With device sales plummeting due to COVID-19 and stellar staff hard to come by, Andrew Mourer of YCD Electronics and cell phone repair shop found himself in a bit of a pickle. The government had imposed strict laws due to the coronavirus, making it hard to carry out business.
Hailing from Ionia, a small city in Michigan with a population of 11,147 (2019 census), Andrew had dreamed of having a successful repair business and opening up multiple locations. But the pandemic briefly halted his plans. He may not have opened any new location. But with determination, foresight, and a progressive approach, he managed to move into a bigger, busier location, to achieve more and grow the business.
YCD Electronics sprouted in Ionia, Michigan in 2017. With no cell phone repair shops for 45 minutes in the vicinity, Andrew Mourer saw an immense opportunity in opening one. And he wasn’t wrong.
In a short amount of time, YCD Electronics became the city’s go-to repair and electronics store. Being the smart businessman that he is, Andrew also noticed a dearth of knowledgeable salespeople in the electronics arena. So, he introduced electronics such as printers, televisions, and kitchen appliances with salespeople who knew their way around technology.
“We don’t really have a place where you can go and get a variety of electronics, but also have staff that’s knowledgeable about the electronics. And so that’s, that’s how we branched into those.”
The idea was so successful that two and a half years down the line, Andrew opened a second location in Lowell, Michigan.
Like any other cell phone repair shop owner, Andrew faced quite a few hurdles during the pandemic. But with innovation and a lot of persistence, he managed to stay afloat despite the odds.
“What we did for the year [revenue-wise] was about the same. But how we made our revenue was different this year.”
When The Going Gets Tough…
The year 2020 started off like any other year for Andrew. He had new resolutions and ambitious targets for YCD electronics. What he didn’t anticipate was a worldwide shutdown that would thwart his plans and leave him in a messy situation.
The first thing to hit the repair business was the reduced flow of traffic. Most people were too afraid to visit shops and come in contact with any person. In spite of the deals being offered and strict no-contact protocols being followed at the store, the fear of the coronavirus was too real. Nothing could lure people to come out of their houses and make purchases.
“The flow of traffic definitely slowed down a bit.”
As a result, there was a considerable decrease in revenue. Another factor that further decreased the revenue was that the overall demand for devices dropped in Ionia as the area was economically hit by the pandemic.
“The certain restrictions and stuff that our governor had put in and things like that, it was very hard for a while to get any kind of business. And that’s no buddy’s fault at all. It’s just how it works.”
The revenue deficit was so dire that Andrew would not have been able to sustain his business for a very long time. The bills were piling up, the rent had to be paid, and time was running out.
The ‘Stunning Employee’ Deficit
Reed Hastings begins his book, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention with the chapter, “A Great Workplace is Stunning Employees.” By stunning, he means people who are motivated and insanely talented.
Andrew could not find “stunning” people to hire. The pool was quite small to begin with, considering the pandemic. Among those that applied, he struggled to find people who were self-motivated and thirsty to learn more. He didn’t mind teaching from scratch as long as the prospective employees showed a certain level of interest in the tech industry.
The turnover, however, was disappointing.
So, once the restrictions eased, Andrew couldn’t find enough people to open both locations simultaneously.
And Chaos Ensues
Andrew was also using multiple software to keep track of the electronics repair shop processes. Bill payments, ticketing, invoicing, tracking stock – there was a different software for all of these processes. Moreover, tracking the employees’ attendance and work was a hassle.
“We had to use a different module for bill payments, we had to use a different module for our ticketing; we had something else for our invoicing, you know, everything was separate. And then even things that we still use, like QuickBooks wasn’t integrated in the sense that it is using RepairDesk, where most of it just kind of happens on its own.”
Each new employee that Andrew hired came with a new set of challenges. With everything else that was going on, Andrew had to make time to onboard his new employees with his store’s SOPs and processes. They had to be taught every module one-by-one and each module had its challenges.
Many of the new hires would get intimidated and leave. Those that did stay with the store had a hard time retaining all the information regarding the store’s many SOPs and processes.
“We had multiple, different software for various different things. Because we couldn’t find one thing that could do it all. And so training employees and finding people that could know and retain that information was difficult.”
