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How Alex Fourie Mastered Word-Of-Mouth Marketing

iFix services 10 000 clients a month and 75% of those are from word-of-mouth; that’s a pretty impressive branding win. Here’s how iFix founder, Alex Fourie made it happen.

Tracy Lee Nicol




Vital Stats

  • Company: iFix
  • Founder: Alex Fourie
  • Est: 2007
  • Footprint: 14 stores nationwide

iFix was a business started by Alex Fourie in a dorm room in 2006 out of plain need to fix his broken iPod. It so happens he’d struck on a market that had yet to be tapped, and his theory was soon validated when customers beyond friends and family came knocking to have their smartphones, tablets and iPods repaired.

We-recommend-tickRecommended: The Secret To Three Years of Successive 180%+ Growth For iFix

Fast forward nine years and iFix is a hugely successful premium repair business enjoying explosive growth, and has 14 stores around the country. This didn’t just happen by luck, but some very smart brand-building.

Fourie explains how he did it.

How have you kept ahead of the competition?

The market has grown hugely and that brings competition. We’ve always positioned ourselves as a premium service with a focus on convenience, great customer service and fast turnaround time as we understand the frustration of having a technology issue or not being connected.

I’ve read The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, and we understand implicitly that you’ve got to constantly innovate because the minute you stop, the company dies. So as more competition appears and customers’ needs evolve, we focus on anticipating and meeting those needs.

How has your company changed in the last four years?

We’ve invested time and resources systematising and streamlining everything in the business for the best customer experience. We’ve become vertically integrated and created our own internal supply chain that is centralised and tracked.

Compared to 2010 when repairs could take up to 72 hours, 95% of our repairs are done the same day. We also provide spin-off offerings linked to our core ethos, like out-of-warranty insurance, primarily because networks focus on selling airtime and data, and manufacturers focus on selling product, but there’s a gap for quality repair services that don’t cost a fortune.

What goes into an impactful brand experience?

We hire A+ players even though the systematising means we could technically hire B players and the business would still function. However, maintaining a premium customer experience requires people who are self-motivated and always five steps ahead.

Our managers are empowered to solve problems without having to ask permission first, we have a system that notifies managers of potential issues before they happen – like a phone being at the store for more than 24 hours – and we ‘reverse train’ our technicians.

We hire our technicians based on their skills, but very often they come from a network background where the philosophy is to save costs first, and the customer comes second.

We enforce our culture of customer first through substantial on-the-job training.

How much business is from referrals?

We average about 10 000 customers monthly, 75% of which is from word-of-mouth.

What’s the secret sauce that’s made the iFix brand as successful as it is?

Prior to launching iFix I was very involved in the music industry and marketing bands and their tours. I learnt that the industry is subjective and driven by marketing.

You can have a great song from band A and band B, but one will be successful while the other is not, based on the way you package and present it.

I use that same ethos for iFix. We have a great website, amazing looking stores, brand ambassadors, and we focus a lot of our marketing on social media as branding creates confidence and trust when you’re dealing with people’s prized possessions.

Disgruntled customers can damage a brand. What’s your fix?

We have a complaints/issue ratio of less than 2% and a heavily pissed off ratio of less than 0,5%. That’s extremely good for the service industry but on 10 000 customers per month that’s still 50 unhappy people.

We have a built-in customer metric that doesn’t waste people’s time with a 1 to 10 rating, but just three: Awesome, average, or terrible.

If anything is below awesome the manager is notified and 90% of the time the issue is resolved before the customer leaves the store, or they immediately phone the customer.

We-recommend-tickRecommended: With the Right Incentives Loyal Customers Will Become Brand Advocates

We’re often able to pre-empt issues before they arise or know the possible reasons for a customer being unhappy. It’s taken time, effort and diligence to build up a track record, but our trusted brand allows us to keep growing.

Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.

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Lessons Learnt

How Kevin Hart Went From Being A Comedian To The Guy Who Owns Comedy

He’s one of America’s most famous funnymen, but here’s what most people don’t see: Kevin Hart is often in his office, running a far more ambitious comedy machine.



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Considering how proud Kevin Hart is of the headquarters of his company, you’d think the place would be downright palatial. But it’s not. It’s simple, almost austere. It’s a series of small offices, a reception area and a conference room, and it takes up a floor of a non­descript building in downtown Encino, Calif., on Ventura Boulevard, across from a Korean BBQ joint.

The rooms are sparsely furnished. There are a lot of photos and posters of Hart, of course, but otherwise there is no expensive art, no designer tchotchkes on the credenzas, no tasteful floor coverings that could fund a motion picture production.

No, the thing about this office that fills Kevin Hart with such pride isn’t its appearance. It’s the fact that it’s still his.

