The State of Repairs

Episode 2 - The Importance of Training with Nicole Russell

February 16, 2021 RepairDesk Season 1 Episode 2
The State of Repairs
Episode 2 - The Importance of Training with Nicole Russell
Show Notes Transcript

The State of Repairs talks to Nicole Russell, CEO of Cellbotics based in Norcross, Georgia, US. Nicole's company works with repair shop owners and technicians to train them and help them work on repairs, among other things.

Nicole's background in education helped her establish a company that empowers repair technicians and owners, teaching them the necessary skills to perfect their trade. Her hard work has helped her carve a niche in the industry and many people have come to recognize her great skill with people.

With working with repair shops, Nicole has been able to see what challenges they go through and how to best deal with them. Being a repair shop owner herself, Nicole tells us her experiences with managing her own business, a bit about her past, what sort of environment she maintains, and how working in repair is an important part of her life.

Cellbotics Website - https://cellbotics.com/
Cellbotics Online Website - https://www.cellboticsonline.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/cellbotics/
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtuJzZ86MTla-foLdr1MGgQ

Sign up for RepairDesk -- https://www.repairdesk.co

Nosher Khan:

Thank you so much for coming over. it's been a real pleasure to have you over here. Why don't you tell us a bit about yourself?

Nicole Russell:

So I am the CEO and founder of Cellbotics. If people are not familiar with that, we are a training center for people entering the cell phone industry. We also offer some more advanced options for people that are already doing repair. but we're located in Norcross, Georgia. And yeah, what I do every day is I just work on training people and work with our students, and I work with our commercial accounts and producing content. And yeah that's a little bit about me.

Nosher Khan:

Alright so From what I get is that, you're really help enable repair shops by, training them and teaching them, giving them all the tools that are necessary to be able to perform those repairs and, run their business the best way that they can.

Nicole Russell:

And it's not just that, because our motto is anybody can teach you how to twist a screwdriver. If you are someone who's able to learn online, the stuff is out there, but the difference with us is the support the community, and our ability to teach you the business side of it and teach you how to analyze your information and how to grow, different ways to reach your community. So there's much more to us than just 'come here, learn to twist a screwdriver', which I feel like some people do have that misconception about trainings in general, but I don't consider Cellbotics just the run-of-the-mill training program. it's very different. Once you've become a student of ours we work really closely with you. We're there for you when you hit a wall. we hold your hand through a lot and we do primarily focus on people entering the industry, but we do offer some things to stores.

Nosher Khan:

All right. like for

Nicole Russell:

Yeah, for example. we do training for staff. so if you have staff that need to be trained now, normally what happens when someone contacts us and they own a shop or multiple shops and they want to get some training done. first just have a talk with them about where their staff are at, because there's one thing that we don't like to do is have people in our class that can't learn from our class. And many people in the industry have spoke to me and they know that's true because I will break down our content. I will figure out what best matches the people that they're sending. And then we deliver that course based on that person's level, depending on how many people they have. So some shops will send a group of people; we've even gone to shops and done training for large amount of staff. so we're really moldable in that way that we can really meet their need, where their staff's right now. If they just have one person they want to send, we're a little limited on how much we can chunk everything up. but we don't just say, "Yeah, go online and sign up and send your staff" because you could have someone that's already doing iPhone repair and been doing it for two years, but you want to send them for training. we need to make sure that they're not sitting in a class with people who don't even know what a pencil-up screwdriver is. You know what I mean? so then they're getting really good value from that class. So we do training for staff. we have the ability to help you find staff. We have helped a lot of larger companies. and we have some really big announcements coming up in the next few weeks. I'd love to get back on another Zoom with you guys, cause this is going to be pretty good stuff. but we do have the capabilities to help locate and find staff like actively go out and look for staff, but we also have a free service where it's just a job board, and then we have a new resume board. So basically you can go post your jobs on our website for free. And then we also have a resume list, which we just launched, like, two days ago where people can go and actually list their resumes. So if this is a technician, maybe a mobile technician listening to this, and you really want to work for a shop and you feel I want to do more than this, I want to be part of something bigger. I want to help somebody grow multiple locations and, you're feeling like, "I'm just a mobile tech, nobody wants to listen to me," go post your resume. And on there, we have some tips like post a video of you doing a repair with your resume. So it's more appealing to the shop that's looking at your post. Okay. And that's all free. We also help stores retain and increase the knowledge of current staff. So even if they have staff that are doing repair, but they're having a lot of damage, we can even do things like a Zoom call with the staff. We're just breaking down different techniques that we use, and it's really a safe space, so the owner is not there where the staff can just just spill the beans on us and say, yeah, I've been struggling with this. Because a lot of staff you'll find are really scared to come to their pauses and say, "I don't know, I think I know, I'm doing YouTube searches" but they're not really that confident, but they don't want to lose their job. You know what I mean? Really? it's that simple, and to have a space where they can just speak openly and someone's there to give them help is really helping retaining those staff that you really like. But they don't always want to open up to you is what I found, Also train the trainer. So we actually have a program where for example, a shop owner has 10 stores and they want to start franchising that, and they need help developing a training program. That's something that we do. And it's awesome because we make that training program for your brand. And we work specifically with you. no one ever knows it was a Cellbotics-assisted program. It just comes out as your program that you offer to your in-house staff. because as we all know, as you grow, especially if you're going to franchise your own brand, you have to have certain procedures in place. So then it's appealing to the buyer of that franchise. And train the trainer, but we also have a flip side to that. We have a program where stores can become sell biotic certified trainers. So basically we would funnel people, looking for repair training to them through that program. We would market them on our site. They'd be listed. So that's a really great program that we have. and then we do consulting. And, that's pretty much it, we just it's a lie. but we do consulting. Yeah. But it's basically like all these different services merged together. If you think about it, if we do a consulting, then we find out, Oh, you need this and this. So they all it sounds like a lot, but it's all in the same Avenue, in the same lane. and then we have a lot of video stuff coming out. So COVID, like most of you who are listening to this, has made you really reevaluate your business, and for us too, let's just be honest. in-person training, people don't want to travel, and we get that now we're still getting full every month, but I felt it would be good to go online to give people an option. And so we have cellboticsonline.com and a lot of that content is geared to people already doing repair, because we're not doing repair videos online, so it's all business content. So that's what we do, but we do primarily for our training, bring people into the industry.

