Posts Tagged ‘smashed LCD’
Today Cambridge Laptop Repair occupies premises in Cambridge near Stourbridge Common but when Lee first started his company, he would fix computers in the evening in his back bedroom at home whilst holding down an office job during the day.
Lee started out fixing computers during his spare time in his home town of Redruth in Cornwall. He worked during the day as a pharmaceutical dispenser in a busy doctor’s surgery and spent his evenings making home visits to sort out computer problems for other people.
Lee moved to Cambridge in August 2007 with his wife Gemma and immediately started delivering leaflets to promote his new business, Collins Computers.
“I was completely blind…
Where do I go? It wasn’t easy”
Many of the calls Lee received were enquiries about laptop repairs, something that he had little experience with. Where possible he would source a replacement main board, the central nervous system of a laptop, or he would out-source a delicate repair to another company. Finding spare parts was a particular challenge for someone with few contacts in that niche of the industry. As Lee says, “I was completely blind. Okay, I’ve got a laptop that needs fixing and I need a part. Where do I go? It wasn’t easy.”
Lee could see the imminent growth of the laptop repair market heading his way and decided to capitalise on this by launching Cambridge Laptop Repair in November 2007, at that point nothing more than a website. A call-answering service would deal with customer phone-calls during working hours when Lee was busy doing his admin job and he would return the calls in the evening. Some prospective customers were lost due to a lack of immediate response but gradually business picked up.
Lee watched the performance of his website steadily improve in search engine results and responded to a growing number of enquiries over the course of the next two months. “I had loads of calls over Christmas,” he says. On New Years Day 2008 he made a resolution that he would immediately quit his office job to work full time on Cambridge Laptop Repair. His boss wished him the best of luck with the new venture and with that Lee was in the full-time laptop repair business.
“Everyone called me Colin, they didn’t
realise that Collins is my last name.”
The change of name and direction has helped differentiate the company in a dynamic market. Not only does the new company name make their website easier to find when searching for laptop repair, it also means that customers are less likely to get Lee’s name wrong. “Everyone called me Colin” he laughs, “they didn’t realise that Collins is my last name.”
The business continued to be run from Lee’s back bedroom until October 2008 when he leased his first premises in The Enterprise Centre in Ditton Walk, Cambridge. Since then he has hired three engineers, first Chris as an apprentice, and then Wiktor and Lukasz, both from Poland. Wiktor was an electronics engineer in the Polish army and Lee praises both his and Lukasz’s ability for intricate repair work. “Fixing things is what they do,” he says.
Laptops arrive with a variety of problems. Some are easy to identify like a smashed LCD screen or broken keyboard whilst others require a more thoughtful approach to fault-finding. Lee explains: “If a customer says their laptop isn’t charging, we first of all have to figure out what’s broken. Is it the DC jack, the power connector, which is one of our most regular repairs? Or is it the charging circuit, where the laptop will work off the mains power, but the battery doesn’t charge?
“Once we’ve assessed the problem, we email an estimate for the work to the customer for their approval. We aim to get working laptops back to our customers within five working days, but we frequently achieve a three-day turnaround.” All repairs are now done in-house, a fact which makes Lee justifiably proud. “We don’t send anything out for repair any more. I hated it every time we did that.”
The repair team are supported by Lee’s wife Gemma, “the real backbone to the business,” says Lee, and by Terri who together deal with the customers and look after all the administration. With a growing workforce, Cambridge Laptop Repair is busier than ever, serving 200 trade customers like computer shops and managed services providers, whilst also catering to end-users directly. The company has cultivated a strong reputation within the trade for its ability to turn around laptop repairs at an affordable price and this has helped it grow its client-base of other IT companies.
Perhaps his biggest challenge is deciding how to grow the business to the next stage. “We’ve got several options. We’re being asked to repair games consoles more and more. For example we fix the red ring of death on Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles and offer a 12 month guarantee on the work.” Console repairs are not the only growing market that Lee has identified. “We think we could offer cost-effective iPod and mobile phone repairs, but we need to make sure we can handle the demand.”
Running a busy laptop repair business is a different world from the work of a dispensing pharmacist, but Lee feels the change has been worth it. “I got to the stage where I had two choices, either to go back to school for six years to become a fully qualified pharmacist, or to change what I was doing entirely. Now I’m always busy with my nose to the grind-stone, but I enjoy it.”
“We started with diddly”
Lee credits the internet for the success of his business. “Our most effective marketing tool has been our website,” he says. When he first started the business, Lee says he started with “diddly” and spent a “small fortune” on Google Adwords Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising using his credit card, thousands of pounds every month. “It paid for itself though,” he says. Other advertising has been less effective, such as a sponsored listing in a popular directory that was “a complete waste of money” as Lee puts it.
Lee is now exploring new territory for the company with a Facebook page and a Twitter account. “We’re experimenting with these to see how they can be used to communicate with customers and grow the business,” says Lee. “However we still receive most of our repairs through the website or from customers calling us on the phone.”
If you need your laptop repaired, give Cambridge Laptop Repair a call on 01223 825 777 or go to http://www.cambridgelaptoprepair.co.uk.
Nationwide courier collection facility available.
Cambridge Laptop Repair
The Enterprise Centre
61 Ditton Walk
Tel: 01223 852 777