Q&A: Going beyond the call to dial up success

This week we talk to Abraham Mikhail, founder of Fone King, who eptiomises the mantra of turning “you can’t” into an “I can”. Suffering dyslexia at school, Abraham learnt that he excelled in one thing – customer service – and leveraged the rise of the mobile phone to create a national franchising business. Abraham mentors other businessmen and assists troubled youths by inspiring and motivating themselves to be their best.

ISB: When and how did the idea for Fone King come about?

AM: I love gadgets. And, when mobile phones became a must-have gadget, I realised that there was nobody out there treating the repair and accessory industry with respect and care whilst educating Australians on phone repairs. Therefore, in 2003, I decided to be that person and started Fone King.

ISB: How did you fund the business in its start-up phase and early stages of operation?

AM: When I had the vision for Fone King, I knew nothing was going to hold me back. I sold my car to help fund my idea. My father then gave me a small loan to help me secure our first shop in Miranda Fair.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in setting up/running the business, and how did you overcome it?

AM: When you start your own business, you realise, “wow, there’s no one to fall back on”. There are so many challenges; managing people, managing suppliers, and doing all this without the confidence you develop down the track.

Within just a few months of opening our first kiosk within a Westfield shopping centre the management put another mobile repairs and accessory business only 10 metres away from us. I complained but meant nothing to them, I was a small fish in a big pond! I had to act fast, because I had to survive. I had to be the better business. I made sure that my customer service could not be beaten. I focused on what the customers needed and ensured we knew all our products back to front. It was all about solving the problems of our beloved customers. Soon, our loyal customers began to appreciate our services and our knowledge and not only did we survive, but the business thrived…and continues to do so.

ISB: What is your USP that makes Fone King different to its competitors?

AM: Very simple – our technicians are trained technicians. They didn’t learn their trade on YouTube, and it’s not a hobby for them. It’s a career. A lot of other repair shops don’t have technicians. We live in a world where everyone thinks they can fix their own mobile phone or device, but when there’s a major problem on a motherboard or data recovery, that needs an expert. Our best and most rewarding work is the data recovery work, a service unrivalled in Australia.

ISB: Where do you see the business developing in the next couple of years?

AM: Our focus will expand to where gadgets and lifestyle meet. We are talking about the home integration of your mobile phone. Your smartphone is quickly becoming your laptop. More capabilities, more features. We’re making sure we stay ahead of the game, repairing these new devices so you can get the best out of it 24/7. And, for us, the future’s not all about phones. We’re moving quickly to offer repair solutions for any device – your laptop, your Xbox, etc.

ISB: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you would pass onto others with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?

AM: Firstly, research your industry and create a point of difference. That’s the trick to business. It’s so simple that most people forget it! Everybody ends up being the same. You can’t be the same. As soon as you become the same, there’s no reason for them to come to you. One of my favourite sayings is “follow the dream, not the competition”.

And, secondly, if you’re not prepared to grind, if you’re not prepared to do seven days a week, 24/7, then you’re going to fail. You need to know that it’s going to be relentless – and be prepared. There are no short cuts, just hard work.

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