[box style=”gray,info” ]
Founder: Alex Fourie
Growth stats: 2011: 210% ; 2012: 190%
The growth stats:
“We grew by 210% in 2011 and 190% in 2012. With our new product ranges we expect excellent growth going forward as well. We’ve found a great gap in the market, and because we always keep our customers and their needs top of mind, we believe this is only the beginning.”
“It was 2006 and my iPod broke and when I took it to the iStore I was told to throw it away. I was in varsity and all my music was on that iPod.
“No way was I throwing it away. So I Googled how to fix an iPod and found a video with instructions. I found the part I needed on eBay, and I managed to fix it. Soon my friends started asking me to fix their iPods and iPhones (which weren’t even available in South Africa yet) and I realised that there might be a market for this service, so I placed a free ad in Cape Ads.
“My phone started ringing ten to 15 times a day. People were asking me to fix all kinds of things. I always said yes. I’d figure out how to do it once they’d dropped it off.”
Had you always planned to start your own business?
I think I had. By the time I started studying I’d already spent some time in the UK promoting SA bands to that market, and we’d launched an online music store locally.
I also recognised the opportunity as soon as it presented itself and ran with it, which is, I think, the mark of an entrepreneur.
When did the business start growing from a dorm-room business to a serious enterprise?
It was slow organic growth, but it started almost immediately. I obviously didn’t have a store, so I used my parents’ house as a drop-off point.
Customers wanted some form of proof that they’d dropped off their property, and so I needed to implement a hand-in slip system.
Volumes picked up so quickly that I needed to rope in an engineering friend to help me with the repairs. The fact that I said yes to everything gave us good experience, and was also excellent for word-of-mouth referrals, and so we just kept growing. By the end of 2007 I could afford overheads and was able to open a workshop with two technicians and a drop-off point.
When did the first iFix store open?
I wanted to finish studying before I opened the first walk-in client store. I realised I needed to be there, to become the face of the brand, and so it wasn’t something I could rely on someone else to do.
By 2009 I had finished my degree and opened the first store with funds we had saved up while operating from the workshop.
You’ve grown from one to eight stores in four years. What do you attribute this success to?
From the beginning, my attitude has been that anyone can repair a phone, so why do we get business? We’ve got two clear differentiators.
First, we focus on a fast turnaround time. iPhones, iPads, iPods and Samsung smartphones and tablets are an integral part of our lives and businesses.
When something breaks, it’s already disruptive. The thought of taking days or even weeks to get our devices back causes massive stress in most cases. We promise a 24-hour turnaround time, and even a one-hour express service, which is more expensive, but preferred by many clients because it means they’re reconnected within hours.
Obviously there are some things we can’t do in that time-frame, particularly if a device is water damaged, but most problems we can fix quickly and efficiently.
Our second differentiator is that we really focus on the customer when they’re in our store. They can have a beer or a cup of coffee while they wait for our on-site technicians to fix their devices. It’s a great, homely atmosphere.
How have you instilled that attitude in your employees?
I train all our managers myself, really focusing on engendering our culture in all our new staff. It’s important to me that everyone not only understands our philosophy, but buys into it as well.
I spend three to four months with each new manager before they’re sent to run their own store, and I travel to all our stores across the country weekly, ensuring quality control is maintained.
However, it’s also important to empower my managers to make on-the-ground decisions. I learnt early that the best industry to hire my store managers from was the hospitality industry. We have trained technicians to repair devices, but it takes a specific skills set to keep customers happy.
Hospitality managers work well under pressure, are excellent when it comes to client services, dealing with difficult and demanding customers, and also manage staff well.
What is your customer retention as a result of this philosophy?
We have clients who have been with us since we opened. We also generate a lot of word-of-mouth business and referrals. We’re known for excellent customer service, and for delivering on our promises.
We also call clients to check on the service they received, so that we can pick up and address any problems quickly and efficiently.
Read Next: How to Find Unlimited Growth
What has been your growth strategy?
I wanted to make sure the first store was operating perfectly before we opened a second store. This took time, and there were lessons we needed to learn, but gradually we created an ecosystem that we can now roll out from store to store.
