Enter the Stealth Tech

It’s the back half of my second year in the appliance repair business, and I am running at full capacity on service calls all day, every day.

I have multiple commercial accounts, one of which is a 600 unit planned development complex that keeps me pretty busy all by itself.

My wife now works full time in the office answering the phone, scheduling, and billing, and I have had to hire a subcontractor to take overflow calls.

That doesn’t change the fact that I still have only a year and a half experience in appliance repair, and that means I still have a lot to learn.

Most of the jobs with problems I’ve never encountered  I can handle using online resources and remote experts.  I continue to tap into Uncle Harry’s online support system to find solutions.  I even use my smartphone’s high-resolution camera to shoot detailed pictures of broken appliances and send them out to his network of experienced techs who can recognize what they see.

But on some of the jobs, I found myself wishing I could just knock heads together with someone who could put their hands directly on the unit, do some real time troubleshooting on site while I shoulder surfed, and give me their second opinion.

I seriously considered subcontracting with someone else’s company so I could gain this “fly on the wall” perspective.

A happy accident occurred when I hired my subcontractor.

He had been a full-time appliance repair technician for 8 years for a national company before going freelance.  He didn’t focus on full-scale lead generation or dealing directly with large commercial accounts.  He got most of his leads by word of mouth around town from one appliance repair company to the next.

When we met it was a perfect match.

As luck would have it, not only does he handle my overflow calls, but he also helps me out with my high complexity calls as my “stealth tech.”  All I tell the customer is that I’m going to have Steve take look at their appliance because he has worked on a lot of these particular units.

I now have that boots-on-the-ground resource that can take a physical look at some of my more difficult cases after I’ve had a crack at them.  I get a chance to watch how he approaches the problem as an experienced technician.  Sometimes it’s the same as I went about it and he just confirms my diagnosis, but sometimes it’s different and he comes up with different results.

Right now I call him in about once a week to take a look at something I’ve been working on.  It’s just one more handy component while I’m closing the experience gap.

3 Replies to “Enter the Stealth Tech”

  1. Was just reading your blog post here and was curious if you could expand on how you went about getting a contract with a condo. I’m in Miami and I own My own appliance biz. It is just me and I am looking to expand to contracts. Do you got another blog post on that topic – thanks for the great info.

    1. Great question, and I will try do a post about this. All large multi-unit developments typically have a property manager, and often an internal maintenance department as well. I prefer to stop by in person (as opposed to phone, email or mail) to introduce myself. I try to get just a minute of the property manager’s time at the office to present my services and make it compelling. I like to ask them how much they are spending on contract appliance repair annually, and I make sure I’m competitive enough with my pricing to save them a significant amount of money working with me in the future instead. I give these clients a “special discount commercial” rate, because securing one or two of these accounts can not only have a big effect on your bottom line due to volume business, but also gives you additional credibility when you contact future property managers and drop the names of the other accounts you service. Be aware that if they do have a maintenance department, those guys often handle a fair portion of their appliance repairs, so be ready to hear a few false promises of future work. It is really just a numbers game, and fate will eventually lead you to someone who happens to need someone right now for whatever reason. Best of luck!

    2. There are 2 possible strategies depending on the kind of biz you want to partner with.

      For multifamily, you could offer a 10-15% discount compared to your ordinary customers and it would likely be enough to get all of their calls. This can work well if they mostly have basic appliances or old ones so you don’t need to call tech line and all the parts are readily available locally.

      For laundromats, restaurants, senior living facilities, etc. You could almost charge a little more per call but promise them to always schedule any service visit on the day that they call. For them, being up and running quickly is worth more than any discount, moreover they probably just want a reliable service company who always shows up on time, so they won’t even call anyone else if you do the job well.

      Actually, in such situation, it’s often better to charge a higher base fee for the call but lower hourly rate and offer all parts at cost, so they only call when it’s important but aren’t surprised by the total price for a repair.

      It can also be good to agree upfront on an amount under which you always perform the work, and otherwise call them beforehand with a comprehensive repair quote just to save everyone’s time.

      For commercial accounts, I usually include a free 20 to 30 minutes of labor with each service call, and they get evening and weekend work without any extra cost.

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