It was 2009, in the shadow of a global economic crisis, and I was a recent college graduate who was lucky to have a job. Yet at 21 years old, my entrepreneurial spirit yearned to escape the confines of a cubicle—I just didn’t know when or how to make the leap.
That summer, I made a careless mistake that I never dreamed would lead to hundreds of franchises and deals with some of the largest players in the mobile space. I dropped my smartphone, shattering the screen. I was shocked to find that replacing the part would cost more than what I originally paid for the device. I began searching for an alternative repair or replacement solution. Finding no verifiably trustworthy service online, I took matters into my own hands.
After some trial and a lot of error, I finally repaired the phone with the help of my childhood friend, David Reiff. The experience provided an aha moment for me: If I had trouble repairing my device as a tech-savvy millennial, countless others were likely facing the same issue.
To better understand the market, David and I launched a service offer on eBay to test demand. Orders flooded in, and we continued to juggle full-time jobs while repairing phones at night and on our lunch breaks.
A short time later, we took our side project full-time, opening our first uBreakiFix brick-and-mortar location on the advice of our friend, Eddie Trujillo. Our first Orlando store quickly outpaced the online market, and within four months, we expanded to four Florida locations. We were onto something…
It was important to us to build the enterprise with no debt, no loans, no venture capital. How did we do it? We offered overqualified friends jobs at $10 an hour, promising them the opportunity to own their own store if they stayed with it. This exchange has paid off for us and them in a big way, and our MBA-graduate friends who lent their talents years ago now own their own franchises––and many of them are still under the age of 30.
We opened 47 corporate stores before we began franchising in 2013. Demand for our services continued to grow exponentially as technology became increasingly integrated into day-to-day life. The franchising model emerged as a solution to keep pace with demand, allowing us to grow faster and further than we could corporately.
As we learned more, we realized that our biggest challenge would be ensuring consistency across stores. The model challenged us to improve and innovate in order to safeguard the quality and customer experience that defines our brand. We made heavy investments in our infrastructure, with special attention to internal systems and processes.
We developed our Portal system, which is home to step-by-step guides and videos on how to repair “anything with a power button,” while also serving as the online community for employees to share best practices and learnings. Portal also houses all store performance metrics referenced by owners and corporate.
We recognized early that many prospective franchisees might not be completely comfortable with technology or repair, so we developed a sophisticated training program to equip franchisees with all the right skills. We provide a three-week training in Orlando followed by another three weeks of in-store support to ensure franchisees have the confidence needed to deliver high quality service and an industry-leading customer experience all the time.
We also help our franchisees raise awareness in their communities by providing marketing resources, including public relations, social media, design and digital initiatives. Our industry is still in its infancy, so it is critical to educate the communities we serve about the benefits of repair and the role uBreakiFix can play in their devices’ lifecycle.
My unorthodox path to success is also a testament to the millennial generation. Millennials are sometimes seen as a challenging, yet necessary asset to the modern workforce, and businesses are adapting in the wake of the generation’s growing influence. I found when hiring and leading a largely millennial workforce, as well as being one myself, that I needed to keep a few things in mind.
1) Set Clear Expectations and Attainable Goals.
Millennials appreciate when employers reward their work and acknowledge their value, so creating a system that fulfills both of these desires allows for a motivational, encouraging workplace.
It is important to implement clear metrics for performance evaluation, as well as set dates for quarterly reviews to communicate progress. It is also wise to note that millennials grew up in a more competitive world than generations past, so they are used to evaluating themselves within the context of their peers.
It’s good to be aware of this inherent competitive nature so that you can encourage teamwork, while still providing opportunities for individuals to distinguish themselves among their peers. Overall, communication is crucial for everyone to know what is expected and what goals they are working towards, both as a team and individually.
2) Create Progressive Opportunities.
Another key to attracting millennials is creating new and diverse opportunities for them. Think about it this way: our grandparents saw their parents working in factories and decided they wanted something better for themselves, so much of their generation entered into semi-manual labor. Then, our parents saw our grandparents’ work and strove for something more, so many of them went into the business world.
Now, this generation has watched its parents work in a cubicle, and it’s saying “I don’t want to sit at a desk; I want something more.” You have to keep up with these attitudinal shifts and cater your business model accordingly if you want to attract the next generation workforce and ensure your business’ longevity.
3) Cultivate Teamwork. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Company Culture.
Increasingly, millennial applicants are choosing companies based on culture above all else. The foundation of a company’s culture is its people, so we are intentional when choosing our team members. When hiring, don’t just look at skill set––that era is over. You have to evaluate applicants on a holistic level, weighing their skills and experiences as well as their personalities.
Ask yourself, “in addition to performing a technical job, will this person be a valuable addition to our internal culture?” If the answer is no, you might want to keep looking. A successful company is one that works as a team, across all offices and markets. The better everyone gets along, the more productive the team, so it’s not always about finding the smartest or most experienced applicants; it’s about finding people you want to work with. Finding applicants who reconcile expertise and charisma can be extremely difficult, but doing so will benefit your company in the long run.
Since those early days in 2013, we have grown uBreakiFix to nearly 300 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Our rapid franchise growth has allowed us to reach millions of new customers, grow our corporate support team, gain industry recognition and build partnerships with major industry players.
In October 2016, we partnered with Google to become the exclusive walk-in repair partner for its phone, the Pixel. Without franchising, we would have never been on the radar of an industry giant like Google, nor would we have had the footprint to support the partnership. The franchise model has allowed us to amplify and diversify our business in ways that a corporate model could not.
Not only does the franchise model allow our brand to make a large impact across markets, but our franchisees have been able to fulfill their own entrepreneurial dreams by providing a service they are passionate about and growing a team that they trust.
We measure our success as leaders not by our personal progress, but rather by the success of those around us. Our team has exceeded our greatest expectations, allowing us to reach milestones and achieve goals that make us proud to be a part of uBreakiFix.