Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 4th 2016 Contents BG20 ENTREPRENOMICS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt AUGUST 4 • 2016
Arecession means market
changes and, for entrepre-
neurs, these spawn new
opportunities. A recession
does not mean all doom and
gloom. If all you see is that,
here I have outlined a new perspective. and
it mostly requires little start-up capital.
In a downturn, consumers (final and busi-
ness) have to change their priorities. They
have to find ways to lower their costs and
their spending in order to hold on to things
for a longer time. This saves money. Extending
the life of items or bodies means better main-
tenance, repairs or improvements. It maybe
even mean holding on to a product when emo-
tions trumps cost such as an old pair of jeans..
There are three areas of opportunity in
repairing things: operating as a repair business,
selling parts to those enterprises who fix things
and teaching people to do repairs.
We live in a throwaway society and in good
times this seems to be okay. But when that
new refrigerator breaks down and the cost of
a new one is just too expensive, consumers
start to think about their options.
There are several items in our lives that need
repairs: appliances like stoves, microwaves,
stereos, furniture, cupboards, fans,
washing/dryers, air conditioners, shoes, etc.
Any enterprising person can see a real oppor-
tunity here. One could specialise in fixing one
of them and build a business around it.
If you plan to repair stoves and have little
knowledge, take a course or buy books, start
with an old stove for practice. Also, talk to
customers who have these items and find out
what are some of the common problems they
face and master them. Competent repairmen
are difficult to find.
In addition, there are other machines we
use. These include: power washers, lawn mow-
ers, weed whackers, blowers, etc. They need
maintenance and repairs. Most work on the
same principle, powered by a small four-cycle
engine with gadgets attached to it. A water
pump, lawn mower and weed eater are basically
the same. These time saving machines are
easy to fix for any good repairman and the
cost of setting up a business is low.
Our homes also need repairs and mainte-
nance. If we can t build a new house or do
extensive renovations, then we need to keep
it going. Most new houses come with the steel
roofs which turn ugly with fungus. The busi-
ness of cleaning roofs needs a power washer,
chemicals, safety equipment, knowledge and
scaffolds. It is very easy to spot a potential
customer as their roof says it all.
In people s garages are the most expensive
gadget---the automobile---and there are many.
There are more than 700,000 vehicles reg-
istered for our nation s road; including cars,
pickups, tractors, vans, heavy duty trucks,
quarry equipment, etc).
While today s vehicles need to repaired in
a garage with diagnostic equipment, some
repairs could be done at home. Yes, there could
be a big market for simple repairs (oil change
and tune up) that can be done in the con-
sumer s home garage.
Recently, I needed the guttering changed
on the roof. The old way was to contact my
building contractor and he would give me a
list of the items. I would purchase these at
the hardware store. Now it s different. My
contractor visited and took the measurements.
A guttering man with a light truck rolls and
presses out the guttering to the length. This
happened outside of our home to the exact
size. He also dropped off the accessories. I
saved a lot time. The power of technology.
Many of us have computers at home. Some
of us are wise enough to have a home office
to be a part-time entrepreneur, while others
do more work at home and avoid the com-
Computers, printers and other office equip-
ment at home need frequent attention. US
entrepreneur, Tyler Dikman, started repairing
PCs when he took apart his Gateway at age
10. He started fixing computers as a business
and, by age 15, started his own company and
was making millions.
Of course don t forget another item that
need repairs or maintenance---ourselves---and
there are 1.3 million of us, potentially a large
market. The home care business is quite big.
As people get older, they need more support.---
whether it is medical care, beauty support,
child or elderly care or emotional support.
This is driven by the need for independence,
convenience and better service.
If you have a micro business, the best target
you can have is another customer like yourself
or slightly bigger (a bigger profit pool) and
there are many like these out there. Most busi-
nesses are SMEs and they probably contribute
at least 1/3 of the GDP of the economy.
The SMEs, as any business, have a lot of
equipment (like home owners) but more and
different types. They have much more office
equipment and they all cannot pay premium
prices; that is where you come in.
One of the spin off from the repair oppor-
tunity is the need for parts or components.
A machine may need a part due to wear and
tear (bushings) or the part has passed its life
span (like oil and filter) or through damage
from use. Refrigerator water filters may be
clogged with dirt or the air conditioner refrig-
erant gas may have leaked out. A technician
very likely will have to source this from a sup-
plier or maybe go to a machine shop to make
one. Parts is big business.
Another opportunity for anyone looking at
the business of repairs is in training. Repair
personnel need the knowledge on how to fix
things. Even when a technician has years of
experience, new innovations means that appli-
ances, home improvement tools and machinery
need a different skill to maintain them.
While the start-up costs are low for a repair
business, the knowledge required can be anoth-
Long ago a refrigerator was a simple cooling
device, but today it is different. They come
with a lot of bells and whistles: ice maker, fil-
tered cool water fountain, compressors that
have invertors, etc.
So, if you plan to get in this business,
remember to keep up with the times.
Yes you can turn to YouTube, but some
equipment and fix-it jobs require a long period
of training to acquire the skill. There are oppor-
tunities to train the do-it-yourself (DIY) seg-
ment; those who want to repair their own
machines, clothes, small appliances, small jobs
around the house as plumbing.
They may prefer to pay for training as the
cost of outsourcing is expensive and incon-
The DIY market is a fast growing one as
many large companies have identified this
Home Depot staffers will advise you on how
to install and use many of the products they
IKEA sells knock-down furniture to its cus-
tomers to assemble. IKEA saves on transport
and inventory costs and this is passed on to
a customer who spends time to re-assemble
it. The power of DIY, a handy strategy for a
But a handy man is a generalist. You should
focus on being a specialist and steering your
business on a narrow part of the market.
Sajjad Hamid is an SME & family business
adviser. He can be reached at entrepre-
firstname.lastname@example.org or entrepreneurtnt.com
Repairs in a recession
with Sajjad Hamid
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