First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Usman Butt: We’re doing good, but the COVID crisis is causing a lot of stress for many of our teammates and friends. Fortunately, we had no serious health issues. We are following our local government’s guidelines for social distancing. Also, I’m using this opportunity and talking to customers, getting to know about their challenges in the crisis, and devising a solution for those problems.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded RepairDesk.
Usman Butt: I began my entrepreneurial journey when I was fresh out of college and helping my brother at his cell phone repair store. While working there, I faced numerous issues related to managing workflow and inventory. Repair jobs were assigned to workers verbally, and customer records were never really kept. This ended up in customers facing delays when having their cell phones repaired and our repair specialists forgetting issues related to the cellular device they were working on. It was complete chaos.
“Thinking of starting a business and actually starting it are two different things, let alone worrying about sustaining a business after starting it.”
Having an IT educational background, I quickly realized our store needed a POS and inventory management software so that we could breathe easy. Our ideal system would keep track of our customers, devices, and cell phone repair specialists. Before developing a software solution for our store, I looked around to see how other repair shops in the market were managing their workflow and found out that they, too, were facing the same issues.
That’s when I realized there was a prevalent problem in the market, and I knew how to solve it. I planned to consult renowned SaaS (software-as-a-service) experts around the globe, hire the best IT specialists in the market, and develop a cloud-based POS software so that no repair store would face the issues we did while running our cell phone repair shop. I worked with my team to create RepairDesk in 2014, and that’s how RepairDesk entered the market.
How does RepairDesk innovate?
Usman Butt: We’re a customer-centric company; most of our innovation is driven by our clients’ needs. Our company’s care and responsiveness to our clients has allowed us to grow exponentially over the years.
Additionally, my team and I are regularly involved in product management training, marketing, agile models, and project roadmaps.
RepairDesk is also constantly innovating with the latest technologies and tools so that we can cater to our industry’s evolution better and are more useful for repair industry professionals.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Usman Butt: When the pandemic initially took hold, we felt upset but prepared. We knew we could deliver the care and attention needed to our current clients while offering our cloud-based services.
Fortunately, our business has been less impacted; we ended up with significantly lesser setbacks than initially predicted. Nevertheless, in March, we began several initiatives so that we could continue to provide value to the radically disrupted lives of our members. We introduced contactless payments for repair store owners to stay safe and stay in business.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Usman Butt: Our major focus during the first few months of the COVID pandemic was balancing the clients’ needs with delivering a high-quality product and the best customer service possible remotely.
Many of our difficult choices centered on responding to the rapid growth of our business while avoiding burnout. We are incredibly grateful for how everyone stepped up to the challenge and worked as an awesome team!
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and RepairDesk in the future?
Usman Butt: Honestly, that’s a pretty challenging part of leading a company. There are a lot of things that can really stress you out. Some days, you feel like you’re on top of the world, but others, you feel like everything is collapsing right in front of you. It’s a mortifying feeling.
I find that to counter such a debilitating sensation; you should turn to others who have lived the same experiences and listen to what they have to say. The problems I face certainly aren’t unique; others have faced them too, and I like to learn about how they dealt with it. That’s why I often listen to podcasts and read books.
Authors like Ben Horowitz and Marty Cagan really inspire me with their ideas and challenges. It makes me realize that there is still so much that I can learn and do; I can apply myself in great new ways and make it work. It’s what motivates me to carry on one more day and build the company I always dreamed of – a leader in the industry that helps people.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Usman Butt: Some of our direct competitors are RepairShopr, RepairQ, and CellStore. And our plan to stay in the game is simple, really: “Make friends with your customers, period.”
Talk to your customers weekly to see how they are doing and find out their pain points. If you commit to providing a solution to all their problems with your product or service, they’ll definitely tell their friends about you. Their telling will do the selling for you.
In the coming future, my team and I are going back to the basics of our software and sharpening it up. I mean, if we just fuel the go-to features of repair shops like ticketing, invoicing, reporting, and inventory management, that’ll be enough to drive our software to the top. But if we want to remain a dominant force in our industry for a long time, we’ve gotta have our basics nailed down.
Your final thoughts?
Usman Butt: Stay safe. Keep grinding. Much like we already do at RepairDesk, we will all make it through this and emerge on the other side stronger and better than before.