I was lucky enough to get an e-sit down with the founder of Fone King, Abraham Mikhail!
We’ll jump right into the interview, but first a little background of the man himself:
Fone King was founded by Abraham Mikhail and his sister Rhonda Mikhail in 2003. After seeing a gap in the market for trustworthy mobile phone repairs and high quality accessories, they opened their first store a year later in Miranda, NSW. Over the last four years, their footprint has grown to include 13 stores – covering NSW and QLD – and Fone King now has over 90 staff including head office, retail staff, operation managers, and professional phone technicians.
Since its launch, Abe has worked tirelessly to build and expand the foundations of this trailblazing business. Abe is not your typical founder. He is across every element of the business, injecting the business with his never-ending energy and positivity. He strives to give every customer the best experience at Fone King, from the customer experience instore with the layout and design, right through to the energy of the staff and service each customer receives.
Abe’s story is both compelling and inspirational. He struggled with dyslexia through his school years and was told time and time again “no you can’t”. Instead of listening to others and being stopped by barriers, Abe turned his pain into success, taking every “no” as a personal challenge.
Abe believes his key strength is customer service as you don’t need to read or write when dealing directly with customer. This back to basics attitude, offering customer the very best, is what sets the business apart from its competitors.
2018 marks a year of growth as Fone King looks to implement a franchise model across Australia. All first franchisee opportunities will be offered to staff that have helped grow the business over the years. These staff members will be champions of the Fone King culture and beliefs.
A passionate entrepreneur and larger than life character, Abe is also a co-founder of The Muse, founder of Skywalkers Australia and co-owner of My Little Sunshine Childcare. Whilst experiencing many difficulties during his childhood due to his dyslexia, Abe has focused on his strengths – the ability to connect with others through challenging times and then inspire them to success in their chosen fields.
Michael: Where did Fone King start? What was the toughest part of your journey to where you are now?
Abe: Fone King officially started with our first store in Westfield Miranda. But the idea lived in my head for a while before we had the physical store. Along the way there were many challenging moments.
Most people see the glory, the end product however behind the scenes it is a daily grind. I think the toughest part of our journey is staying focused and remaining patient. Especially when things get tough. It is easy to get bogged down or become negative. If there is an issue you can either deal with it or run away from it. I decide to deal with it and move on whilst keeping my focus on doing positive things for the business.
Michael: Starting a business isn’t easy (Trust me, I know hahaha), what has been the driving point for Fone King’s growth over the years?
Abe: Simple: Being told “no” over and over again. Being told “you can’t do this” or “you won’t be able to achieve that”. That’s what drives me to be successful. When I was at school I was at the bottom of the class. By a long way. I was dyslexic – couldn’t really read or write like the other kids could. No one gave me a fighting chance. So I decided to fight. Fight harder than the rest. For me, it’s about survival. I have no choice.
Michael: Focusing on the personal relationships is something we focus strongly on with TIG, do you believe this is what has been the key to your success?
Abe: I believe in being real and being authentic. And for me that means really knowing my staff and being approachable. If they have an issue they know they can talk to me (one-on-one) and that I will do everything in my power to help them. I don’t believe it’s the key to any success I may or may not have had – it’s just who I am.
Michael: Do you have plans on bringing the Fone King Franchise to New Zealand?
Abe: In a word, yes. We’ve had a lot of New Zealanders come through our stores in Brisbane and Sydney and I love meeting them and getting their feedback. So it’s the next logical step in our expansion. My wife’s half-kiwi too, so she’s keen to see this happen!
Michael: What’s the worst damaged phone you’ve ever seen come through and how extensive was the repair process? If you have any pictures we’d love to see them!
Abe: It was a classic hit and run! A distraught customer came in with a phone that had been run over by a car. It had all their personal data on it – they were desperate to retrieve it. The technicians at our main repair centre in Sydney spent around five hours on this phone and had to use three other motherboards just to power one and to retrieve the data for the customer. In the end we were successful.
Michael: As far as component level repair goes, at what point do you just have to wipe it clean and write off the device, or is anything fixable for a price?
Abe: Our technicians are seriously talented, I believe they are the best in the business. They can fix nearly anything that lands on their workstations. But, there is a small percentage of issues that simply can’t be fixed. For example if the memory chip on the board is actually broken.
At Fone King we do not believe in “anything is fixable for a price”. If it is not a smart decision to repair the phone we will be upfront this and tell the customer. Honesty and clarity with the client is important to us.
Michael: Do you have any plans to move into other realms of repairs, such as laptops or motherboards?
Abe: Yes, at Fone King we are already transitioning into laptop repairs to offer a more comprehensive service to our customers. And we won’t stop there – anything electronic is in our sights.
Michael: With all the controversy surrounding third party repairers or apple authorised repairers, what’s been the biggest challenge, getting parts or assuring customers?
Abe: I think assuring customers is the biggest challenge, especially when there are so many people out there offering really bad quality parts and services and are tarnishing the industry. Sometimes they’re selling products that aren’t actually what they’re labelled, they’re selling copy products as originals. So it’s a challenge to make the customer feel secure and build that trust.
A huge thank you to Abraham for taking the time to answer our questions!
For all our Australian readers, head over to the Fone King website to see the wonderful gear they have, or to find a store near you.