By definition, a thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. It’s a person whose opinion and expertise you actively seek and trust, whose knowledge you wish you could literally soak up with a sponge.
We’re thankful to know one thought leader in particular, Mr Dave Takushi, owner of St Louis Cell Phone Repair, who made a trip to Kansas City last week and was kind enough to spend some time with us here at eTech Parts. When we heard Dave was coming to town we knew we had to share his story with the Repair Community, and whatever words of wisdom he was willing to offer.
During our 20 minute interview I selfishly found myself asking more questions than I had intended, trying to soak up as much insight as possible. While transcribing our interview, I struggled to choose only 10 questions to share with you, wondering if I should change the title to “21 Questions” because I didn’t want to leave anything out.
A huge thank you to Dave for chatting with us about his success as a wireless repair shop owner, soldering and refurbishing training, and the future of the wireless repair industry.
1) What was your background prior to owning your own mobile repair shop?
I originally started off out of college as a computer programmer, then started working for an IT consulting company building computer applications. I worked my way up through that company, became a project manager, taught and trained other companies in technology, sales and sales management…
The last couple years I was there I ran the St Charles office, I was responsible for the consulting and training side of business. Here I got a chance to see all aspects of a business – from sales, to operations, to marketing, — which helped in owning my own business.
2) How did you find yourself in the wireless repair industry?
While working in IT consulting and training, I was looking to own my own business, and that’s when I found Wireless Toyz. I signed the franchise agreement in 2003 and we opened the store in 2004.
We sold lots of phones and plans, but the economy changed and the industry changed a lot – there’s a lot more saturation in the cellular market – so when customers started bringing in their broken phones we started fixing them.
We put up a website branded as “St Louis Cell Phone Repair,” since it was separate from what we were doing at Wireless Toyz, and year after year we continued to grow without any real effort put towards marketing. Local AT&T stores and area schools were all sending people our way, because we did a good quality job on every repair at a good price – not exorbitant but not trying to be the cheapest, either. Customers were happy so they kept coming back, and helped spread the word.
3) What’s the biggest challenge you face as a repair shop owner?
I would say, ensuring quality and customer service. Making sure we do a great job on every repair and that we meet the time commitments we set for each one. Especially as we start doing more volume, I want to have high quality across the board; I don’t want anything going out that isn’t great.
Time management is another thing; balancing your time between everything you have to do. Either one of those could be the number one challenge for me.
4) What advice would you give someone who’s just getting started in the mobile repair industry?
There’s a lot of advice I would give them! Learn how to do what you need to do. Find a good quality vendor. Don’t try to do something you’re not comfortable doing, or something that you know you can’t do well.
We probably work on the largest variety of devices out there, but there are still devices we’ll turn down at times because of potential issues you could run into during the repair.
5) Let’s talk about the soldering and refurbishing training you offer. How much do you typically charge for training?
Price varies a little bit since my training is customized for each person and depends on what the technician(s) wants to learn. Training will range from $1800-$3000 a week depending on what they might want and whether it’s multiple students or just one person coming in for training. People are always most interested in learning high-end micro soldering and refurbishing LCDs.
I typically teach in my facilities so the technicians get a chance to use the soldering and refurbishing equipment I have. Each student who comes in will walk out with tips, best practices, they’ll know how to solve problems they couldn’t fix before, and I always share things that I’ve learned in the number of years I’ve been in the repair industry. In the end they usually get a lot more value from the training than they expected to.
Also, many people don’t know that we perform advanced repairs for other repair shops – when it comes to replacing connectors, fixing backlights, repair shops can send us these devices if they don’t have the skills in-house. We can help them get those repairs completed for the customer or get them out a jam.
6) What advice would you give someone who’s interested or just starting to learn how to solder?
Understand the basics of how to solder; how solder works, the fundamentals of soldering, and I always suggest starting with larger stuff and working your way down once you get that perfected. Don’t start with a charging port the first time.
Make sure you really understand how solder works, so if you’re not getting the results you want, you can go back to the fundamentals to find out why it’s not doing what you want it to. Learning the fundamentals helps you with troubleshooting down the road.
7) When do you know it’s time to hire?
When we’ve got more business than what we can handle – or it’s when you find the right employee. Sometimes I just hire because I find the right employee, and you don’t want to pass that up. It’s tough to find good employees, so when you find someone you know can grow the business and do a good job, it just makes sense to hire them.
8) How have you found success in finding the “right person” when it comes to hiring?
I’ve hired a lot of people with technical experience in the past, but nowadays I don’t worry about experience in repairing phones. I actually prefer hiring someone who hasn’t fixed a lot of phones before, or worked for another repair shop, because you can teach them from scratch and make sure they learn to perform the repairs how you want them to… the right way as opposed to what they were taught before, which may not have been the best way possible.
I try to find someone who’s smart, has an aptitude for fixing things, enjoys the technology, and someone you can teach. That’s what I always look for when it comes to bringing someone on board.
9) What standards do you feel our industry is lacking?
Well there really aren’t any standards in this industry, so I’d like to see some standards for repair shops. Differentiating between a qualified repair shop that’s doing a good quality job, versus a repair shop that’s just trying to crank out a repair.
I think parts standards would be great to see also, there’s a variety of parts and quality on the market, with so many sellers claiming to have OEM when they don’t have OEM. It just leads to a lot of repair shops thinking they’re getting “OEM parts” when they’re really not.
10) What are your hopes for our industry?
Continued growth and more professionalism within the industry. More awareness would be great too… there are so many people who still don’t know that you can fix so many things that are broken on a phone! It still surprises me every day to hear people say, “Oh, you can fix a broken screen?!”
Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us, Dave! You can learn more about Dave and his repair and training services by visiting StLouisCellPhoneRepair.com