Nosher Khan:

so bringing people into the industry and empowering them, I believe is a really good, important thing to do right now because we're parishioners are constantly in the need for good staff who know what they're doing, staff that they can rely on because, if you have a person who started a repair store and a couple of years down the line, they want to be able to open a second location, which is the norm these days. They want to have staff that they can rely on say, all right, you can be able to manage some part of the business that I won't be able to look at because I'm busy with something else. So that's a good initiative to be able to take how'd you get to this sort of idea anyway.

Nicole Russell:

It's just through years of trial and error. And I really thought about that and I said, how did we get here? And from me owning seven flea market spaces and running... I started out running my business wrong and people always ask me, "Where do you get your drive from? Where do you get your passion from?" So when they say, where do I get this passion for how to run your business properly? It's because when me and my child's father owned a few spaces back in 2000, early 2011, 2010 the IRS came down on us. We were running those businesses. Under the table. And they were threatening him with prison, tax evasion and he committed suicide. And so for me that drive to say, Hey, run your business legit. It will grow. It will do much better. That's where it comes from. And that's where the training, let me teach people how to do it. Because it's so important. And I had a training background prior to me ever being self-employed. And that's where that kinda came from. But my drive what keeps me going and keeps pushing I don't have anything pretty for that. People always have these nice things. So I want to help people. I want to give back to the world and I want to, they have these great missions and for me, I just, I have an absolute determination to never live in poverty again. I grew up in poverty and so that keeps me going. And so when you say, how did we end up here? I keep working with people and I always listened to people. And I'm like, if you ever speak to me or work with me, you just know that I'm not a know-it-all. I ask questions every day. And when I learn something, I want to trickle that down to the people that learn from me. And I have a mind where I can analyze things and take content and look from someone else's perspective. And that's what really makes a trainer different. People think training is easy. I hear people all the time on forums and say, "Oh, I'm going to do training. I'm going to do training. It's not just sit someone down and show them what to do. That's not what training is. Training is connecting with the person, understanding where they're at and where you need to meet them to bring them to where you are. And so we're just really good at that and analyzing our own content to make sure that we're meeting so we're never satisfied. Just a few days ago, I added five more pages to our book. A week before that, added 20 more pages. So it's like I'm constantly with my staff who are the same mindset as me. They are trainers at their core and they have training experience also within this field, looking at our content and always changing it, for the student in the end, thinking of them. And so that's how we got here. It's just me taking where I started and saying, "Wow, really, there's a better way to do this, do it right, grow", and people asking me, how do you, how are you doing this? You're so young and you've had this tragedy, how are you really doing this? And that's how he came up with the training.

Nosher Khan:

I think it's a great way to be able to look at it. not a lot of people will focus on it and like that because there's a really human aspect to training. yeah, like you mentioned that, know, it's not all about sitting behind the video and, just talking to people, there's a connection that needs to be built. So I'm guessing that is what you use to help people who don't normally, cannot or would not learn from

Nicole Russell:

because a video, you've got to understand, someone has to be able to look at a video and copy it. Even though they have all of this fear, and... and that goes for stores that are listening right now and they're like, "I don't want to open a training center. Why am I listening to this?" I'm not trying to teach you about opening a training center, trying to give you some insight into when you teach staff. And this is why you may be going through people. You sit them - I see this all the time - you sit a new person, who's excited. And we even talked to stores about who they should be hiring, because that's also a whole other conversation. who are you looking for? then you sit them with someone who's worked for you for years. as we know, not all the technicians in the industry are the nicest, especially when their bosses aren't around. And you expect that technician to care what this new dude or gal is actually picking up and that person has fear in them. They have fear at that time they're learning. And if you don't break the barrier of personal connection, you can't get past the energy fear that they have. I it's really about this weird. I'm going to go off this way with it, but it's about connecting, literally breaking down that fear they have in class. We're very, hands-on we're we make eye contact. We look at them and I tell them, I say, Hey, I care about you learning about this. This is not us. Just being hard on you. Look do it this way. We hold their hand. I I literally, my trainers will take their hand and they'll make eye contact with them and say, "Hey, this is how you do this." Because some people need that. Now, some people, they can just go online, copy something, and they're fine. But you have to understand who you're hiring. So if you're hiring someone that needs connection, who has a lot of fear and then sit them with a technician, who's way smarter than them, they think, "Man, this guy is a genius. I'm nothing compared to him in their mind." And try to learn from him. And if he's a the least bit agitated or the least bit unwilling to detail things for them to understand. And there are people who don't ask questions, which a lot of people don't, especially young people, they are afraid to ask questions and sometimes they don't even know what to ask. They just look, and their mind is just all over the place, right? So you really have to understand how someone is absorbing information, how they're taking it from the person that you're sitting them with, and how that person is delivering to them. Otherwise, that's why you lose them, and that's what you go through a lot of turnover and... and I'm going to tell you, we see it all the time where people call us, they cannot grow. And I know a lot of you listening to this, you are in that position right now. You are unable to grow. you can do three, four, five, six, seven locations, right? I talked to a store on our a couple of years ago and we were just going over some numbers and his goal was each store for him to profit 10 grand. And, he already had two where he was doing that and he wanted to eventually have six stores. So he was profiting 60 grand a month for himself. His number one issue was staffing. He could not find people to run the stores so he could be off growing. And so you have to take it more serious, guys and gal owners out there. You got to take it a little more serious about how these people are getting trained, how they're being connected to, because it's going to prevent you from earning income in the end. You know what I mean?

Nosher Khan:

I want to be able to talk about your training programs a little bit. sometimes, training, obviously your staff is very important, but it's also necessary to know what type of training they need. So how do you determine what type of training a repair shop technician or owner needs at a certain point in time?

