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Five minutes with.. Colin Thomas and Dan Garner, founders, Jim Will Fix It

Five minutes with.. Colin Thomas and Dan Garner, founders, Jim Will Fix It

The founders of Dubai-based maintenance company Jim Will Fix It discuss industry challenges and their expansion plans

What was the inspiration behind Jim Will Fix It?

The initial inspiration for Jim Will Fix It came from a simple need. Back in 2008 we were both living in properties within Dubai, becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of quality property maintenance available. Back then; you only had the choice of maintenance companies that would insist their customers sign an expensive annual maintenance contract. It was either that or one man on a bike with a screwdriver who spoke limited English.

As a customer we had no idea if either option were capable of delivering the service required or even if they would still be around when we needed them. From this initial experience, we were confident there must be a better way of delivering a reliable maintenance service that customers could trust.

From our initial market research it was clear Dubai’s residents were looking for a better quality maintenance service without the commitment of an annual contract. Our research also highlighted numerous additional complaints about existing maintenance providers’ lax timing, poor quality repairs, unqualified staff incapable of communicating in English and a lack of tools and equipment required.

From this we developed the Jim Will Fix It business model with an absolute focus on quality throughout the process of our service. This starts from the first phone call with our British bookings team and finishes once our service and parts warranties have expired up to 12 months after a job has been completed. We also only charge for each job once it is finished, so there is no commitment of an annual maintenance contract. This allows our customers to try us for one job to see if we are as good as we say we are without spending thousands of dirhams.

How do you position yourselves in a market dominated by cheap labour?

Cheap labour equals poor quality and maintenance companies positioned this way are not competitors of ours.

We always believed competing on price was a race to the bottom and hence we maintain a cast-iron focus on remaining the best quality maintenance provider while still offering value for money and warranties for everything we do. It is so much part of our doctrine, that we build it into every system and as we do not offer annual contracts, we receive feedback on our service immediately. If we haven’t provided an excellent service from start to finish, our clients would not pay the bill at the end of each job. In the rare circumstances this happens, the entire management team is mobilised to not just rectify the issue quickly, but also to find a way to exceed our clients original expectations.

In addition, for every the job we ask for customer feedback via our invoicing system, and maintain strong social media and traditional contact links in case our clients wish to feed back further. This process ensures we have to be good every time and learn quickly from any mistakes so our customers remain loyal and willing to recommend our services to others.

Are there any plans to change the company name considering its negative associations?

There are no plans to change our name, as we are an established Dubai-grown brand. When we launched our company in 2008, we were obviously aware of the UK TV programme of a similar (but different) name that has since received negative associations. However, our company was formed much earlier and was derived from one of the partner’s middle names (as his first name is Colin which we felt wasn’t suitable for our company name).

In 2012, at the time that the unsavoury events became apparent, we were naturally concerned by the revelations and actively engaged with our customers to determine if a name-change was required. The overwhelming response was that it wasn’t and instead that we should be proud and confident of the brand we have created. We greatly appreciate our customers still feel this way about us and I’m pleased to say that we have not seen any negative impact on our growth as a result.

How is the regional maintenance market developing and what are the key challenges for maintenance companies?

As the negative effects of the worldwide recession gradually fade, it is clear that the Middle East will be at the forefront of the resurgence. Dubai itself is already expanding at a phenomenal pace again, with property development leading the way. These new properties, in addition to the existing aging building stock, support the development of maintenance providers such as us. Unfortunately though, newly established ‘low price for low quality’ maintenance companies reflect badly on the industry as a whole. There are many stories of cowboy operators failing residents.

Setting up a sustainable maintenance company requires a huge amount of resources within the current market. This, matched with low margins and increased competition, makes achieving scale and profitability a constant challenge especially in the early years. As a result while there are a lot of new entrants to the market, very few have managed to gain traction.

Do you have any expansion plans?

We have been constantly expanding since we launched seven years ago and will continue to for the foreseeable future. We attribute our growth to our reputation as the domestic home maintenance market leader here in Dubai and our value-added. Our scale allows us to utilise the latest innovations to provide both better quality and value offerings within the local marketplace.

We will soon introduce a new window cleaning service using the latest UK equipment that cleans better and faster than traditional methods, thereby providing better value for the residents of Dubai. We have a constant stream of new services in development and will continue to broaden our service offering, moving forwards.

We also receive daily calls from other emirates and beyond requesting our services and hence we are in the process of reviewing additional geographic expansion opportunities in the not too distant future.

Are you hiring?

We continuously hire to keep pace with our on-going expansion. To maintain the quality of our staff, we have a rigorous recruitment procedure. All candidates must be both qualified and experienced within their field before they will even be invited for a three-stage interview. Should they pass, they must then undertake a five-day skills test with our senior technicians before they are considered for an initial job offer. Following this, we enter them into our initial induction process where they not only learn about the ‘Jim Will Fix It Way,’ but their skills are further re-tested and any development areas identified. Only then are they deemed ready to start within our on-going skills and customer service training programmes.

What is your leadership style?

Our leadership style reflects the core values of the business, which include quality, honesty and a drive to constantly improve. This is reflected in all areas of our business, from systems design and IT, to our smart uniforms with breathable fabrics and modern fleet with advertising in line with the quality of our brand. As business partners within an SME, you need to spread your focus among many elements, which makes it a challenge we relish.

Equally important for us is maintaining our status as an employer, by ensuring our staff develop as individuals within the existing framework of the company. We therefore offer clear and attainable career growth and when new positions are created we always look to promote from within the company before advertising externally.

We firmly believe in the continued professional development of our staff and this has now become an integral element of our brand. To support this, we have recently employed a full time dedicated training resource to ensure our staff is at the forefront of technical expertise and customer service. This allows them to deliver the Jim Will Fix It mantra of: ‘One Call. One Visit. Job Done’.

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