Second Interview With Steve French (The Owner of
Mid-Florida Electronics USA)
Jestine Yong- How are
am doing just wonderful, Sir! I hope you are as
Yes I’m fine thank you.
It’s been 2 years
already since we had the interview. I heard that your repair
business is growing. Would you kindly share to us about this
Steve: Let me tell you, a LOT has changed since your
first interviewed me back in 2008. I got married last year to my
beautiful wife and long-time friend, Laura. She and my new 8
year-old son, Dillon, have been a huge blessing in my life.
Together we have purchased Mid-Florida Electronics from the
previous owner. I was always the one who physically ran the
business but, now that I own it, I have even more incentive to do
my best to make it flourish.
Mid-Florida Electronics outgrew its original location and, after
one year, moved to a larger space (in the same shopping plaza). We
now have a retail showroom and we are also proud to have added 4
new brands to our authorised service center line-up: Sanyo,
Toshiba, MagLite and VocoPro.
Yong- That was really
many staff do you have now? And what are their job positions
in your company?
Steve: Besides Laura and myself, we have two other
technicians. Russell repairs CRT direct view and rear projection
TVs, microwave ovens, handles all of our MagLite repairs (and he repairs
a bunch of ‘em), does service calls, and handles a lot of phone
calls and customers. He stays busy. Ed handles a lot of the TVs
(including flat panels) and many other types of equipment, as well
as helping with service calls, customers and whatever else pops
Laura takes care of
a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff, such as the accounting,
shipping and calling customers who are taking forever to pick up
their repairs. She’s the keeping me in line, which can be a full
time job in itself (Haha). And me? I do most of the above mentioned
things as well as parts research, ordering, repairs and everything
else that has to be taken care of.
Jestine Yong- What would you do to those who did not pick
up their equipment after repaired? Do you sell it off or keep it
for future use to remove the spare parts?
Steve: We do get stuck with a fair number of units.
Sometimes they are repaired, sometimes not. When customers do not
approve the estimate for whatever reason (parts not available, cost
too high, decides to buy replacement instead, etc…), we ask them
then what they want us to do with it. Do they want to come pick it
up or have us dispose of it? This helps get rid of a lot of the
junk because they often just tell us to trash the unit. At this
point, we’ll determine if it’s worth repairing for resale or not
and either fix it, scrap it for spare parts or take it to the
Ones that are
repaired – or that just don’t get picked up – receive regular phone
calls from Laura, who tries to get them to either pick up or tell
us to sell or dispose of it. If she can’t get in touch with them or
if it sits here for 6 months (sometimes sooner) she sends them a
registered letter with a pickup deadline. The letter has to be
signed for by the customer when the postman delivers it, so we have
record of when they receive the letter. Undelivered letters are
returned to us by the post office and are then attached to the
Once the customer
has been given fair warning – or all efforts have been made to
contact them – the item goes out for sale or is disposed of on the
date stated in the letter. We are as fair as we can but we can’t
store people’s stuff for ever.
On a side note:
Always try to encourage the customer to bring in and leave the
remote when you take in TVs, DVD players, receivers and so on. They
may not always have it or bring it with them, but it sure makes it
easier to sell a TV that you get stuck with when you have the
original remote. Plus, you sometimes need the original remote to
perform adjustments, access certain modes or features or to enter
the service menu.
Jestine Yong- Why did
you choose electronic repair business?
have always been fascinated with the apparent “miracles” that
electronics are capable of performing. Even a simple circuit is an
amazing thing if you think about it: electrons being manipulated to
perform a useful or interesting task. From a very young age I
desired to understand how components and circuits work. My interest
led to project building and that led to my becoming a repair
technician. I had a knack for it and caught on
Jestine Yong- How
difficult is it for you to get started
Steve: The act of “getting started” is not hard; it is
merely a matter of motivation and interest. But it does require a
foundation and understanding of – at the very least – basic
electrical and electronic theory. I had been tinkering and doing
basic repairs for a few years already as a hobbyist. I walked in to
my first interview for a repair tech position in 1991 with a
confident attitude and got hired on the spot. The key is to have
confidence in your career choice. Like many careers, electronics
repair takes a lot of dedication and knowledge that can’t be
learned over night. You have to be willing to spend the extra time
to learn if you want to excel at it. It is an on-going process that
is always part of the job.
Jestine Yong- Can you
please tell us the advantages of your electronic repair
Steve: Our business has the advantage of a great team of
very skilled repair techs. We three techs each have decades of
experience. Experience is one of the most powerful advantages a
tech can have, each of us has different strengths and – as such –
we are able to work together as a team and solve many problems and
repair challenges that we may not be able to otherwise. We also
provide a service that is becoming harder to find, as changes in
the market and the progression of technology has caused many shops
to close their doors.
