Jet City Device Repair started in 2007 as a hobby. I was a software developer at Microsoft before that and was interested in starting my own company. However, I didn’t want to start just any company. I wanted one I could be proud of. This meant it had to achieve the following 3 objectives – in this order:
- Take great care of employees.
- Take great care of customers.
- Provide a solid return for the owners.
The rationale behind this philosophy? Happy employees take great care of customers. This leads to happy customers. Happy customers lead to a good bottom line.
With this philosophy we’ve gone from my basement in Seattle to 8 locations in 4 cities (6 retail and 2 dedicated to school device repair), 30 employees, and expect to do $4.5 million in sales in 2016.
The Genesis Story
In the beginning (2007) I was tired of being a cog in the Microsoft wheel. They’re a great company but I wanted something more, so I started my own small business doing back-end web development for small businesses.
My customers frequently asked me questions about web design, SEO, Adwords, writing copy, etc. Basically, they wanted to know how to make their sites more effective. I read books on the subjects, but there is no better way to learn than to do, so I set out to find a small, online hobby business to start.
About that time, I broke the screen on my T-Mobile Dash (it was mid-2007 and the iPhone didn’t even exist yet). The only option, said T-Mobile, was to buy a new phone for $300. Two weeks later I was playing baseball and cracked the screen again in the dugout. This time I knew their had to be a better alternative.
I spent a couple hours online watching repair videos on Youtube. Then spent an hour finding the parts and tools on eBay. A week later I had everything I needed and went to work fixing my phone. Three hours later it was working like new!
I thought, “Hmm. Other people must have this problem. Let’s see.”
So I built a really ugly website called t-mobile-dash-screen-repair.com, took out some Google Adwords, and a week later people from around the US were mailing me their phones to fix – about 4 or 5 a week.
Quick aside: You’ll notice I mentioned “really ugly website”. There’s a reason I did back-end web development – I suck at design. Left to my design skills, every website in the world would end up looking like Craigslist. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
Since this was a hobby business to learn effective web practices, I had no problem playing around with how the site looked and worked. If something brought more business, I’d keep it and tell my web development customers about it. If something didn’t work, I’d scrap it and try something else. I didn’t really care about the revenue at that point.
After about 6 months I added another phone to the site: The AT&T Tilt (to this day that was my favorite phone to fix). Since I now fixed something other than the T-Mobile Dash, I had to rename the site. It became: mobile-device-repair.com (and, yes, it had those dashes in it).
Suddenly my weekly mail-in repairs went from 7-10 a week to 20+. It was getting harder to keep up with my “real business” of building websites because I was spending a fair amount of time fixing phones. This was when a good friend of mine, Tom Lorimor, came to me and said, “This is a real business. You should make me your business partner and we should do this full-time.”
It was then that Jet City Device Repair was born.
Since then, we’ve gone from my basement in Seattle to 6 retail stores in 4 cities, 2 repair depots to fix iPads & Chromebooks for schools, 30 employees, 100,000s of devices fixed, and millions of dollars in annual sales.
Living our Values Part I – Taking Care of Employees
This has all been possible because we have a clear vision for what kind of company we are and that starts with our employees. We paid $12/hr with no benefits when we hired our first employee in March of 2010. That was all we could afford at the time. As our business has done better, we’ve proactively increased that compensation. Today, just 6 years later, our starting pay for technicians is $17/hr and includes health care, paid sick time, and a week of paid vacation.
We’ll continue to increase our financial compensation but that’s only part of the story. We also try to create a great work atmosphere that is fun and empowering for all our employees. We even do monthly surveys to find out how they’re enjoying work and what we can do to keep making it better.
There are also many more opportunities for professional growth as we’ve grown. It used to be there was me and then everyone else at the same level (expert repair technicians). Today we have store managers, regional managers, a warehouse manager, a new school sales division manager, and we recently promoted one of our top store managers to a new marketing position we created for her.
But we are not done. Our goal is not only to continue raising pay and benefits, but also to keep improving and expanding our company’s culture and work satisfaction.
Living our Values Part II – Taking Care of Customers
Everyone has had this frustrating customer service experience: “I’m sorry I can’t do more for you but our company policy doesn’t allow me to do anything else.”
You will never hear that in one of our stores.
Our customers get to reap the benefits of our efforts to hire great people, take good care of them, and then empower them to do what they think is right.
All our employees are expected to create satisfied customers. That satisfaction might start with properly fixing a phone, but that’s not where it ends. At every step of the way, from answering phone calls or emails to checking customers in to taking payment, our employees are expected to provide a fantastic experience – and they deliver because they care about making JCD a great company.
This is most obvious in those rare instances where there’s a problem. It happens to every company that serves thousands of people a month. Each of our employees knows they have the authority to do what they think is right to help the customer and our business. They don’t need to ask a manager. This sometimes means we make a mistake but more often than not we get things right.
Most importantly to our customers? They are not being treated by a corporate script. They are being helped by experts who care.