The Business Owner: Ali Lijee, iTechnician
The Manchester-based business owner explains why companies should initially focus on the service they provide, and not their profits
Name: Ali Lijee
Proposition: A same day repair service for Apple products
Size: 6 staff + 300 independent technicians
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
We aim to repair Apple devices,especially iPhones and iPads, within an hour and while the customer waits ( such as at a local store, their home, a hotel, work place or coffee shop etc).
How did you finance your business?
Self-funded. I worked full time for Virgin Media Business and spent my spare time in the evenings ,and the cash I earned from my employment, building the team and service. For the first year the iTechnician service was free for the technicians to be featured on the site. They liked the service so much that they were happy to pay a monthly subscription fee.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
The customer is really what matters to us. We regularly track the performance of our hundreds of technicians to make sure they deliver a quality service and that the customer gets the best service.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
That the technicians are quoting customers for the repairs needed in a timely manner (i.e. within a couple of hours).
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
We use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and our technicians advertise the iTechnician network by displaying banners on their shop windows and on their promotional material such as websites. Our strong presence online in Google also helps attract new customers to our site.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
We don’t export or import products and never have done. We solely provide an on-demand service for customers looking for an affordable same day repair service for their iPhones, iPads, iPods and Apple Macs.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
My Barclays app. It’s great to be able to track and confirm receipt of a payment to a customer even whilst on the go or in the evenings when I’m out of the office.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Fast, affordable repairs.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
As a small business starting out, I was focused on building the business myself and using my own cash and knowledge in the field. Now that we are at a point where we are VAT registered, I would have liked for the government to help small businesses that little bit more as I just feel the VAT we have to pay is too excessive – especially when you are at a point where you can grow.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
My old boss Lawrence Jones of UKFast. I learnt a lot from him and his energy and approach to business. In fact, it’s the only place in my working career where I learnt about how to build a successful business.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
We want to be a ‘one stop shop’ for repairing and buying back used and faulty Apple devices so we can refurbish and sell on the devices in the local market place.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
Don’t focus on the money side too soon. Stay focused on making sure the service works for your target market. When I started, it was always about ensuring the service worked for the technicians and the customers. Our technicians did not hesitate to pay for the service when they saw what we were capable of achieving as a free service.