Nicole Russell:

so for me, yeah, there's a couple points here. For us to determine. So we do that initial interview. We figure out what the owner first off has to have a very good understanding of what positions do what? So if they want someone to do everything - be customer service, do iPhones repair, do Samsung repairs, do microsoldering, do refurb - that's a lot to expect from one person. That's more of someone who you partner with. That's someone you bring on, and this is what I did in my own flea market locations. Some of my locations, I didn't own; I partnered with people who owned other businesses that were not doing so well. And I would approach them and say, "Hey, look, I see you've got this great location. Let's partner. I will teach you this. I will put product here." And I use them as being driven entrepreneurs who wanted to do everything to help me grow. That's how I was able to have seven locations, all in different states. They were all at different states; they were not in the same state. and so that's a lot to expect from someone. I think shop owners, they have that problem sometimes. They expect someone to be like them and you guys out there listening... we are a rare breed, the ones that can do everything we're rare. So you have to understand that you have to piece out those jobs.

That's first off:

figure out what do you want one person to do? What would you want another person to do? And normally what I see that works is having someone front house and someone back house. So you have someone in the back who's maybe not as best with customers. But they're really good at repair and tech stuff. They understand software, they understand drivers, and then, maybe they already know how to do cell phone repair. but you're not expecting them to also be a very friendly customer service person, cause that might not be their strength. They can't do everything. And then you have them in the back house. Now, if you want to find someone that's very techie, maybe he had a background in mechanic work. we find those people do very well converting into phone repair even microsoldering and things like that. mechanics People that are, worked with tiny things, work, watch mechanics, people that have worked with their hands to try to train for the back. And so it's more about their skillset that they can come to you with that you can then add, send them to these different trainings or train them yourself, to do the skillset in the back house. Then you need to focus on your front house person, which is extremely important. Both positions are really important, but your front house person needs to be... I'm going to give a shout out to Brian at Repairs First here, because he actually, we had to talk about this and, we had talked about, this is two years ago, who, who do you hire? Who do you look for? and it's the Jimmy John Guy, it's the public's worker, it's the old Chick-Fil-A worker. it's someone who did customer service on phone calls for years, like you need someone who that has been their life. Customer service, right? So then when someone walks in, of course you need to still train them, which is another thing I find that shops, they find someone who's got customer service experience, they throw them at the front counter. They teach them how to do the register. They show them how to find the prices for things. But then they never teach them how they need to address people for their brand. Your brand should have its own way of how it deals with people. And when we do training with stores training development, this is something that I break down with the owner. I have to understand what do you want your brand to [be] represented as when someone walks in that door or calls in, right? And so you spend time teaching that. Now you can also have that customer service person, because they have customer service, help with different paperwork things you have. they may have a better understanding of office procedures and stuff. And then if you wanted to have them do repair - maybe you're a smaller shop, you're like "I can't, Nicole, this is crazy. I can't afford two people." And I understand where you're at. Then you need to run the back house. You need to have a front house person and you need to slowly teach them the very simple tasks. This is what I would recommend. The very simple tasks, iPhone screens, like something very simple that they only focus on. And that takes one thing off of your plate. And you slowly transition that person into this mega technician, but to load it on them at once. It's just the wrong way to go about it. So does that answer your question? Like how do we know, Is really what you asked me? How do we know? It's just, you have to understand where the person, what kind of skill set do they have, do they, did it, have they worked with hand tools before, when you say Phillips head, do they under- do they look at you? You know what I mean? Like Phillips head, I think that's a, the one with the S if they have to think about that, then you know, they're not been a hands-on worker. so that's what I would say. Hope that was helpful.

Nosher Khan:

It was actually, I feel like you probably highlighted a very important point that, when someone brings a technician on board or when someone brings a worker on board to their store, there's a lot of expectation that goes into it. they're looking at a potential worker who will be able to manage a lot of things, but that's in the future, to be able to do it right now is a tall order. So I believe what your approach is, is that one day at a time, step by step. start off with the small stuff and then build your way towards that, that place where you're able to be like a super technician that needs to be earned. And obviously it does take time for each individual person depending on their learning skillset, their background, the sort of environment that they're in. So that's basically what I understand from all of this.

Nicole Russell:

And also, yeah, also, don't hang on to someone too long. if someone is not the right fit and they are causing a lot of damage to your customer's devices, or they're not. they come in and they're in a bad mood all the time, or they bring their home life into work where they're on their phone constantly, owners out there, you don't have to hang on to them forever. You know, keep your job application flow coming in. Don't hire that person and then stop it, keep those resumes flowing in because sometimes you'll get a little gym that shows up. And even though you're fully staffed, you're like, "Whoa, This person is good." You know what I mean? like you want that person. And I know as most people in this industry, just because we're- I look at us like the Wild West; we have, most of us have started from nothing. We've built this on our own. And we've strived and worked so hard. And so when we bring someone on. Put a lot into them, and we look at them and we say, I know you can do more. We think more for them than they do themselves. We think they could be so amazing and you see so much in them. And so you get really personally invested. And when they start to mess up, you're like, "Oh, I don't really want to let him go. I let them go. They got a family, they got this" and you take it way too personally. I was in HR for a majori- of a lot of my life. I did, I had a bookkeeping business and things before I was completely self-employed. I worked for the juvenile justice center. So I did a lot of hiring firing, and I had to build that disconnect because you have to understand in the end of the day it's business. So if the person's not working out, get them out, try somebody new, get them out, try somebody. Cause you're gonna run into that person who does stick. that is right for you. yeah, so that's, that's one more thing that I wanted to add.

Nosher Khan:

so it's more about the sort of chemistry that you have with a person, because training them is what comes later. That can be done, but if it's not a right fit, then it's not a right fit. and you need to realize that. Right. you need to, as an owner, figure out what you want, and that also just comes in business in general. I, when I do consulting for shops the biggest thing that I find is, they're just like want more, you don't must want to do better. I want more, but you don't have real numbers in mind. So that's one thing that I do with them is I let's write down. What do you want, what is your goal? And then when it comes to your store, what do you want from your staff? Write it down. don't just have this bubble in your head. A lot of us, that's what we do have a, just a bubble in our head of what we think about. and some of you are very well organized and you may already well be doing this, but if you're not, you need to write it down and have a clear vision of what you want your staff to be and do, and just, keep going through the motions work with them. But if you see that, they're just not getting it, move on from that. all right. So that's a process of actualization, rather than just keeping it in your head as an idea, you're supposed to put it down on paper so that it's more clearly defined and then you're able to do something about it because it's right there in front of you now, as, instead of being some abstract, that's floating around along with all the other things in your head.

