pandemic

Jeff initially focused on selling devices to make ends meet, since a no-contact system had not been implemented to accept, dispatch, and pay for repaired items. Thus, he completely shut down the repair side of the business while fully shifting the focus on retail. This move limited the business revenue in terms of repair fees and upsells. Moreover, the retail sales were limited to online platforms only, since the shop was closed. 

Jeff could not accept repairs because people were apprehensive about going out and interacting with anyone. Repairs generally required hand payments and accepting them posed a challenge.

“I couldn’t take payments remotely because people were too afraid to come in and do a hand transaction.”

Once the lockdown eased, the business started booming again. People began to buy more devices than ever to stay in touch with loved ones and communicate. The influx of such business was more than Jeff could handle singlehandedly. He needed more hands on the deck; his employees would have to be called in. However, the pandemic posed another problem for Jeff. The government announced unemployment compensation for workers, which was higher than the payments that Jeff’s employees got at work. With an easier option for putting food on the table and being safe, most staff members refused to come back. Jeff continued to reach out to as many of his employees as possible while holding down the fort.

Rolling with the Punches

Before the pandemic, Jeff understood the importance of having the right ambiance to sell expensive items when setting up his new shop. He tried to emulate the Apple Store aura and built large display cabinets for cellphones and tables for laptops. He also invested in big signs outside the building to attract the traffic on the main road. This included their core services, “Buy. Sell. Trade. Fix.” in bold letters, plastered on the building facade.

The strategy was working great and helped him attract a lot more customers. Now that there was a pandemic, he needed something else to have the same effect.

To be safe, Jeff initially closed his lobby and opened drive-through sales and repair pick-ups and drop-offs. Then in late March, a complete lockdown was imposed.

Despite the lockdown, Jeff realized that something had to be done to generate income. The pandemic brought a new problem with it every day, and it wasn’t going away any time soon. Something needed to be done.

“It was kind of like a minute by minute adaptation because when it first started, we really didn’t know what to do.”

A Stroke of Genius

Jeff started working as a one-man show, selling products online. While engaging in online sales, the answer to getting physical units for repairs came to him in the form of a dropbox. He instantly installed one on the exterior of the building to accept contactless repairs. He began advertising no-contact, safe repairs online to let people know they were open for business. Customers would make an appointment online to drop off their devices. Jeff and his team would work on the repair and issue an invoice online. The customer would then pay online and make an appointment to pick their repaired item. This is when he started reoffering The Smartphone Medic’s repair services.

“I attached [the dropbox] to the outside of the building and put envelopes, pins, and some sanitizer. And then started advertising, ‘Hey, we can do no-contact drop-offs,’ so they would just make an appointment online, come and drop off the device in the dropbox. That really saved us. That’s when we were able to kind of open back a little bit.”

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A Deal for Every Occasion

Jeff also came up with enticing deals during this time to lure people into buying devices. Moreover, since he couldn’t convince his current employees to come back to work, he started asking his former ones if they were interested in working. This way, he hired two more employees to help him manage the business.

Jeff adopted an aggressive social media marketing strategy. He was especially relentless during sales such as the Black Friday Deals and the Christmas Sale. On average, he would put up as many as 7 posts a day on Facebook, making sure they reach as far and wide as possible. 

Moreover, he didn’t limit himself to traditional holidays. He held events like “Small Business Saturday,” “End of the Month Fire Sale,” “Fall Sale,” “Back to School Sale,” and more. Each event offered tempting deals like the $50-$100 off MacBooks and iMacs deal during Small Business Saturday.

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Jeff ran campaigns on Facebook to generate engagement. One of the ways included running a free giveaway competition that awarded the winner retro gaming systems, PS5s, iPhones, etc. A lot of hype was created when announcing the winner, which further helped engage the audience. Moreover, the team posted amazing deals on devices on social media regularly to entice people into making purchases from The Smartphone Medics.