That would always be my advice to other business owners: Perfect your systems and create a structure that’s replicable before you start growing. You want to invest in growth that’s sustainable, so don’t rush into it. Set good foundations first.
Have you bootstrapped the business or did you receive funding?
We bootstrapped the first two stores, and then received a round of venture capital funding.
One of our customers knew his boss was looking to invest in a business and recommended us to him. We set up a meeting and came to an agreement that worked for both parties. The fact that we came so highly recommended from a customer worked well in our favour.
Receiving funding allowed us to pursue a more aggressive growth strategy, and we were able to open stores in upmarket centres, including Canal Walk and Melrose Arch. This has also led us to develop a retail strategy, as we now have higher foot traffic and walk-ins.
What is your retail strategy?
We’ve teamed up with Paul Simon, the founder of YDE, who’s helping me with my retail strategy. We sell products, and have developed our own range of mobile accessories called Houdt.
Like our service strategy, our products keep the needs of our customers firmly in mind. We’re also branching into an insurance product. Even though products have a warranty period, the excess for repairs means it doesn’t make sense to claim from insurance, and many people don’t have R1 500 cash to immediately repair a cracked screen, for example.
We’ve developed a product called iSurefix that costs R59 a month and covers repairs. We have clients who come in regularly because their children have broken their iPads – this product is for them.
We worked out our breakages ratio versus clients to make sure the product made sense, actuaries designed it for us, and we got it underwritten. Because we don’t add a profit to the cost of repair, we can make the model work.
Taking Care Of Business
Do you want to grow your business in 2019? Bear these tips in mind.
SMEs are the lifeblood of the South African economy, accounting for approximately 29% of employment in the country and forming a critical pillar of the government’s 2030 National Development Plan. With funding scarce and the economy volatile, small businesses remain increasingly vulnerable to economic pressures, with many failing to last beyond the five-year mark.
Thanks to the abundance of new and affordable technology, bringing with it the potential for new industries and market gaps, there has never been a better time to conduct business without crippling costs. It is not all doom and gloom in the small business sector, despite findings in the 2018 SME Landscape Report that suggest that a meagre 6% of all start-ups have received government funding.
Do not be afraid to delegate
Many entrepreneurs are so passionate about their own undertakings that they are unable to simply let things go. Rather than empowering and enabling others to take responsibility, many Type A business leaders instead opt to do it all themselves – usually with disastrous consequences.
Learning to delegate is key to alleviating bottlenecking and freeing up capacity in your business, so make sure to utilise all your available resources if you want your enterprise to expand.
While billboards and TV ads are expensive, marketing a business can now be done quite cheaply, thanks to the abundance of relatively affordable digital channels. So while you might not be able to have your brand staring out at you from the pages of a glossy magazine just yet, digital channels like Facebook and Google now allow you to achieve the same audience reach for a fraction of the cost.
Offering the best service in town is one thing, but it is worth nothing if nobody knows about it. So make sure to pay close attention to your website and its search engine optimisation (SEO). By using the correct keywords and even putting a small investment into Google Adwords, you will ensure that people who are looking for what you offer are able to find you easily.
With over 50% of all web traffic in South Africa coming from mobile devices, businesses simply can’t afford not to take a mobile-first approach to business. If you are offering an online service, make sure it is optimised for a mobile experience and ensure that any communication touch-points – be they blogs, social media posts or online check-out pages – are designed with mobile in mind.
One of the key advantages SMEs have over their larger counterparts is their ability to be flexible. Without outdated systems and reams of red tape to wade through, small businesses are far better able to adapt to market conditions and revise their offerings based on consumer needs. So make sure to listen to your customers and be willing to accept that some of your great ideas simply are not feasible.
Your willingness to accept failures and move on, will ultimately be what gives you the edge over your competitors.
Plan your finances
Cashflow is king when it comes to entrepreneurship and many a micro enterprise has come undone thanks to their inability to manage it. As such, financial planning is a critical tool for any business, especially for those operating without significant investment capital. Understanding potential pitfalls and keeping tabs on your profit margins will help to ensure you keep your pricing realistic and enable you to avoid finding yourself in the red.