Nicole Russell:

I'm very big about putting things down on paper and having a vision for what my goal is with whatever projects we're on and Cellbotics is in so many projects, you guys would be just mind blown with all the different things we have going on and everything is written out - who's working on it, what's the end goal here, what is the long-term vision? Where do you want to be in 10 years? Where do you see yourself in five years? because that also gives you a direction to take your business in. If you have no direction, then you're not giving yourself a place to lead to. You're just floating, trying to make this all work in a lot of shop owners, especially ones who individually own it and run their shop... they're just a one man shop of everything and they feel so overwhelmed, and it can be better guys. I'm telling you it can. Get it written down, really analyze your business and figure out what's going on and it will get better. And then when you staff people, have a clear thing of what you want from them.

Nosher Khan:

so the processes and the initiatives that you've taken, it all sounds really awesome. So I believe that, they obviously, they took a lot of time to be able to develop. so how did you go about that? you know, process of developing your system of training and how effective has it been so far? Could you tell us a bit about that?

Nicole Russell:

Yeah. So developing my training, like I said, it just came through listening to people, taking the things that I already knew, working with my vendors, listening to the industry and compiling it all. we, in, in class we have 350 page book now that we give out to each student and we literally wrote every single word and it's all content that we've pulled together. And we have on our platforms to cellboticstech.com and cellboticsonline.com. But it's just pulling it all together and also understanding that you don't know everything. So I know we don't know everything, even today. Students come in. I say, disclaimer, I don't know everything, but what I am good at is figuring information out and learning from people and making connections with people and networking. This industry is really important to network. So that's how I built... a lot of our training is just compiling information, working with people, offering value, getting value back. I don't ever really approach someone with just one-sided. I want to see how I can help you too. and that's how we built a training. How have I improved it? it's customer follow-up . Stores ,you can do this too. And I know some of you are afraid to follow up with customers because it is it's delicate because, maybe you call them and they didn't want to be called, or you text them, they didn't want to be texted, but that's how I've made our training better is just following up with our customers and seeing, 'were they struggling'. I may talk to somebody three months in and they're not doing repair and I'm like, no , no, no , no, no , no, no. That's not what happens. We need to get on the phone right now. We're going to get you back on track. We do everything that we can, we're very hands-on with our students. and then listening to the ones that are succeeding and seeing what they're doing and, they may say, "Hey, I made this form for myself." I say, "Can you send me that form? I would love to show someone that", and they do because they worked with us and they know that it comes from. caring and wanting to make the best process for people. So it's just constantly analyzing what we're doing. And I think shops, you could do a much better job in your business if you did that too. Constantly analyze. Imagine from the customer's standpoint, imagine from the employee's standpoint. Just for me, myself as the CEO of Cellbotics, we have multiple staff, we have all these vendors, all these graduates. Many times a day, I just sit, I find myself sitting and I have to literally, I close my eyes and I pretend I'm the person I'm speaking to. How do they take me? How do they hear me? How do they take my information? Be it my employee; I may have something I need to address with my employee. I think about that employee. I think about where are they at in their life right now? How can I best touch them and get what I want them to do, but also not come off as rude mean, may have staff that did come in a few minutes later. Maybe I find them on their phone a few times, and I need to sit down with them and say, look, I know you got X, Y, Z going on, or, just always analyze everything from the other person's point of view. And that's how we've made our training. as good as it is, but I still think we're growing. So I don't want to say, "Oh, we're done. we're doing so amazing." We are doing great things. We're helping people, but we're always growing into that. That's never going to change,

Nosher Khan:

that's actually a really great thing because, knowing that, you always have this potential to grow. makes you give more to your business. It makes you give more of an effort to improve stuff, not cut back on things, not take it easy because you're resting on your laurels. So that's important if you're going to be able to grow your business, that sort of stuff is very necessary. Understanding that there is a lot of knowledge out there. There's still a lot of stuff out there that you need to be able to learn and absorb and work with. You're not the best and in all inevitability. You probably won't be, but you can get as close to it as possible.

Nicole Russell:

and just any industry you're in any position you're in, if you just never accept that you are the best you can be, you always strive for more. And that's just how I look at life. I'm content, like I'm not angry at life or anything like that. It's more like, I know I can do better. I know I can do, we can do better. We can do better than this, and how can we do, how can we do better? And I enjoy it. I have learned to enjoy it, and if you're someone who's slumped in your business and you're like, you're just running the day to day and you feel yourself Not not depressed about life, but you're just like, "Oh, another day, in the shop, dealing with customers," you need to really look in the mirror literally and talk to yourself and say, "What am I doing here? What do I want? What is the whole point of this?" And reenergize yourself for your business. I was on a clubhouse the other day and Elon Musk was in there. And he said, someone said, "What motivating words do you have for someone who's starting a business?" And he said, "If you need motivating words, don't start a business." And I can tell you as the leader of Cellbotics, I have Michelle Cox, my computer trainer. Sometimes, I'll say, "Oh, she's my partner," and that's because she's just so ingrained with me. but I am the leader and I have to make the choices that I have- my energy trickles down to them. So I'm always positive. I'm always looking at the bigger picture and I direct them that at them. And then they have that. So you are the leader of your business, even if you don't have any staff. The moment someone walks in your space and you are negative on your own business, that whole negative energy is all throughout your store. So you, you need to reenergize yourself about your business and just remember, look how amazing your life is. How many people would love to own a business and make money on their own? Just that just that right there brings me so much joy inside to think about, wow, I did it. I used to look at business owners and just say, I wish I could do that. And I'm doing it. And even though, yeah, it's hard and we have some really rough things that we go through here like any company. You have to keep that positive motivation, so then you keep going and keep your business being fresh and new.

Nosher Khan:

I know I would love to be able to create a business myself and be able to do that someday. So yeah, I understand where you're coming from as a business owner, you mentioned earlier is that, people get stuck in their routine. day to day just working on the shop and everything. How do you feel that they get over there in the first place? And what can we do to like address that?

