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Alex Fourie has always been an entrepreneur. His ambitions were kindled in 2007, when the iFix founder wanted to solve his own problem and fix his iPod. Eventually his friends had the same problem, and he soon started repairing devices out of his dorm room in the South African town, Stellenbosch.
Fast forward eight odd years, and Fourie is today cutting the red ribbons of two new iFix branches: one in George and the other in Nelspruit, raking up the total to 11 stores across South Africa. Scattered across Johannesburg through to Cape Town, these shops are repairing over an average of 10 000 Apple and Samsung products a month.
These specialist repair shops are also sprouting up alongside curious in-house product lineups such as the stylish wooden device casings and accessories brand, Houdt, as well as mobile charging stations called RiCharge.
Speaking about the company’s successful growth path over the years, Fourie explained that a lot of it has to do with his just-do-it approach as well as a strong focus on excellence.
“When you do something (and a lot of people will tune me for saying this) don’t even worry about the paperwork, just do stuff,” he said over a phone interview. “Worry about the red tape after.”
There were a couple of times when he realised he’s onto something worth exploring.
“Initially, it was when I was solving my own problem. Secondly, it was when I posted my first first CapeAds ad and my phone rang 15 times on the first day. I thought that there might be a business here.”
He noted that there’s no real date tied to iFix’s inception.
“It’s all relative, I’ve only registered the business three years after I started. You never sit there and go ‘let’s do our market research’. Once you’ve done all that you’ve missed half the opportunity. Get off the couch and just do something.”
Fourie said that a focus on excellence has helped the company edge its way closer to winning the hearts of the local market.
“Excellence isn’t a result of one or two good decisions,” he explained. “It’s a result of thousands of small, good decisions. A bunch of above average-decisions will culminate over time. Everything you do, do it well and the rest will sort itself out.”
For instance, he explained, the majority of iFix’s work comes from marketing. Even though it’s been spending hundreds of thousands of rands in this area, around 75% of its work comes purely from word-of-mouth. “If you do something, and you do it well, it brings back a positive network effect.”
Asking how to induce a trickle-down effect for your business, Fourie said that it starts from the bottom-up. “First you got to train well, and then you need to systemise. Systemisation is key. I always believe you should hire the best people but prepare for a monkey.”
Today, iFix has a back-end system in place that shows the client’s experience live, which helps prevent bad experiences. It’s also been working on a white label product that takes care of everything from the supply chain to the customer experience. “Most international systems are too cumbersome,” said the entrepreneur. “We thrive on minimalisation, so a technician should at all times be allowed to do as little as possible.”
Named one of Forbes’ 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs In Africa 2014, Fourie recently told Ventureburn that he’s starting to gear up iFix to expand into the rest of Africa after securing its second round of funding.
Moreover, on the expansion side, the company has seen a lot of interest globally. Especially from Europe, Fourie said. Being the only one of three companies globally in this space, RiCharge for instance, is currently exporting to 12 other countries around the globe.
Two more South African branches are set to open up in June.
Images via iFix Facebook