Another issue that Andrew faced was a lack of communication regarding repairs. Employees would take in repairs and issue tickets. But nobody could keep track of the specific notes regarding a device.
And, when the repairs had to be made, finding out the details of a particular device was inconvenient. Andrew had to first figure out who booked the repair, then, find out if the repair had any specific details or instructions. This whole exercise was time-consuming and frustrating.
“We would always spend so much time trying to call, ‘Who checked in this repair?’ Need to call that employee and find out, ‘What did the customer say about this or that?’ Or just trying to diagnose something, which sometimes takes a little bit more legwork because you’re trying to find out more information about it. Because you know, there might be some notes there. Did they drop it into water? Like, what am I looking at?”
More Noise, Less Value
Around the time that Andrew decided to invest in a cell phone repair shop POS to streamline processes, he faced another problem. He wanted a responsive support team. Instead, when he wanted to learn more about the software or reported a bug, he rarely got a timely response.
He tried RepairQ and RepairShopr. In both cases, the support team was inefficient. That negatively affected the operations of the cell phone repair shop.
“We had used RepairQ beforehand, RepairShopr beforehand, both very well known point-of-sales. I was frustrated for one, because at the time we were using RepairQ, anytime we would have any kind of issues, it would take almost a week sometimes to get an answer back on anything.”
…The Tough Get Going
Before the pandemic, YCD Electronics offered repairs, device sales, electronic sales, and cell phone carrier plans. Once the crisis hit, most of his revenue came from repairs only. This compromised the revenue stream, decreasing it by almost half.
Something had to be done.
YCD Logo Vehicle to the Rescue
Andrew knew that just because customers couldn’t come into the store didn’t mean they didn’t have devices to repair anymore. The demand for repair services was still there – he just had to find a way to go to them.
Immediately he realized he had a YCD Electronics logo vehicle that he can put into use. He would take online appointments and go from door to door to make repairs.
“We found other options; we have a logo work vehicle. So we started going to people’s homes more performing jobs in their driveways.”
This went on for a while until Andrew realized this model is not sustainable for long. He generated 60% of his profits from repairs and 40% from new device sales. So, with no device sales, 40% of his revenue stopped coming in. Moreover, the number of repairs also declined so his revenue fell drastically. He would have to look for something other than repairs to remain afloat.
Success, Thy Name is Evolution!
In order to succeed in life, you have to evolve according to your circumstances. That’s exactly the thought that Andrew had. He knew his existing audience. He knew whatever new service he offered had to appeal to them. And, there had to be a need in the market for his new offering to work.
It almost came to him like an epiphany. Internet packages!
With travel bans and restrictions on daily movement, the best way to remain in touch with loved ones was online. This meant people needed better internet services. And Andrew knew just the way to provide them.
“We branched into selling internet services because we were working from home. And then we were actually doing like in-home installs in the sense that we would go to people’s homes, we’d go on their roof to put antennas in for the internet services. So we had to find other forms of revenue.”
So, Andrew jumped at the idea of selling internet services. It performed three purposes: fulfilled the gap in community-need, helped him evolve with the changing scenario, and generated additional revenue that he needed to survive. He offered in-home installs for which he would go to the customers’ houses, and install antennas on rooftops, without entering the house.
This allowed him to work and generate revenue, without putting them in danger of contracting the virus.
So, during the pandemic, he entirely shifted his focus to internet services. Thinking out of the box and figuring out the gap in the community-need saved him from going under.
Inventive Marketing Antics
As walk-in traffic slowed down, Andrew had to look for other avenues where he could actively and effectively publicize his business.
For this purpose, he experimented with Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok in the past year. He came to the conclusion that Facebook was the most effective for his audience.
So, YCD Electronics became most active on Facebook, from where the business drove most of its online traffic. Andrew’s team members regularly posted the latest deals on Facebook. They would also inform people of the opening and closing times of the business, along with new services that they offered during the pandemic.
“We have a WooCommerce website that integrates with RepairDesk. Then, my staff makes social media posts regularly on Facebook, and Instagram. And then we’ve kind of been thinking a little bit into TikTok as well.”
Believing in the power of paid advertisements, Andrew put up ads on Facebook that targeted both Facebook and Instagram. On average, he spent $500-$750 on Facebook ads per month in the last year. Paid ads on Facebook helped them get more online traction, especially when the cell phone repair shop was closed.