Nicole Russell:

I feel like, how did they get there? they get there first off because they get a little burned out. and that initial, if they can think back to a couple years when they started it, all that excitement, like I'm opening a space it's nerve-wracking, some nights you can't sleep some nights, you want to cry, some nights you're partying because you're so happy, and that created that joy for that business. And then all of a sudden the business is running and it's just go in, set up, deal with customers, go home. It just becomes every day, the same thing. You're not interacting with new people. You may be in the platforms and see negativity going on a lot, and you may get wrapped up into that. And I think it's just they just, they've just stagnant and the way that I stopped that from happening, and I'll tell you how I do that is I constantly connect with people like literally, and you're probably thinking, what do you mean connect with people? I just messaged people. Like I messaged people online on LinkedIn, on Facebook and I'm like, "Hey, tell me about your business. What is it that you do again? How do you help people?" And then they send me their information. I will connect with them and talk with them. And they're like, wow, you're doing great things. I'm like, wow, you're doing great things. And it just, I don't know, it makes me feel energized about my business. So that's how I do it. I just constantly connect with people. And as a store owner when I was running all those flea markets, where I got my drive and my happiness from was my customers. Yeah. I had a few here and there that were upset and we had bad encounters with, but overall I can literally count them on my hands to this day. And, I just enjoyed seeing my staff interacting. I loved correcting and making my staff amazing salespeople, a little things like how do you address a married couple when they walk in, who do you ask, who do you speak to first? Watching their eye contact when they're speaking and then pulling my staff aside saying, "Hey, you know, when you did that little thing where you moved like that? Next time do it like this, that's going to help them perceive you in a different way. And that really made me excited about my business because I'm growing other people, I'm helping my staff and it's all in the name of my own brand, So that's how I found my excitement.

Nosher Khan:

I believe that's a pretty good way to go about it. Kinda like planting seeds where, you know, yeah, you're imparting all this stuff and it's just the joy of watching it nurture. It's like gardening.

Nicole Russell:

Right! And it's we have this program at Cellbotics where you can rent a space here, like a desk space, and then you get mentorship. we have one girl; she wanted a whole space. She's don't wanna share my space. So she rented the whole office. And she's I just want to be around you, And I get to mentor her and coach her and every day, I see her every day. Her name is Tanisha she's doing some amazing things. I, she opened a an event space. she works with me when I train, I'm helping her increase her repairs. She's doing a refurb business and all the time, we're sitting down and she's "I don't know how to do this. I don't have to, how do I...?" Just, this, all those things, they make me so excited to see that she's my staff. So I'm planting those seeds in her, she's growing. And I see her treating the students nice and they're laughing and having a good time and learning. And then, and it's all in the name of my own brand. So yeah, planting seeds is definitely fun for me and it's not fun for everyone, but that's where I find my joy for my business. And I don't get stagnant.

Nosher Khan:

I think that's a great way to go about it. I want it to be able to talk about, how you improve on your trainings. Do you have some sort of feedback mechanism that you use to be able to improve your service to people?

Nicole Russell:

Yeah. So I think we've touched on this a little bit throughout me just talking, but it's just following up with my customers constantly, monitoring the things that they're posting and then just always, self-analyzing what we're doing, which is really important. Even as a shop owner, you can self-analyze everything that you're doing and try to put yourself in the customer's shoes, which would be like your walk-in customers. For me, it's our students; for me, it's store owners; for me, it's our two companies. We do repairs for, I put myself in their shoes and look at myself through their eyes and always changed my business that way. So that's how we've done that.

Nosher Khan:

All right. the whole aspect of introspection putting yourself in your customer's shoes, - I don't think a lot of people are able to do it as well. Some are able to do it better than others. what sort of advice would you have for people to be able to do it much better, to be able to understand their customers a lot more?

Nicole Russell:

So first off you need to understand your customer, right? So if you're a store, depending on what city you're located in, try to really understand the environment people are living in What people are coming in and out of your door Are you getting a lot of families? Or are you getting a lot of college kids? Like, understand where they are. And then like physical things. you can literally walk outside your store, and walk in. And try to look at it with a fresh new set of eyes. Where would your eyes go first? have your staff talk to you as if someone was walking in, how would you feel about that? like one thing we do here, when someone walks in, we'll go over and, I don't want to say here, because I forgot, we just moved. Well in the old location, say someone walked in and we have cases and stuff hanging, someone comes around the corner and "Hey, how are you? Let us know if you need any help." Some shops, they either got someone who doesn't say anything they're on their phone. Someone walks in and it's nobody even walked in. Or the person goes around the counter and comes next to the person and says, "Hey, how can I help you? Do you need anything today?" And it becomes too much of a deterrent. It's Oh God, it's an oversell. And so just things like that just try to it's, it's not easy. I could see where it means. To be a muscle that you need to work to be able to learn how to look from other people's point of views. and I guess I've just worked that muscle really well. I wish I had a better answer for that. just try to do physical things that puts you in a customer perspective, stand behind your counter, look at your shelving, look at your, just analyze that, analyze your paperwork, set your phone down on the counter and go through your intake process. How do you feel about that? go to your website and try to figure out how to find a price for something or how to set up an appointment. Go find you on maps and see how that goes. Put your phone in private browser and look yourself up. And that's, I do that stuff all the time. So it's just putting yourself on the other side of your business, instead of thinking I've got it taken care of it's there, like I used to find myself saying, "All this information is on the website. Can't they just read?" and it's not true. They can't. So you have to look at it, the eyes through someone who's fresh looking at your website.

Nosher Khan:

there is one concern that I do have, and this goes for not just for just everything in general. So when you were working on a project and when you're creating stuff, so you get really caught up in what you're doing and you consider it to be really nice in the moment and you have that sort of bias associated with it. it really helps in those scenarios to either let it be and come back to it, revisit it at a later time or get someone else's perspective on it. do you think some sort of thing, like this can be applied to repair shop owners and how, if they aren't able to put themselves in the customer's shoes and, get those sorts of results, they can get some feedback from anyone else.