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Giving Back to the Community

Another tactic that garnered loyal customers is The Smartphone Medics’ strong community presence that believes in building the community. They engage the community for a cause, donating $1 from each retail sale for a fixed period. In 2020, The Smartphone Medics ran three charity campaigns, two for the homeless via Huntsville Good Samaritans and one for medical workers. Such campaigns make the customer feel like they have done something worthwhile, and the repair shop can create a responsible presence.

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Jeff and his team regularly shared reviews on social media to let their audience know of their customer service. They also started offering gift cards in 2020 to increase referrals, brand awareness and cash flow.

How RepairDesk Helped

Before accepting any kind of repairs, The Smartphone Medics team required a solution that allowed them to accept contactless payments. For this, Jeff reached out to the RepairDesk team to make integrations in line with the protocols necessary during the pandemic. Here, the RepairDesk team worked on an invoicing system that allowed shops to issue invoices on repairs and pay online. The customers would make an online appointment for a repair. The Smartphone Medics team would then generate an online invoice which the customer would pay online before collecting their repaired device. This system allowed repair shops to work in a no-contact manner, accepting online payments via the website or the “Pay Now” button in the emailed invoice.

“We would pick it up and repair it, and then we would send them an invoice for it so they can pay online. They would pay us for it, and we would put it back in the dropbox so they can pick it up.”

RepairDesk Pay

For Jeff, RepairDesk Payments became his preferred payment mode, since he was facing issues with other payment providers. Moreover, with the support staff at RepairDesk, he was able to integrate features that allowed him to work contact-free during the pandemic by issuing invoices and accepting payments online.

“At that point, I was like, we’ll be open by appointment only [but] we needed some new features in place to be able to do things in a no-contact type of way. […] I worked with [Usman from RepairDesk], and RepairDesk paired with Blockchyp in order to be able to send ppl invoices and get them to pay online or to be able to pay their repair bills upfront through the app or the website, which was not a feature before. So [Usman] worked on that, and that really saved us in a way that people could book online and pay for it.”

Marketing

Another RepairDesk feature that added value to Jeff’s business was the texting feature that automatically updated customers on their device status via SMS. The feature sent SMS and email repair status updates to the administration as well, which helped The Smartphone Medics team keep track of everything in real-time

RepairDesk Enterprise Version

Jeff also introduced the credit feature and loyalty rewards program offered in the RepairDesk Enterprise version. While the customers enjoy the increase in purchasing power via these programs, it benefits the business through referrals and increased walk-ins.

“I would say another thing, we just started using the store credit module and the loyalty rewards program, and the customers seem to really like that. They like it because it’s a way to kind of give back to them, but then it also helps us because that makes them refer people to us and come in more often. So, we’re really liking that.”

Tipping

Keeping its employees happy was a critical factor in helping The Smartphone Medics achieve its goals. RepairDesk helped with that by including a Tipping feature baked right into their payment terminal. This encouraged employees to do a better job and make the customers happy to get bigger tips. Moreover, Jeff didn’t have to pay them extra to keep them happy.

“The best part the employees like is the function of tips so the employees can be rewarded for doing a good job and I can see how well the employees are doing. So, they make more money that I don’t have to pay them. They like their jobs more, and they do a better job with the customers because they know if they do a better job, they get a bigger tip. So, it’s really a win-win situation, and it didn’t cost me anything extra, other than upgrading to the enterprise edition, which is just $100 a month, which is basically a steal because of all the features they have packed in there.”

Achieving the Dream

Jeff Sandridge accomplished his 2020 objective by hitting the million-dollar mark in the middle of a pandemic. He showed his business prowess by quickly adapting to the situation and coming up with solutions for every hurdle the pandemic threw his way. His well-researched and well-thought-out marketing strategies further facilitated him to reach his goal. 

His story is an inspiration to all repair shop owners, new and established. It shows that grit, determination, and a never-say-die attitude, along with business acumen can take a small repair shop to the coveted million-dollar mark.

“Every step of the way, we’ve been able to adapt and change as we needed to because of the flexibility with working with RepairDesk, so I really appreciate that.”

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