Back in 2009, when he took out a two-year lease on just a small portion of the space to house his startup, HartBeat Productions, Hart was worried he wasn’t going to be able to afford it. This was before his comedy specials became some of the highest-grossing of all time. Before his social media profile grew to near record-­setting proportions. Before Kevin Hart Day was declared in Philadelphia. Before he became one of the biggest stars on Earth.

“When I first got here,” he says, “and this is before the money was where it is now, this was the dream. Every day I get to see this and I get to go, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to do it, man? Shit. I done took out the two-year goddamn lease on this place!’ ’

But he loved the “aspirational” view from what is still his personal office, and he had a plan, drawn from a hard-earned epiphany. Historically, comedians and actors, even very successful ones, are simply cogs in a very large machine.

For all the fame, and the money and the glamour, they are essentially powerless against the whims of that machine. They are the product. They do their best, work their hardest, earn what they can and at the end of the day, they’re left with fading fame and whatever money they were able to bank along the way.

Hart saw this state of affairs early in his stand-up comedy career and decided to try something different. Something risky. The idea was this: Create something lasting. Something that will go on when you’re done. Don’t just show up, do your best and then go away.

Related: 10 Quotes On Following Your Dreams, Having Passion And Showing Hard Work From Tech Guru Michael Dell

Don’t make money mostly for other people. Own what you do. Perfect your craft, of course, but in so doing, create a sustainable, revenue-­generating enterprise that can run profitably long after the world has had enough of seeing your face and hearing your jokes.

In short, the idea Kevin Hart had, as he stood nervously in that office in 2009, was this: Don’t be the cog. Be the machine.

And so he is.

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Lessons Learnt

Can Being Deceptive Help You Build Your Business? It Worked For These 5 Entrepreneurs

We’ve all told little white lies. But what about the big ones? What if telling them would bring your business success?

Jayson Demers



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We all commit little acts of deception, like saying we got stuck in traffic when we were really late to the meeting because we wanted to watch the last five minutes of a favourite TV show. Little white lies? I’ve told them. You’ve told them.

But what about big lies, the kind truly lacking in integrity – like misrepresenting your sales to a prospective investor?

Obviously, there are often severe consequences to lying. Depending on the context, you could lose the trust of a peer, break a professional relationship or even face legal action. Yet, despite these consequences, lying is more common in the entrepreneurial world than you might think.

Just take as an example these five entrepreneurs, who might not be as well known or successful as they are if it weren’t for some clever acts of deception:

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Lessons Learnt

Three Habits That Underpin Entrepreneurial Success

Here are three powerful habits that will help you stay focused, define your entrepreneurial attitude and take your business from zero to hero.

Nicholas Bell




Successful people and businesses don’t all share the same traits and commitments. Yes they all have managed to break barriers and achieve impressive goals. They’re the leaders, the movers, the shakers and the industry creators. However, not all entrepreneurs are created equal and their recipes for success can differ wildly.

Some swear by a three-hour run every morning followed by a nice salad and the bustle of busy work life. Others need an incredibly early start so they can spend time with their emails and focus on their business. Every entrepreneur has their  own secret tricks that keep them on the straight and successful narrow, but most share a few simple habits that are guaranteed to make a difference.

Here are three habits that will help you become better at business and at leading others towards long-term success:

1. Always be ready to change your assumptions

Many people are unable to change the assumptions they have about their business and its future as it evolves. No business model should be locked in cement and rigidly upheld, it will need to adapt and adjust as it grows and customer needs change. As an entrepreneur you need to understand this concept and be prepared to evolve and change in new directions and markets.

Related: Business Plan Format Guide

This also ties into failure. Do you understand why you failed at something? Are you aware that perhaps your business model is changing? Can you learn from these experiences? Can you adjust your business model, get better research, refine your ideas? If you are ready to take positive value out of these moments and experiences, then you are an agile and inspired entrepreneur.

2. There’s no off switch

Passion and commitment are absolutely key to the success of your business and your own personal growth. You can’t switch off or walk away or just take a sick day because you feel like it, not if you want to stand as an example to your employees or if you want to build a brilliant business.

It may sound trite and tired, but a work ethic is the single most important habit to have as an entrepreneur. You need to always hold yourself to the highest standards, commit to ethical practice and work harder than anyone else.

3. Take it personally

This doesn’t mean gentle sobs in your office when Susan from accounts ridicules your maths skills. If you take your business personally, then you are wrapping the skills learned in points 1 and 2 above into one cohesive whole – you are embedding your passion into every crevice of your company. Care about what you do, be passionate about what it stands for, and be prepared to fight for its life. The route from zero to billion-dollar business isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.

Remember, the idea is only 1%. Sweat, work, commitment and focus are the other 99% of the success equation.

Related: 22 Defining Entrepreneur Characteristics

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