Nicole Russell:

This is a great thing that you bring up. So there's a lot of places that I get feedback from. Coaches. so you can find a coach. Okay. There are coaches in the industry. I we do coaching. I know Ben does coaching. there, there are particular repair Just, focused coaches out there and others, Casey Kelly, there's a lot of different people where you, as a shop owner can get yourself a coach to help you walk you through these things and see from where you're not seeing and give you ideas. but if you don't want to do that, or if you're in a financial situation where you can't, sometimes you don't want to it's you just can't. I understand that. I consult with my staff. and Emmet is someone at UPPLuck, someone that I work with a lot, he's just someone in the industry. I bounce things off of him a lot. Brian... people that I really have built a good connection within the industry. People that I trust that are doing big things themselves. I just go to them like, "Hey man, what do you think about this?" And they do the same thing with me. And we're not charging each other. We're just bouncing information off of each other. And then my own staff. Now, Emmet does this too. you'll see them online. He'll have all his staff talking and he's in the background, and that's what I do. I'm like, "Hey guys, what do you think of this?" And I just listen to my staff talk and go over it and give me their opinion. I'm like, "You know what? That is really... I didn't think of it that way." And I let them know that, thank you. Thank you for telling me your side. My staff know me so well. They know they can come and tell me anything. They will look at something in my business, say, Nicole, we need to do this way. And I'll say, you're right. Yeah, let's do it that way. Let's change, let's change this whole room. And because they're looking at it from another point of view, and I know that I am biased and so yeah, just reaching out, of course you can use like the Facebook groups, but a lot of times people are not kind to each other. So I don't always recommend that to be honest. And I might get some flack for that. But just going on the group, some people just go on the groups like, "Hey guys, I'm thinking about doing this." And yeah, 10% of the people are being kind to the other ones. They're just jerking off and putting names and making fun of somebody real question, and that doesn't help you. It's like when people leave my school and they say, "I'm going to buy broken phones on eBay and try to practice on them." I say, "No. You are not on microsolderer, okay?" A lot of them are gonna have board issues. What happens when you buy a broken phone on eBay and then you can't fix it? What happens to you? Your confidence. So when you post in a Facebook group and a bunch of people get on you and be rude, what happens to you? Your confidence. And it doesn't help you. So don't do that. Find someone within the industry that you can either give for coaching or a call, get on a call. We have a thing where you can book calls with the trainers and it's like a little small fee and they come and they ask us a list of questions and, cause time is we could do all that for free, but God, do you know how many people we talk to? like we just did phone calls all day long, and you could do something like that. Find someone in the industry that you're. like friends with online. It's Hey, Hey dude, I got this thing going on. What do you think about it? and Hey, what can I offer you? And most of the time they don't want anything they like to conversate with you, And and then your own staff, if you don't have staff I've been there. So I know how that is. Definitely, I wouldn't go to family. I wouldn't go to family. So family can be the worst people to speak to, especially if you're the only entrepreneur in your family, which I am. I am a first-generation entrepreneur. and it's like when I first had started it didn't first start. We, I had been running the school under my tablet. I had my own tablet brand. It was called Nikki's Tablets. And so I had Nikki's Training. So nobody knows about that, before Cellbotics was Nikki's Training and the certificate was pink. It was really bad. So we went through, I went through a rebranding. Okay. So I was like, men do not like pink certificates, and so I had a break-in and I lost about $50,000. All my training equipment, all my customer devices, all my training devices. And my family said, "Stop this. Go back to work or go back to the flea market, but stop what you're doing." And I said no. And so my family have learned it's to where I say, I have an idea about something and they know don't even look at her anyway, because I'll bet don't you even look at me like that. Don't you say anything negative, cause it's going to work. So don't go to family. A lot of people turn to family and I know if it's your spouse, that's hard. But even your spouse can not relate to you if they're not entrepreneur. They just look at you as they want someone to be financially secure and healthy and feeling safe and having family time. But as we know, being an entrepreneur is not always that way. We are so busy and sometimes we are not the healthiest. We are not the most humble. We are not the most family-oriented. And that's the whole part of being an entrepreneur. So when you go ask your spouse who works a full-time job, or is a stay-at-home parent, they're not seeing from your shoes. find someone in the industry that you can chat with or talk to your staff, see what they think, empower them. my daughter, she's 12 and she'll say, "Mom, you're the owner." And I'm like, "Yes, I'm the owner." She's like, "But some of your employees, it seems like they own it." I'm like, "Honey, I'm empowering them to do that." I want them to be like she, for her being her age and you get that "me, me, me", and as a really true leader, it's not me. I'm like, yeah. Do your thing. We're going to give you that title. you feel empowered because in the end, it's all about my brand. We're all benefiting. I'm good with it. So empower your staff to be involved and it will take your business to the next level.

Nosher Khan:

I think those are some great values to go by, by the way. not only just for your staff, but for your daughter as well. And it sounds like, she's got a great mom.

Nicole Russell:

Thanks. I try. They don't come with a manual,

Nosher Khan:

Yeah, I totally understand you there. And by the way, when you mentioned about, about having people in the industry, you did mention Ben Ben Rossow, if you're listening to this, we'd love to have you on the podcast.

Nicole Russell:

He'll get on. He'll get on for sure. I know I will. His microsoldering... his microsoldering program for shops that are looking to really take their skills to the next level and they can do it online. so we do it in-person, but there are people like do it online and he has like a really cool program where he's not only teaching them the repair, he's mentoring them through the sales of that. and it's really focused because some people, they try to have programs that just do everything and you can't do everything really well. And so I've, I really commend him for finding that niche and making a program just for that and not wavering from it. Not saying, "Oh, yeah. Okay. then we'll do for sales, for customer service or your staff," , but like he's focusing on shops, adding microsoldering and making money off of it. like that is so important that he's so direct. Cause then it just gets to the point it's not scatterbrained,

Nosher Khan:

Absolutely, a sort of area that he can work with that he's confident. He knows that the market needs this and he's giving it his all, which is really great. And, once again, Ben podcast.

Nicole Russell:

He'll be on there. Yeah. I know a bunch of people that are doing some amazing things in the industry, and I'm just, sometimes I feel so lucky just to be talking to them, and but then sometimes they say that to me, and I'm like, me, really? we never looked at ourselves like that.

Nosher Khan:

exactly. So how do you feel being a part of that sort of fraternity?