“We also pay for Facebook advertising. And we spend about $500 to $750 a month in Facebook advertising.”
Andrew opted for inbox messages as his preferred call-to-action when advertising on Facebook. He believed it was the most effective form of engaging people and turning them into customers. And it worked well for him.
“But we typically always want our ads to send them to Messenger. And then that’s how we grab them is through Messenger.”
Andrew also paid for advertisements on Google, though it was not repair-related because of the Google ban on third-party repair services ads. So, most of his Google ads focused on internet services, device sales, flipping phones, kitchen appliances, and other electronics.
“And then we’ve done some Google advertising, but they kind of frown on repair ads. So we don’t do a lot of repair advertising, per se on Google.”
Going Old School
One of Andrew’s marketing geniuses has been partnering up with the local radio station, WION Radio. Known as “America’s Biggest Little Radio Station,” WION Radio has a high listenership in Ionia, Michigan. YCD electronics performs backups for them. In return, the cell phone repair shop gets free air time where Andrew advertises his products and services.
“We have a local radio station here that advertises. We actually employ one of the DJs for the radio shows, and we do a lot of backups and stuff for the radio station. So yeah, [we get] airtime for free, which is pretty awesome.”
Hiring Stunning Employees
When hiring new employees, Andrew looks for a few traits in the applicants. His experience has taught him that you’d much rather hire a newbie with the zest to learn more than an expert with little motivation.
“I don’t necessarily require that they have experience, you know, I’m willing to train somebody from [scratch] on how to do everything. My main expectation is they have to be reliable and I have to see some kind of a fire in them like, an interest in the industry.”
Managing Two Locations with a Small Staff
Once the restrictions eased, having a small staff and two shops, one in Ionia and another in Lowell, meant dividing the employees. However, it made more sense to use the entire staff in one location for smoother operations.
So for a certain period of the day, the Ionia location would open. And then the staff would move to the Lowell location to open it for a few hours. This ensured both areas were catered to.
The Absolute Sales Strategy
In order to ensure everything gets sold, Andrew follows a rule of thumb. Every display space is precious and would much rather be used for products that will sell. So, any device that stays on the shelf for more than 60 days without selling out goes on discount. This way, the display area is used optimally and it is easy to determine the demand for specific products.
“We typically have a rule of thumb, anything that sits on the floor for longer than 60 days without selling through, we mark it down and it goes on sale. The idea is that every spot on the floor is valuable, and we should always have something there that people are interested in.”
Andrew used reports from RepairDesk to single out devices that had not been selling for a while. He used these devices as an incentive for employees. They got an extra bonus of $5 or more on every less popular device they sold. This worked really well for both Andrew and his employees. It motivates the employees to sell better and ignited that fire in them to work harder.
“I’ll look at our metrics on Repair Desk and see what products aren’t really selling through, and then we’ll offer bonuses and stuff on those specific products and say, Well, you know what, now we’re going to give $5 on every one of these every time you sell one, and sell for the whole month. We’ll offer an extra bonus on particular items to try and push that through. You know, it puts a little fire in them. It always works.”
To ensure a good employee retention rate, Andrew also offers commission on top of the hourly rate and bonuses they make. The extra commission motivates his employees to go all out and give their best when selling products and dealing with customers.
“We do offer hourly plus commission, so the commission definitely incentivizes them.”
A Tiered Training Approach
Andrew has given utmost importance to his employees’ training. He has adopted a tiered approach to it. He doesn’t let new hires handle devices in the first week. Rather, the focus is entirely on customers, how to deal with them and how to make a sale.
Once the new hires ace their initial training, they are taught how to operate the POS. After that, they are taught how to repair iPhone screens, eventually moving on to more challenging skills.
“And then we train them on the point of sale. Like their first week is just interacting with customers, they don’t get to touch a device yet. And then we’ll train them on like screen repair on iPhones, and we have tiered training. When you get through the first tier, then you go the next year, and so on and so forth.”
Feedback Goes Both Ways
To keep the company culture healthy, Andrew and his team hold bi-monthly meetings. These meetings help Andrew give friendly feedback to his employees, while they share their grievances if any.