Jestine Yong- How
about the challenges and problems?
Steve: An interesting aspect of this discipline is that
nearly everything we work on presents a new challenge of some sort.
For example, similar pieces of equipment – even with the same
symptoms - can have completely different causes and may have to be
troubleshot using different methods to discern exactly where the
fault lies. Sometimes what may appear to be an electronic problem –
or even a mechanical problem – can turn out to be a
software/firmware problem. Situations like that can be very
frustrating and difficult to figure out.
Yong- Did you have any experience
working in a corporate line, or any other jobs you’ve done
before other than electronic repairing?
have had other types of jobs in my life. During my Jr. high school
days I was a semi-pro magician. I was drummer for a few different
working bands over a span of about 6 years. I delivered pizza for a
year and even did gold and silver jewelry repair for about 2 years.
But my main line of work has been in the repair field and I have
done repairs for over 20 years now.
Jestine Yong- Who
are your customers and where do they come
Steve: Our customers include everyday consumers,
musicians, DJs, law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue
departments, theme parks, pawn shops, music stores and everyone in
between. Many of our customers find us through phone book ads or
manufacturer referrals. Others find us by word of mouth, or they
may see our signs while driving by or visiting other businesses in
the shopping plaza.
Yong- Could you tell us again what
are the electronic equipment that your company is
Steve: We repair televisions, monitors, home and pro
audio equipment, video game consoles, CD/DVD, microwave ovens,
musical keyboards, electric guitars and just about any other kind
of kind of electronic and electrical device that comes through the
door. We never know from day to day what kind of things will be
brought to us. On the other hand, we stay away from most repairs of
car audio, computers and transmitting devices (e.g. cell phones, CB
Jestine Yong- What
are the tools, test equipment and skills needed to run your
Steve: Repairing electronics
requires at minimum some basic test equipment, such as a
multi-meter, an ESR meter and an oscilloscope. But these are
by no means the end of the list. Other pieces of equipment we
use include Sencore “Z-Meters”, capacitance meters, a curve
tracer, IR detector, HV probes, load boxes, autotransformers
(VARIACs) and isolation transformers, signal generators, and
Computers and the Internet have also become vital tools for the
modern electronic tech. Almost all of our parts and service manuals
and schematics (PDF files) are obtained via the internet. The
Internet also allows us easy interaction with other technicians
around the world (and manufacturers’ tech support) to exchange
ideas and information and even to file some of our warranty
but very important business tool we have is the “bench fee”. This
is an upfront, non-refundable, nominal charge that the customer
pays when they leave a repair with us. It covers our time and
efforts required to diagnose their equipment, research parts, etc…
The bench fee is applied to the customer’s bill if the unit gets
repaired (we waive the bench fee when we charge a service call fee,
which does NOT go towards their repair bill). A general rule of
thumb is that if the customer is not willing to pay the bench fee
they probably aren’t going to be willing to pay the repair charge
and the estimate will be declined, meaning you have wasted your
time (and sometimes parts and money too) troubleshooting. Without
an up-front bench fee you will likely not get paid for that time
and effort. Given the current state of the repair industry,
charging a bench fee is an absolute must if you plan to stay in
business for any length of time. Its importance cannot be
over-stated. The days of free estimates in this industry are long
Do you still visit electronic
repair forum and buy electronics repair related books and
do still visit a few repair forums, though I have not been as
active as I used to be. I’ve had a lot keeping me busy with work
and my new family. But, as I have time, I do try to continue adding
tips to the database at TVrepaitips.org, where I am still an
Administrator (though, in more of an honorary capacity now, since I
have been so inactive lately).
There are also a lot
of websites, such as yours, where technicians can go to learn new
techniques and troubleshooting strategies.
Jestine Yong- Do you
plan to write a book on electronic repair?
Steve: To tell you the truth, I have started working on
several books about electronics and video gaming over the years
but, sadly, I never followed through to quite bring them to
fruition. However, if I may brag, I did write one of the most
thorough and practical (in my opinion) Playstation 2 repair manuals
ever published several years ago for Gamewinners.com (under the
username “gamertech”). Real life solutions for real life
Jestine Yong- How do
you promote your business?
Steve: At this time we are relying mainly on our phone
book ads (we are in three different phone books) our lightened
signs on the front of the building, in and out-of-warranty
referrals from manufacturers and word of mouth.