Operating in isolation can only get you so far, so it is important that you put yourself out there and make proactive attempts to connect with other like-minded businesses. By joining a business network or attending industry events, you will be able to arm yourself with useful contacts, handy insights and perhaps a few new clients in the process.
Remember that owning a business is like raising a child – it requires constant supervision, nurturing and care if it is to succeed to its utmost potential. So make sure to look after your business and one day it will end up looking after you.
MiWay is a licensed Short-term Insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP. 33970).
How Taking Risks – And Failing – Can Lead To Business Success
Don’t let fear of failure stop you from taking the risks you need to, to carry your business forward. But as your business grows, you’ll have to re-evaluate what risks you can take.
Innovate, innovate, innovate. The war cry is so often repeated that it has become something of a bore. Yet, true innovation remains a rarity – and to our huge detriment. As South Africans, we seem to carry a deep shame associated with failure. Yet, facing the very real possibility of failure is the only arena in which a culture of innovation can take root.
The biggest business failure of my life was an investment into a software company that wrote a piece of software that was set to revolutionise the mobile landscape. It was going to be huge. It was going to take the world by storm. But unfortunately, we backed the wrong horse.
We developed the software for the Symbian platform because Nokia was way ahead of the pack. Nobody else even came close. But, given the fact that there’s a good chance you currently have an iPhone or Android device in your pocket right now, you know how that story ended. Nokia seemed untouchable, then almost collapsed. We lost a lot of money.
Get back up
But, we learnt valuable lessons from that. Of course, there’s the general lesson that everyone should take away from failure – to get up and try again. As General George Custer said, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.”
The other lesson was more specific to our business. In developing the software, we learnt a lot about different technology platforms and those lessons were invaluable as we took the next steps in Fedgroup. The same people who built that software helped in the initial stages of developing Azurite, which today is the backbone of our company’s entire operation.
Because we’d been involved so heavily in developing for mobility and the future, our minds were opened to what technology could do. It gave us the mindset to get where we are today.
Investing in education
It sounds like a terrible cliché, but there’s value in failure. Take the lessons you learn in failure – the genuine lessons – because even if you lose money, consider it school fees, and cheap at the price. Arguably, our failure was the “fees payable” that bought us our competitive edge.
In the United States, they are less afraid of failure. They wear their failures like a badge of honour. Elon Musk, for example, misses his targets, but he’s always pushing the boundaries. Recent (questionable) antics aside, Musk’s risk-taking drives innovation.
If people in an organisation are terrified of failure, they don’t try new things, they don’t innovate, they don’t move forward and they certainly don’t disrupt. Even though now, as the CEO of a large financial services company, I can’t afford to bet the whole business on a risky proposition, I still encourage risk-taking and a spirit of adventure – within reason.
Reckless vs reason
This is not to say that we can – or should – be reckless. There should be accountability, and the reasons for making the mistake should make sense. And, you shouldn’t make the same mistake twice. But if you take risks within those parameters, you’ve got a better chance of making a real difference in your organisation.
We have recently launched an app that is fairly disruptive, and as far as we can tell, the first of its kind in the world. Before we launched, we put our personal money behind the idea to test it. We had done our homework, but it was still a risk. If it hadn’t worked, we would have lost our personal money, but because we took that risk and proved it worked, we were able to launch it safely to the public one year later.
Parameters, limitations, and the ethics of risk
When you’re an entrepreneur, when you’re just starting out, you can bet the farm. You can take risks on new ventures and potentially build something out of nothing.
Once you’re an established organisation with staff and clients – and in our case, clients who have invested their pension with us – the scope of risk takes on a new set of parameters. When you are dealing with a client’s security, it is simply not acceptable to expose them to additional avoidable risk.