Nicole Russell:

Yeah, it's really enjoyable. I can't especially being accepted as a female in a male-dominated industry and the acceptance that... it's mostly guys have given me and respect and finally accepted me and realizing that I do sometimes know what I'm talking about. And sometimes I can add some value and be in there to really back me up. In the beginning stages. people [are] really against training. And I get that because there was some places that had burned people and we're not doing things properly, and I completely understand that. So when I came onto the scene and me, I'm more of someone who's just out like I'm out there, I'm everywhere. I'm putting my stuff everywhere. And we're really the only school that's doing that in our industry. We're in my training industry where I trained beginners, like we're on these platforms, we're dealing with people within these platforms and a lot of I found with my other competitors. It's more, they're not there because it's the fear of being, gone after basically, So in the beginning it was hard. Cause sometimes I get attacked in forums and stuff. And then over the years, I grew these, relationships and I don't have to worry about that anymore. And if it does happen, I have people that come in and back up and they're like, "Wait, I know Nicole, you don't know her. You don't know what they do." And so it's actually been really fun because I really enjoy these people that I'm working with. They're all positive, they're all motivated, they're all doing stuff, they're busy. And I just feel really privileged to feel like I'm a part of the industry, you know, whatever we want to call it.

Nosher Khan:

We're really lucky to have you though.

Nicole Russell:

Thank you. Thank you.

Nosher Khan:

so just to wrap everything up, since you've been working with a lot of different repair shops, you've seen them go through highs and lows. You've seen them like work on their business and help them out with it. What sort of advice do you have for shops that are growing and shops that want to get somewhere bigger?

Nicole Russell:

God, I could have gone on for hours about this. but I don't want to, because this is just a regular podcast. We want to get done with it today. But, I'm going to just stick to some just overall things, but I can get extremely specific, but I'm just going to stick with some overall stuff. so analyzing your data, this is probably something that I find shops don't do, and they don't know how to, it's not intentionally. They just, they haven't thought of it. And when they hear it, they're like, "Oh, that makes so much sense." And you think of franchises, you think... I know, I just said the 'franchise' word for any of you majorly pro-independent out there, but franchises, they do amazing work because they analyze everything! Door swings, who's walking up to what counter, what sales are doing better on what shifts, who's on those shifts, and so you need to do the same thing. Just one way that we teach people to analyze data in my beginner's course is something I call customer interaction tracking, which maybe you'd be thinking, oh yeah, CRM. some people use CRMs, but they're only using them for sales. people walk in, they may say, "Hey, do you sell iPhone t-" open your door, "Hey, you sell iPhone 10 cases?" "No, we don't sell those." "Okay." Person goes back to their job. They never wrote that down. They never... somebody walks in and says, "Hey, do you guys sell laptops?" "No, we don't sell laptops." Custom- employee goes back to their day. Somebody calls and says, "Hey, do you fix iPhone 11 Pros?" "No, we don't do those yet." "Okay." And they never write that down. Or they call and say, "Yeah, it's 4.50." "Oh, okay. Yeah. I'll call you guys back." *click* They never write any of that down. and if they do, they're trying to get the customer's information. What's your email, what's your brother, or, that's too much. We don't need that. What we need is every single interaction with anyone who has reached your business, because once you've done that, that's the hard part. I always tell stores, the hard part is them actually contacting you. So you got past that. And then, you didn't close any sort of sale with them and you never recorded that you miss that they track getting customers to them with their ad accounts. And they track sales, but what about the middle part, where people contact you and there's nothing? It's very quick, it's very to the point and your staff don't know to tell you anything. Your staff, they don't know, hey, 10 times this week, people have come in for iPhone X cases, but we don't even sell cases. They don't think you need to know. So they don't tell you, so then you can go add product and start making more money. And so tracking that middle section is so imperative. Okay. Because you can analyze... I literally- we track all interactions. Any body calls, text messages, goes on Instagram, LinkedIn, it's going into a spreadsheet that we all have access to. And then every month or every other month I'll sit down and I'll analyze that data compared to our sales. I'll say, "God, we're getting a lot of calls for this, we're getting a lot of calls for that, but we're not doing it" or "We are, but what happened? Why didn't I...? 50 people called for iPhone 7 screen repairs, but we only fixed 20. what happened? What's the disconnect?" Right? And so if you never analyze that data, you cannot critique your own business and I'll have shops call for consulting and say, I don't know, my shop is just failing. It's just not doing well. And we help them with that. But, They'll say, "Oh, we don't get this. We don't get that." And I see what your perception is right now, because you're so upset about what your shop is. You're not actually aware of what's going on in your shop and they'll say, "Yes, I know what's going on." No, if you knew it was going on, you would have addressed it already. So we need to build some data. So then I can help you figure out how to improve your shop. But you can do that on your own. You can track all these interactions and then compare them to your sales each month. And I'm telling you it's a game changer. I use it to help shops. Also shops will call me and they'll say, yeah, we're doing fabulous. I got five locations, but I want to do other service. I want you to commercial. I want to do, I want to service other shops? What can I do? And so I say, okay, give me these interactions, give me the sales. I want to look at all of this, right? And so I will look at all of it and I can literally come back to them with numbers and say, if you added this service, this is how much money you could have made over the past three months. If you added this service, this is the money that you could have made. This is your investment. This is how you would target and get these customers. And this is, this is the consulting that we do with the stores, but also what we teach in our beginners class. But they're so new. Sometimes they can't absorb it, but shops, if you're hearing me, you can do this on your own. You can analyze your own data and you should be. And if your staff do not get on board with tracking all of that, then you need to do something about them. You need to, because they're not on your team. If you tell your team, hey team, we're going to write down every time someone just calls and says, hey, you got an iPhone XS case and you say, no, I want that written down. If they can't do that, then you need new team because they're not on your side. You guys are all a team and they need to do it. You ask. And then analyze that every month. Now I actually Made this little spreadsheet like an example of what we do. It's not like the full thing, but it's just a small example it's on cellboticsonline.com and you'll see a little tab that says free stuff and they can just go there and you do enter your email, which gets you on our newsletter, which is like new stuff that we come out, more free stuff that we put out and you can download the spreadsheet and get an idea of what I'm talking about. And it may look really simple. And right now you might not see the benefit of it. But once you compare it to your sales and you start to see the gap of the customers you're missing, you're going to understand what I'm saying. Okay. So that's the first thing is analyzing your data. Also get cameras in your location. If you don't have them already, that's going to help you track customer interactions like live when an issue happens and record that and go back and watch it every so often. Look at where people walk to when they come in, how people are addressed when they walk in, things like that. Don't be afraid to add services. But first find the need. Now, how do I find the need? I find the need by using that analyze sheet. Too many of shops, I get calls from them and we do help them. But they'll, they're just on their last leg. They're like, I'm about to close. I hate this industry. I'm done with this industry. It's over, it's ending. Apple's taken us out of business. and I understand there are struggles I do and I'm not blind to what's going on with serialization and everything, but there are some really awesome things going on around in the backend. And just like I told you, we have some big things that are coming out, some announcements You guys will definitely want to be following us and get on our newsletter because there you've got to position yourself. You've got to work with other entities. You've got to work with other up-and-coming programs that you may look at and say, "Oh gosh, I'm not going to get in line with that." You really need to, and you need to add services. I can't stress this enough. Look at the vacuum repair shop in your town. Is there even one? look at the guy who just does computer repair. And if you're someone who just does computer repair and you're listening to this, there's also so much for you. There's so much more for you than just computers, right? Someone who's just doing screens and charge for it. There's so much more for you, but you do have to analyze your data to figure out if it's worth it to you - the investment. Based on your numbers, you already have, right. partner with new angles in the industry, which is what I talked about. Be open to those. I cannot stress that enough because there are things going on in the backend that a big percentage of the industry have no clue what's going on. And the only reason I know about these things is because how we have positioned ourselves as the people who work with ones entering the industry. And so these types of big corporations that things contact us and bring us in on these things because of our perspective. And so I can't say anything cause a lot of things are coming up, but I want to, but again but you guys need to be, be open to that. So if you're listening to this, be open to these new things that are coming out and see five, ten years in the future and think about where you want to be. Do you want to be going back to working for someone? Do you want to get into another industry, then fine. But if you're someone who wants to stay in the IT hardware repair industry, then you need to create, keep mutating into something else. something more of an action item, blanket your area. Always keep in mind, this is what I tell my students. I want them to always look at it this way: instead of wanting to be the person they find when they're in need, try to be the company they think of when it happens. So it's just if you got a flat tire, most of us know our tire person, If I got a flat tire. I know where I'm going. I don't need to go on Google and search up the tire place unless I'm in somewhere I don't know. If I need an oil change, I know where I'm going. I love my little drive through place. They're nice. And kind to me. If I want pizza, I know my favorite pizza place, right? If someone breaks a phone or needs a computer or needs a use device, what do they do? Well, currently they have to search because you may not be blanketing your area properly. You may not have that brand representation. And you say , well, I have so many competitors. I don't care. Competitors is a good thing. That means there's business there, or those businesses would be closed. It's when you have no competitors something is wrong. This industry has been around long enough to where if a city has population, there should be stores. it's like saying that Atlanta shouldn't have any McDonald's, Like you, if you there's no competition, then I'm worried. I'm like, "Oh boy, how what's the population?" but competition is fine because you know what? I know my strengths and I know how to blanket my area. So really think about that. How do you become the place they think of when it happens, not the one they have to search for and find because then that's ads, SEO, and don't sleep on SEO. My gosh, I can't say that enough, but that's a whole other call we have. And then owners who don't do repair: you know who you are, you're listening to this. Okay? You expect a lot from your technicians and you don't understand their world. You need to get training. So you need to come see us because you need to understand what they're doing. I get owners in here and some of them, they're not very forthcoming, but some of them are a few weeks ago. I had an owner from Florida, amazing guy. Okay. Amazing. It's two locations. And he was like, just straight up with me. He's like, "Nicole. I don't know what they're doing. they break stuff. Then things come up brick and they just tell me it's that way, I don't know what they're saying. I don't know the terms they're using." And then in class he was having a epiphany he's like, " Oh my God, I can see what's going on now." And he went back and completely changed his business. And you as an owner, need to know repair. Okay. And I know that some of you owners are like "No, I just want to have a business that just runs and I make money." Not this industry. You need to understand something about repair. It doesn't mean you need to be in the trenches, fixing phones every day, but you need to understand the terms, who you're hiring, what they're saying, what they're talking about, because otherwise you're leading your customers into a sketchy patch. I I mean , like, you don't even know what they're doing. How can you trust that your customers could be taken care of? So that's what I would tell the owners, that's what I would leave it off with.