What is the best strategy to
convince a customer to send repair item to you or your
Steve: There are a lot of simple things you can do. A
big part of gaining customer confidence – at least initially – is
to look and sound like you deserve it. Marketing is all about
perception. Here are a few examples: A shop that looks busy can
easily become busy by virtue of perception. People tend to have
more trust in a business that looks like it has a strong customer
base (regardless of whether or not the actually
Pay the money and
have real business cards made. Don’t print them yourself on your
computer. Homemade business cards look and feel cheap and give the
message that you are just getting into the business or treat it
only as a hobbyist. People want to feel that they are taking their
equipment to a place that is professional and dedicated. The same
idea applies to signage. Professional signage = professional
Repair tickets and
sales receipts that are sequentially numbered and printed with your
business name is another of those little things that give a strong
Become a legitimate
business. Get a resale tax certificate, employer identification
number (EIN) and occupational license (where
Take the time to
listen to your customers’ needs and assure them that you are
capable of repairing their equipment. No technician can repair
every item or even get every part they may need. But if you are
confident and know what you are doing it will
Finally, try to
become authorised to perform warranty repairs for at least one
brand of electronic equipment. If a manufacturer trusts you to do
repairs on their behalf how do you think your customers will
But be aware that
image will only get you so far. If you want to keep those new
customers you need to be able to product results and stand behind
Yong- What do you think- if you focus
your repair business only on the area that is nearby your
company, will this repair business last
think a lot depends on the area. In our area we likely would be
able to survive with only local customers. But building a business
that actually flourishes is about safety nets and strategy, not
only hard work and brute force. You need to be able to stretch out
and have other work to get by on when regular walk-in business
slows down for whatever reason.
Yong- Do you use any technical
management software to help in your company accounting? If
yes, could you elaborate how good is the software you are
Steve: No. We still use the old fashion method: Pen and
Do you give credit terms to
your customer or purely accepting cash after the repair work
Steve: We extend credit only in rare and special cases.
We do, however, accept multiple forms of payment (cash, credit
card, debit cards and checks), which makes it easier for the
customer to pay when they are ready to pick up repairs or make a
purchase. Note that we only accept checks for service calls (and
from some of our wholesale accounts), in which cases people are
much less likely to give you a bad check.
Yong- Let’s assume that your repair
business is full of competition. What do you have to do to
give yourself an edge over your
Steve: This is a cutthroat industry. You have to
diversify. If you limit yourself too narrowly you will have a much
harder battle ahead of you. Give people reasons to walk through
your door and spend money with you. Retail sales can be a nice
boost to walk-in traffic. Even if they don’t buy anything, at least
they’ve come in and have become more aware of you and are more
likely to remember you when they do need your services or
Parts stock is also
important. We sell a lot of parts over the counter. Cables,
connectors, components, TV lamps and things like that get people to
come to you: especially if you have them in stock. Building stock
can take time. We try to order extra stuff with most of our parts
orders. It saves on shipping costs and allows us to take care of
repairs faster. In
general, the faster you perform repairs, the faster the customer
comes to pick it up when it is done.
We also offer a
pick-up and delivery service (service calls) for an extra charge
and that gets us a lot more of the bigger money jobs than we would
otherwise get. A lot of people just don’t have a way to get their
large TV to the shop on their own.
Can you share with us some
mistakes or the bad experiences to avoid in your
Steve: One mistake that can come back to bite you – as
tempting as it may be - is to allow customers to prepay for a job.
It’s one thing to have them pre-pay for a special order part but,
if you accept full payment (especially on bigger money jobs) up
front the customer tends to be more upset if something ends up
preventing the job from being completed than if you accepted only a
small portion up front. Plus it hurts much less to refund only the
price of the part than the total of the bill. This is also an
example of how having lots of parts in stock can make things easier
on yourself. Sometimes you have to actually repair something to be
able to give a 100% sure estimate to the
Show the customer
that their equipment (especially flat panel TVs) is working BEFORE
they leave with it. It only takes for them to pack it in their car
wrong or lose their grip for the screen to get damaged. If a TVs
ever does come back with a cracked screen you want them to have
seen it operating before they left your shop with it. This mistake
cost me a lot of money one time.
mistake to avoid is trying to grow too quickly. You don’t want to
overextend yourself and end up with a bunch of upset customers.
Worse yet, EX-customers. Grow should be at a careful pace. Give new
accounts and warranty contracts time to manifest before piling on
too much more. Too much work (or over-spending) can be as damaging
as too little if you aren’t prepared to handle the
Yong- If I want to start a business
like yours, what is the first step I need to
Steve: First you must sharpen your skills and broaden
your knowledge of electronics. Get a job at another repair shop for
a while (I’ve worked for several). One of the best ways to learn
how the business works is to become a part of an existing team. In
fact, I learned more about electronics repair and how the business
works during the first 6 months of my first job at a real repair
shop than I had on my own during the two years prior. That says a
lot for the hands-on repair shop environment. You don’t get that
kind of insight from books.
