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Find Longevity in the Repair Industry Through Diversification

Special thanks to Eric Madden, Director of Sales for Mobile Defenders, for writing this featured blog post. Eric has been involved in the repair industry since 2014, and has spoken to thousands of repair shop owners during his tenure.

Scaling a business is often seen as a scary, unreachable goal. Thankfully, in the repair industry, this goal becomes more attainable and less daunting when business owners begin to diversify their repair location’s offerings.

What is diversification?

Simply put, diversification is the process of enlarging or varying your range of products or field of operation.

If you’ve been in the repair industry for more than a few years, you may have heard people saying things like “The end is near”, “Repair is done”, or “It makes no sense to enter the market at this stage”.

Believe it or not, this industry is still thriving, and strong operators will continue pushing the limits of what this market can do. Over the last several years, we have seen the shift from repair-only locations to true retail destinations with scalable sales processes.

The formula for diversification is fairly simple and must start with honestly answering some important questions.

1. Where do your skills land as an owner?

Which Repair Store Owner are You?

There are three different types of phone repair store owners (at least in our professional experience).

  • The Tinkerer
  • The OG
  • The Corporate Professional

When you think of the Tinkerer, think of the person who used to rip apart the family phone from the wall, or would consistently build computers for all the kids in school. This person has a special place in our heart, because that is how Mobile Defenders was born. Stereotypically, the tinkerer is more comfortable in the back of the store and does not usually have a strong skill set to establish a retail sales process.

When talking about the OG, we’re thinking about the people who grew up in the carrier space, whether it be major carriers or the prepaid space. These owners are extremely comfortable with retail sales and will be less comfortable with technical/repair related conversations.

The Corporate Professional is the owner who was successful in a past life—whether it be sales, accounting, or other entrepreneurial ventures—or had roles in major corporations. This owner is most likely to buy into one of the various franchise systems or buying an existing business that they can bring value to. The Corporate Professional is typically not super comfortable talking industry-specific lingo, but brings a wide breadth of analytical and logical thinking along with an in-depth understanding of business processes and procedures.

The first step of diversification is understanding in which category you best fit, because the reality is that owner skills fall on a spectrum. Understanding where you fall on that spectrum allows you to take the next step in the formula.

2. Things to consider before picking a product or service: Do you want to build on your skills as an owner or hire someone with an opposite skillset?

You’ve identified where your skills fall on the spectrum. Time to implement them, right? Pump the brakes.

Once you know where your skills are as an owner, you must identify what product or service makes the most sense to diversify into. This decision will be based on a few factors, but the first decision is if you want to hire someone with an opposite skillset or pushing the scaling effort yourself.

Once you have determined how much control of your business you want to give away, you must then understand the pros and cons of each variable. Things to think about when narrowing down a product or service to add into the store:

  • Is there a sizable demographic of people in your target area that need this service?
  • Is the supply chain for this product/service reliable enough to put your brand behind it?
  • Can you procure the consumables/products for the right price to make a healthy margin?
  • Can you get your staff to buy into the solution?
  • Is the solution marketable in a way that the end user can understand?

3. What products/services do you want to add to your suite of offerings?

If your store is currently not diversified at all, we recommend taking small steps by adding things that complement your main business (repair). This first channel of diversification should be mandated for all retail stores regardless of owner personality due to the profit potential, ease of sale, and supply chain stability.

Screen Protection

Screen protection is the first path of diversification because it is the easiest supply chain to understand and the easiest sales process. You will hear a lot about tempered glass vs clearplex vs liquid glass when doing due diligence on screen protection. The biggest thing with screen protection is to pick a product you are confident in (and that your staff is confident in), and offer it to every single customer that purchases a repair. You should see attachment rates of 75%+ with tempered glass and have the potential to make $25+ gross profit, depending on the brand and style of screen protection you choose.

iPhone CasesCases

Cases are next in the diversification formula, because much like screen protection, they fit an obvious need for your customers. We also recommend cases as your next add on because the options are endless for both distributors and designs. The important thing to keep in mind with cases is that simplicity is key. Make sure that you offer slim and protective options and a limited array of colors. We recommend stocking black (appeals to all genders), clear (appeals to all genders), one or two stereotypical masculine colors and one or two stereotypical feminine colors. This will allow you to have something that appeals to everyone without risking stimuli overload. The profit potential for cases largely depends on if you go with a generic brand, or a name brand.

“Other Accessories”

Other accessories are next in the formula because they have the ability to round out a bundle strategy for your store. These may include charging cables, wall bricks, car chargers, headphones, or bluetooth speakers. The important thing is to understand that these items will not make or break your profitability by themselves and will rarely (if ever) be sold by themselves. These items are meant to be sold in a bundle alongside a case and a screen protector and have the ability to drive good profit.

Pre-Owned Devices

While pre-owned devices are not nearly as easy as accessories, they play a very real role in the repair environment and are definitely included on the mandatory list. Devices offer a “today” solution for your store. Having a healthy stock of devices ensures that anyone that comes into the store will be swiping their card on something—whether it be a repair or a new device. Keep in mind that the supply chain of pre-owned devices has a steep learning curve, but any of the major suppliers in the US are equipped to help you launch a good program in store.

Once you have a sales process dialed in for the mandatory flows of revenue, it is time to start getting into other things. These other efforts may be largely based on the owner skillset, but may also be based on the skillset of a top tier employee. Things to consider:

  • Board-Level Repair (for consumers)
  • Board-Level Repair (for other stores)
  • Marketing Services
  • Graphic Design
  • Web Design
  • Corporate Device Fleet Management
  • K12 Device Fleet Management
  • Commercial IT Work
  • Wholesale
  • Additional Locations
  • On-Site Mobile Repair

4. What are your metrics for success?

You’ve gone through the formula, and you’ve implemented a bunch of things that are creating revenue opportunities and door swings for your business. The next question is how do you know if these efforts have been worth it or not?

The answer here is by having pre-set metrics for success. You must have the measure defined, but you must also set the benchmark you want to aim for. These metrics can mean different things depending on the maturity of your business, but some of the common metrics to look at are:

  • Overall Revenue
  • Category-Specific Revenue
  • Overall Profit
  • Category-Specific Profit
  • Revenue per Ticket
  • Profit per Ticket
  • Attachment Rate
  • Door Swings Driven

We hope this very basic introduction to diversification has made the process more clear and has inspired you to get out there and start making your business stand out!