Tell us about your company.
Lake Appliance Repair Headquarters is currently in Fair Oaks CA. We have a call center, management offices and everything else administration runs from that location. We also have two additional brick and mortar locations, one in Roseville, CA and the other in Reno, NV that are built out to test appliances. We use these locations to have tech trainings and meetings.
We do repairs for many box stores from these locations also. With the help of my brother-in-law we were able to open up a location on Maui a few years back and he was able to grow that operation to Oahu and the Big Island. We have a handful of techs scattered around Montana, mostly in Bozeman but out to the Livingston and Billings area as well. We have goals of hiring techs up near Missoula also in the future. We have had a couple of our California techs relocate to areas of Idaho, Boise and Idaho Falls. Since doing that, we have now been asked to fill in gaps that are in surrounding areas.
How did you get into the industry?
I am naturally driven to figure out how things work, if it is mechanical and electrical I have some weird wired brain that must understand how things work. To my peril sometimes I pull things apart to see how they are made. I can usually get them back together but not always.
I am a trade certified Auto Mechanic and did a 9000 hour apprenticeship after graduating high school. I am a native of New Zealand and many years ago I had a job as a roofing and construction laborer. One of my workmates girlfriends, also from New Zealand, was house sitting for a family in Granite Bay, CA and they needed a fridge repair. Craig, the technician who showed up, was also a New Zealander and of course one thing lead to another and we all decide to get together and BBQ. After speaking with Craig at the BBQ for a couple of hours he told me that if I could fix cars I could most certainly fix appliances, only it’s much cleaner (in most cases) than working on cars. So given that the only thing I enjoyed about roofing was that I could get a tan at work, I decided to apply for a job and Craig trained me on how to repair appliances. I never looked back.
Do you do sales and service?
We did have a go at opening a retail store at one point and we sold appliance parts and used appliances. My wife Krystle really loved the appliance parts store but I had zero passion for selling used appliances. So we ended up shutting down the store, although we still maintained some parts sales. With the rise of the internet we found that it was not cost effective and closed that down.
Now we strictly do appliance service. It is what we know and it is what we love.
When did you start your company?
We started the company in 2005.
What differentiates you from your competition?
We are Yes people, in the respect that we work for almost anyone who needs help. We are happy to grow into remote markets where the appliance repair coverage is sparse. By doing this when the competition is saying no is what differentiates us in many retailers or manufacturers eyes.
We also spend a lot of time, effort and money in engaging with our team. We often have bowling nights where any employee or vendor is invited to bring friends and family along. We have done camp trips, fishing trips, golf days, baseball and basketball games, we have had company co-ed softball teams in the past and we do team building adventures. We refer to our employees as friends or workmates and treat them as equals no matter what position they hold in the company. We get to know as many of these workmates as possible and learn about their lives, what they do for fun and outside of work. We celebrate everyone’s birthdays and start date anniversaries and we always celebrate milestones like buying a new house or earning higher education while working for the company.
But the biggest thing that differentiates us is the culture that we work hard to promote every day. It is simple and in the best interests of everyone involved. In every situation we coach all staff that they have full license in every situation that may come up throughout the day to consider two things: What is best for the customer and What is best for the employees involved. We let our people make decisions and in essence be their own boss so we can keep things moving along. It is empowering and due to that we have some very happy people helping us out.
How many techs do you have?
Currently 52 in 5 states.
What are your long term business goals?
To continue growing just as we have in the past, by taking on more and more remote markets and filling holes in coverage maps. We currently train about four new techs at a time by having them ride with senior techs and learn hands on in the shops. Long term we would love to expand this offering to more enthusiastic people from outside of the industry. There is a serious shortage of competent and qualified technicians in this industry and we believe that it is our responsibility to attempt to staff up in all the markets we are in to fill the void.
Krystle would like to take the company into other areas of home services, plumbing and electrical etc. but having gone through this for so long I know how challenging that will be. I believe in staying in my lane and doing a great job at what we do instead of a mediocre job at a lot of things. Stay tuned as my wife is very motivated and convincing.
What is your favorite part about the Appliance Business?
Being able to help people in need is probably the best part for me. When a household cannot do laundry or does not have a working fridge it puts a lot of stress on that household. Being able to come in and take all that stress away and put smiles on peoples faces is very satisfying.
Krystle and I very much enjoy helping the people we work with also. Any business owner will tell you that they ultimately become affected by the people they work with, and so offering to help goes a long way. We have seen dozens of workmates over the years get out of debt or buy homes or achieve higher education. We like to be flexible with schedules so that everyone can chase their dreams while still earning a living. it is very important that people are happy and actually want to come to work rather than have to come to work.
What do you do for fun when you aren’t running your company?
We have four children, one of them has left the nest but the other three keep us very busy. Between basketball, softball, football, rugby and band practice there is not a lot of time left for us. We love camping and have a couple of jet skis which are very fun summer activities. In the winter we always seek out a mountain or two to ski and snowboard a few times a season. Being from New Zealand I absolutely love the game of rugby union and will go to great lengths to watch it, especially my beloved All Blacks. They last came and played at Soldier field in Chicago against a fierce Irish national rugby team that actually beat us for the very first time. We were there for that game. Although the defeat was hard to take it is impossible to be upset with the Irish as they are super fun to be with.
We also love to travel. Krystle and I try to take at least one international trip per year without any kids so we can reconnect with each other and make memories together. And we always take at least one trip with the entire family per year, the latest was a road trip in our fifth wheel from Sacramento, California up to Bozeman, Montana and all the way down to Galveston, Texas. It was one of the most fun family trips we have ever done and the kids still talk about all the things we did along the way.
How long have you been a UASA member?
I do not know but it must have been at least 10 years now.
How did you first hear about UASA?
My wife Krystle found the UASA and attended an ASTI convention in San Antonio with her brother. I stayed back thinking it would be a waste of time, how wrong I was lol.
How has the association benefitted you?
Immensely! Once Krystle returned from the ASTI she implemented a handful of ideas into the business that she had learned there. From there we joined a networking peer group and continued to learn more. I then was a believer and started networking in other more local groups and could see the impact it was having on the company.
We have never felt like the cost of attending these events has been a waste of money, rather a great investment in the company and ourselves. The tools that the UASA has at our disposal are excellent but for us the real value is the membership, having now over 1,000 companies and growing that we can reach out to and develop relationships that may help us learn best practices is huge.
Is there an experience or takeaway that you can share from one of the ASTI conventions you’ve attended in the past?
One of my very first ASTI conventions, I was invited to a dinner party with about five other couples, all in the industry. I was at that time trying to get more customers and as a strategy I decided to lower my service call cost below my competitors. I was fortunate enough to sit next to Jeff Guinn, the owner of Guinco Service in the Fort Worth/Dallas area.
When I shared with him my strategy he asked me a simple question, “If you saw two identical tee-shirts in a store window, looked, felt, smelt, wore and in all areas appeared to be identical, but one of the shirts was $29 and the other one was $79 which one would you think was of a higher quality?” A lite bulb in my head flickered and I agreed that I would assume the more expensive shirt had to be a better one right? He then said what if both shirts cost $40 to be made? I would say that the guy selling the shirt for $29 is an idiot and the one selling for $79 would survive in business because he wasn’t losing money on every sale. He then strongly advised me to analyze what my Cost Of Doing Business was (CODB) and set my prices so I stay profitable.
I did this and realized that by discounting my service fee I was not only making us look like a less desirable company but also causing me to lose about $25 on every service call I ran. I now regularly calculate my costs to run calls and set my pricing accordingly, and should I lose a few calls on price I know the ones I do get will allow me to keep the doors open.