Talk about "breaking" into a fledgling market.

The gadget repair company uBreakiFix had only $120,000 of revenue in 2009. Last year, they had revenue of $90M. That's a 75,000% increase! As of late last year, the franchise has opened 162 stores nationwide and repaired over 1.5M devices.

In 2016 alone, they plan to open at least 113 new stores for a total of 275 corporate- and franchise-owned shops. They just recently announced 24 new store openings in the first quarter of this year alone, setting a record pace.

That's a pretty good track record for founder Justin Wetherill, who was working in a Best Buy store before he started the company by fixing phones for a few friends. In a fit of irony, Wetherill says he was never promoted at Best Buy and was stuck in the wasteland of DVD and CD sales with no opportunity to excel.

Then, in 2009, he and two friends, David Reiff and Eddie Trujillo, helped start the company. Interestingly, when they had a handful of stores and a few employees in each one, there wasn't a great need for a management layer or tools for monitoring, but the company had a vision to become a household word (or at least something you see in most major cities). More and more people now own multiple gadgets, so it made sense to capitalize on the growth, but to do that, the company had to start going from scrappy startup to established franchise all over the U.S.

"Going from 10 to 20 or 20 to 30 stores has a lot of costs that aren't necessarily just incremental to the store growth such as middle management, inventory for our distribution center and systems to monitor stores success and keep the experience consistent even with all the growth," says Wetherill, explaining that they had to look long and hard at the process, not just the numbers.

They used a four-prong strategy. One was to keep opening stores at an increasingly rapid pace. This fueled additional growth because it just kept up the momentum. They also had to expand in other ways. Wetherill says they increased the number of devices they can repair in the store beyond the typical iPhone and Samsung models. Then, he says they fine-tuned most of their customer support and business process so that it focused on word of mouth. They wanted happy customers to tell people about how UBreakiFix fixed their phone. And, they had to invest in their supply chain. As they grew, they had to make sure they had all of the parts every store needed for repairs so there weren't any slowdowns in the ordering process.

More than anything, Wetherill says he had to focus on the people he was hiring. Tremendous growth happens when the people involved in the company all have an attitude of growth, a penchant for excellence, and a desire to succeed. They don't settle. Companies don't grow because of one popular figurehead with a great idea; they grow because everyone works hard.

"From 2009 to 2012 we expanded corporately," says Wetherill. "We did this by hiring great people to operate the stores so that we could focus on the bigger picture. In many ways when we began franchising in 2013 we were essentially doing the same thing -- bringing like minded people on board that were committed to delivering a superior experience for the users of tech."

Published on: Apr 15, 2016