Nosher Khan:

let's hope that's not the end of it, because right now, people would love to find you after all that information. So where can they find you?

Nicole Russell:

So we have we have, we are so easy to contact. We have cellbotics.com. We have cellboticsonline.com and then we have I'm on LinkedIn, big time. LinkedIn is like my love, my first love. I get all my commercial accounts from there. and we have, my email is nicole@cellbotics[.com] You guys can just email directly. we have our phone line, which is 888-820-6618. So there's just, in most, every everybody that's connected with me on Facebook knows you can reach right out to me on Facebook, which is really easy. My Facebook page is a business page and I just use it to connect with the industry. And also we're located in Norcross, Georgia. So if you wanted to come by, you can also do that too.

Nosher Khan:

And I understand that's a brand new location.

Nicole Russell:

Yeah. Yeah. And we don't really deal with too many locals. We deal with people from all over the world, really. we've gotten students from other countries. We get a lot of tons of people from all over different states. So even if you're not in Georgia or Atlanta, that doesn't mean that we can't work with you. We work primarily with people located all over the country, so just feel free to reach out. And yes, it is a new location for us and I am absolutely in love with it. I'm here every day and I love it.

Nosher Khan:

Well, I'm really glad for you and your new location, and I really wish you all the best for all it.

Nicole Russell:

Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.

Nosher Khan:

Really appreciate your time here, Nicole. Thank you so much for joining us once again. It's been a pleasure and I really had a lot of fun and hopefully we get to do this sometime in the future as well.

Nicole Russell:

We are, because I want to make some announcements on your podcast, so we're definitely going to get together.

Nosher Khan:

Absolutely, would love to have you again.

Nicole Russell:

Okay. All right. Good luck to everyone listening. Bye-bye.

Nosher Khan:

All right, goodbye. Thank you so much, Nicole. Thank

Nicole Russell:

You're welcome. All right, bye.