Andrew takes this opportunity to give feedback to his staff members on how they are handling clients. He observes his employees and makes notes throughout the week. Then, he uses the meetings to discuss the observances in length and advises if any improvements are required.
“We have bi-weekly meetings, where we all get together and the employees discuss their frustrations, we discuss how we can improve upon those frustrations. Sometimes, I’ll make notes of specific examples that I’ve seen during the two weeks that I want to discuss, and we’ll bring those up and how we can improve upon those and in terms of customer interactions, and setting expectations with customers, that’s always a big key.”
A Handy Handbook
Over time, Andrew has curated an employee handbook that every new employee is supposed to go through. The handbook saves him and his team a lot of time that would otherwise be spent on explaining the business operations.
It took him four years to learn from his and his employees’ mistakes to come up with SOPs and set realistic expectations for each employee. Moreover, he makes sure that each employee knows what is expected of them from the very first day.
“I mean, we have a big handbook that they go through when they first get employed. But the best way to run a good, efficient business is to make sure that your employees know from the first day what your expectations are.”
Lifetime Warranty for the Win!
YCD Electronics offers a lifetime warranty on all its sales. This may result in losses sometimes. However, in the long run, it has earned him a loyal clientele.
Andrew sees the bigger picture. He wants all his clients to keep on coming back to him so he can repair, up-sell, and cross-sell. And that has proved to be very beneficial to him. His old to new customer ratio is 70:30 which is incredible!
“We’re very big on ROI. Because we sell so many different things. I want them coming back to me for everything, not just the repair. So, I mean, we lose money sometimes offering the lifetime warranty, but it really just adds to our reputation and the reason to come back.”
RepairDesk Inspires Order
Andrew was able to resolve the confusion caused by using multiple software by subscribing to RepairDesk.
He managed to merge all the processes within one software, i.e. RepairDesk. This helped him and his team save time and effort that they were able to spend on other matters. It also simplified the store processes immensely and saved Andrew 18 hours a week.
“I used to have to come in at least an hour before work and leave Bernstein an hour or two after and I get to actually leave at seven now when we close. So I mean, I’m saving at least three hours a day.”
Efficient Ticketing System
RepairDesk also solved the haphazard repair ticketing issue. The software has a comprehensive ticketing module that includes customer notes, where any additional information or instructions can be noted. The software allows tickets to be issued against a salesperson and assigned to a technician efficiently.
As the status of the device changes, the customer is automatically updated via SMS and/or email through RepairDesk integrations. This saves time and confusion otherwise spent on individually calling or emailing customers about the status of their repairs.
“Within the tickets, you have your ticket notes, you have customer notes, a lot, so many things can be there, we can actually text the customers right within the ticket, and then their answer.”
One of the best things that Andrew experienced with RepairDesk was the help with training new staff. Since everything was now available within one software, he did not have to teach multiple modules to new employees. It became less intimidating for the new hires and less time-consuming for Andrew.
After closing the year successfully and braving the storm that was the pandemic, Andrew saw the immense potential in the repair business. He felt it was time to go big or go home!
While thinking of ways to scale up, the property right across the street became vacant. This property was bigger than their existing store and could generate more foot traffic because of the coffee shop right next door. Andrew saw the opportunity but did not have the means to make the move.
Right around that time, RepairDesk introduced RepairDesk Capital, a financing program that offers clients easy access to business capital through lenders.
Andrew decided to take his chances and apply for it. Within a day, he was approved for the loan.
Currently, he is revving up to move to the new location.
“We’re moving into a space where sales floor will be 2500 square feet. So we’re getting an extra 1000 square feet on it. And then it’s also attached to a coffee shop that has an adjoining wall passageway. So, customers can come back and forth freely without having to go outside. I think it’ll generate a lot more traffic. And so getting the capital was for us to fill the additional 1000 square feet with stock.”
The Ship Sets Sale
The year 2020 was tough for Andrew. But, with innovation, determination, and a lot of grit, he beat the odds. His is one of the few businesses that managed not only to stay afloat but also earn the same revenue in 2020 as the previous year.
In 2021, with the help of RepairDesk Capital, he’s moving into a bigger shop, with bigger ambition and an insatiable desire to achieve his dream, which is to own multiple electronics repair shops in the next five years. With his business prowess, years of experience, and determination to make the best of any situation, the dream doesn’t seem far off.