We recently spoke to Leonard Blue from Experimac of Richmond, VA. He’s coming up on the 1-year anniversary of his location; Leonard opened his Richmond store in mid-April 2016. Although he had held leadership positions during his 22-year military career, he had never owned a business before opening his Experimac store. With franchises across the country, Experimac is a trusted tech source for Apple® product repairs and upgrades, pre-owned sales and trade-ins for iPhone® devices, iPad® tablets, iMac® computers, MacBook® laptops and more. Additionally, Experimac sells accessories for these devices and offers same-day service for repairs and upgrades. We’re often able to fix your device while you
wait. Experimac offers a 90-day warranty on all repairs because we want all of our customers to experience the Experimac difference.
Leonard has a great store manager, Kevin, working alongside him in Richmond. Kevin spends most of his time doing the actual repair work and following up with customers who have been in the store for repairs. They have found that following up with customers is a great way to touch base with the customer, make sure they are happy with the service they received and it pretty much guarantees a return customer in the future. Kevin started out as a customer in the store until one day he sat down to talk with Leonard and it turned out, he had experience so Leonard decided to bring him aboard. The days are long for Leonard, averaging 12 hours, but he is really enjoying the customer contact and community involvement that owning his Experimac store in Richmond brings. Here’s more of what Leonard had to say:
EXPERIMAC: What is your connection to the community of Richmond? Why did you choose to open a location there?
Leonard: I liked the location. We’re close to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) so we can be help the kids going to college there. We offer a 10% discount to all students and faculty members that come into the store, no matter what they are coming in for. We’re trying to make it easier on them. Also, I do a lot of volunteer work within the community with young kids through a program called Go to High School, Go to College. We try to get them interested in higher education and help them stay focused on school so that they can have a better future. And I’ve also volunteered for the March of Dimes for 10 years trying to bring awareness to infants born with disabilities and other issues.
EXPERIMAC: What would you say has been the most interesting or exciting part of owning an Experimac location?
Leonard: For me, every day is different. It’s a new opportunity with each individual that comes into the store, dealing with different personalities and being able to provide the assistance that people need. You never know what to expect in terms of what’s going to happen throughout the day. I just like doing it, really. I like working with people. I like the employees I’m working with. It’s about helping people. It’s not about making money, that’s going to come in the long-term. It’s about providing that assistance to someone because you’re working on a device that they use on a daily basis and they really can’t be without it. Most of the time, they need it fixed fast and I try to assist them with that service so they can make calls and get their work done.
EXPERIMAC: What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of it?
Leonard: Knowing what to provide people. It’s so different every day. For example, knowing what to have on hand as far as the inventory you keep in the store. When you finally think you understand what your market is, it changes. You never know what type of computer the individual will find more user-friendly. It’s been challenging to get those inventory reports and all of the equipment into the store.
EXPERIMAC: Are you doing the repairs yourself or is it all done by hired technicians?
Leonard: No, I do it myself as well but not as much because I’m more focused on the initial customer service experience at the front of the store and maintaining the inventory. I’m on the computer quite a bit trying to get stuff done. We try to provide same-day or next-day service so if we’re really busy, I’ll jump in to help. I try to stay out of Kevin’s way so he can get it done but I help if he’s backed up.
EXPERIMAC: Have you been able to get involved in the Richmond community? Networking groups, schools, etc.?
Leonard: We’re in the process doing something with Fox Elementary, providing grab bags for parents with promotional items at the PTA meetings. We also do a 10% off for them and if they purchase something, 10% goes to the school’s PTA so they can use that money to send kids on trips, etc. We also do stuff at VCU like providing actual diagnostic checks on the campus to let them know what we do here, try to provide them with assistance. If there’s anything we can’t fix on the spot, we have them come to the store and we provide the service at a discounted rate as well.
EXPERIMAC: What kind of feedback have you gotten from customers so far, whether in store or online?
Leonard: Excellent feedback so far! 5-star reviews on Google, Yelp and Facebook. Even when we do our follow-up calls with our customers, they enjoy our customer service, they appreciate us calling and following up on their repairs. Most of the time, when we call them, they have additional needs that we can help with. We’ve been getting good feedback. The only “issue” we sometimes have is people coming in the store saying, “we didn’t know you guys were here, I would have come to you first.” So, building more awareness is a focus.
EXPERIMAC: Have you noticed any patterns in terms of the type of work you’re doing? Repairs, less upgrades or more upgrades . . . any pattern?
Leonard: Honestly, I have not found a pattern yet. We do more computer repair, whether it be PC or Mac, for the local community. Screen and phone repairs is more prevalent with the college students. But, that’s all as far as patterns. The customers’ needs are always changing and we just adjust to it.
EXPERIMAC: Would you say there is a typical Experimac customer? Do you see more college students? Families that need their phone replaced?
Leonard: Honestly, since I haven’t been in business for a full year yet, there are some trends when it comes to Experimac customers but I’m still trying to narrow it down to target a certain market group. It seems like it’s always changing. Most of my computer repair work comes from the adult community, most of my computer sales comes from individuals living or working in and around Richmond but as far as phone repairs, I get quite a few from the college students. Every now and then, those college students do come in and buy a computer or a family member that is visiting will come buy a computer from our store. We’re still a young store so I can’t say for certain who our target group is.
EXPERIMAC: What would you say are the top 3 skills to be a successful entrepreneur?
Leonard: I would say, enjoy what you’re doing so you have a passion for doing it and want to do it. If you don’t, you won’t want to do it for very long or you won’t want to put forth the work to make it successful. In this particular business, you have to be a people person. You have to be able to listen to the customers. You need to understand where they’re coming from in order to take care of their problems. Listen to them, be a people person. You need to be a “go-getter” type of person. The business is not going to just come to you. You need to explain things to people, put yourself out there, let people know what you do and stand behind the service you provide. If you stand behind your 90-day warranty, for example, and make the repairs if something goes wrong, that customer is going to be even more grateful and get you additional referrals.
As Leonard has figured out, owning your own business requires a lot of time and dedication so his early morning workouts give him the stamina to make it through the day. It’s clear that where there’s a will, there’s a way because somehow, Leonard still makes time to volunteer and mentor young adults in the community in his spare time. If you live or work in the Richmond area, stop by Experimac of Richmond, VA and see how Leonard and Kevin can help you with repairs, upgrades, or trade-ins of your favorite Apple® products. We’re confident you’ll feel right at home at Experimac of Richmond, VA and will receive excellent customer service as well.