However, because risk taking is where the magic of innovation happens, encouraging a framework where creativity, experimentation, and risk is possible within your organisation, is critical. One of the ways to encourage this is to examine your attitude towards failure. Build an environment where failure is not taboo, but presents a strong learning opportunity, and ring fence those areas within the organisation which absolutely cannot be jeopardised. This is risk in a helmet – you might get a roasty, but you could win the race.
Proven Strategies To Grow Your Start-up On A Scale Following These Guidelines
The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.
Scalability and flexibility are important properties of any business. Let’s say you’ve managed to build a successful start-up. It’s profitable and promising, but you want it to become better. The scalability of a business involves its ability to adapt for bigger workloads without losing revenue.
Even if your business is currently small and doesn’t generate huge profits, scalability can help it turn into a large enterprise. The wrong approach to developing a start-up can deprive it of an opportunity to become better.
The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.
Scaling Vs Growth
Many companies make a mistake of thinking that scaling and growing a company is the same thing. In fact, growth involves increasing revenue or the size of the company (the number of employees, offices, clients).
Constant growth requires numerous resources and may not always lead to a proportional revenue increase. In many cases, the growing number of services or products needed to boost revenue involves high costs related to the growing number of employees and equipment.
On the other hand, scaling allows you to increase the revenue without the costs involved in growth. You can handle the extra load and boost your profits while keeping the costs to a minimum.
At some point, a successful start-up needs to make a choice between growing at a constant rate and switching to the scaling business model.
Even though a single clear method for scaling your business doesn’t exist, there are some guidelines you can follow.
1. Get Ready To Be Patient
Scaling is not a quick process so you have to be patient. The overnight success story is not about you. In fact, scaling too fast usually results in unfortunate failure.
Allow yourself to spend the time to understand who your ideal customers are and how you can solve their problems in a better manner. Make sure you understand how to be confident about the new volume of your work.
Do research to find out how you can find the right resources to achieve scaling rather than growth.
2. Choose The Right Software
The lack of time and team members is a common problem for a startup looking for scaling methods. That’s why they need to try and automate as many processes as possible. This can be done with the assistance of the right software.
- Trello – to simplify in-office and remote teamwork
- MailChimp – to improve marketing campaigns
- Brand24 – to get insights about your business
- Survicate – to collect customers’ feedback
- Voiptime – to increase connectivity.
3. Take Advantage of Outsourcing
Since you are hoping to limit the expenses while growing the revenue, you have to find ways to spend the revenue in the right manner. The biggest mistake made by business owners who think they are choosing scaling is hiring a big team. By doing so, they turn scaling into growing.
Your best bet to avoid hiring a large team and paying large salaries while achieving your plans is to outsource. Using your resources wisely involves finding freelancers and remote employees who are willing to work for a lower pay on a one-time (or several) contract bases.
For example, you don’t need a lawyer or a computer specialist sitting in the office all day long. Why should you pay them a monthly salary?
4. Don’t Do It Alone
Even though certain team minimisation is necessary to improve your scaling efforts, don’t try to handle everything on your own. It’s important to have at least one person you can rely on to manage the business-related problems.
Scaling your start-up is possible as soon as you understand what scaling is in detail. You need to be careful not to start growing your business instead of scaling it in the process. Once you have all the fundamentals figured, resources managed, and the right people in place, you are ready to start.
Start-up Advice1 week ago
6 Fundamental Steps To Consider Before Venturing Into The South African Cannabis Industry
Business Landscape2 weeks ago
How Algorithmic Forecasting Can Improve Business Efficiency In Challenging Economic Times
Start-up Advice1 week ago
Outdoor Versus Indoor: How Different Conditions Will Impact Your Budding Marijuana Business
Business Ideas Directory1 week ago
300 Business Ideas To Inspire You Into Entrepreneurship
Women Entrepreneur Successes3 days ago
How A Serious Car Accident Led Founder Relebohile Moeng To Starting Afri-Berry
Lessons Learnt5 days ago
(Slideshow) Top Advice From Local Entrepreneurs That Will Change Your Business In 2019
Start-up Advice2 weeks ago
4 Things Nobody Tells You About Entrepreneurship
Company Posts1 week ago
Success Fuelled By Partnership