Yong- Is having the right
mindset important in launching an electronic repairing
Steve: Certainly. That is true with any business. Do
what you love. But you have to possess an understanding of the
trade before you can make a successful business of it. Not every
technician would even want to be an owner. You often have to be
willing to work more hours for less pay. It’s part of the process
Jestine Yong- What
are your future plans? Long term plans?
Steve: Our immediate goal is simply to continue on our
path of growth and consumer confidence. We plan to get company
shirts and magnetic truck signs made soon to help strengthen our
image. On the long term, however, we’d love to increase our repair
workload, reduce our turn-around time on repairs and increase the
retail aspect of the business to the point where we need even more
space and more technicians. We’d like to become authorised for
warranty repairs on more brands than the seven we have now. With
continued blessings, patience and a lot of hard work, hopefully we
will become the powerhouse repair center that Lakeland, Florida
Jestine Yong- What is
your final message to our readers?
Steve: If you want to repair electronics, learn all you
can about electrical and electronic theory, how circuits work and
what role the basic components play. Obtain – and learn how to use
– the basic test equipment. Try to keep up with the new
technologies. Make friends in the business. Never stop learning.
And most importantly, no matter what you choose to do in life, do
the best you can.
Thank you very much
for your time, Mr. Yong, and for the kindness you’ve shown us by
sharing our story with your members. I wish the best of luck to you
and each of your readers.
sorry to end this on a sad note but I, regretfully, wish to inform
your readers that fellow technician and my best friend of nearly 20
years (who was featured along with me in the first interview that
Mr. Yong conducted of Mid-Florida Electronics), Mr. Don Farlow, was
involved in a serious auto accident from which he passed away on
Sept 12th, 2008. Don is owed a debt of gratitude by this
company and by me personally. He was a great friend and a great
technician. And without his willingness to be a part of it, this
company probably would have never been founded.
Thank you, Don. You
are loved and missed. God bless.
Yong- You have my deepest
sympathies on the death of your friend Don. Hope you will
cherish the memories of the times you spent together. Thanks
again for the sharing. All the best to you.
Interview With Laura (Wife Of Steve
Jestine Yong- How are
I’m doing fine. Thank
you for asking.
Jestine Yong- I
understand that you are working with your husband Steve, may I know
what is your role in the company?
Laura- My primary function is to handle the accounting
end of the business. I
also assist with customer and vendor contacts as
Yong- How long have you
been in helping your husband?
Laura- Ever since we acquired ownership of the company
in October 2009.
Jestine Yong- Do you
know how to repair?
Jestine Yong- Can you
please tell us the advantages of working with your
Well, first off, Mr. Yong, we get to spend time
frequently works late doing service calls, so the times I’m able to
be in the shop give us bonus hours. I’m proud to work alongside my
husband as we strive to provide dependable service and a unique
electronics sales floor; all at a reasonable
about the challenges and problems?
We don’t have any husband/wife problems at the
shop. There are
the occasional customers, however, who tend to be intent on
spreading their bad moods in our direction.
Jestine Yong- Can you
share with us the mistakes you made or the bad experiences in the
Laura- It’s a learning process for all of us; my husband
and I, and our two techs; Russell and Ed. I still have a lot to learn about
the “workings” of the shop. All the guys are always available
and willing to help me and answer my questions. The way they
remember all the hundreds of units that come through our shop is
Yong- What advice would
you give to a wife who wishes to help out their husband in running
the repair business?
Laura- LET HIM RUN IT! Steve knows the electronic
business inside and out. I wouldn’t even pretend to be
able to handle all the steps involved in the processing of repairs,
sales, warranty contracts, parts, repairs, retail items, etc. that
he oversees. I handle
the banking and some phone calls and wait on customers and often
take care of shipping.
I’m very much “support” staff at our shop and I am so okay with
Yong- What is your
future plan for this company?
Laura- We will continue to treat our customers with
fairness and dependability. I would love for us to own our own
space someday, instead of renting. We are very fortunate, though, to
be in a busy strip mall with great “neighbours”.
Jestine Yong- What is
your final message to our readers?
Get out there, take a chance, don’t be afraid to dream; you’ll be
in for the ride of your lifetime!
Interview With Ed (Staff Of Steve
Yong- How are you
Fine, thank you.
Yong-How’s life as an
is very satisfying but with some frustration.
Jestine Yong- Could
you explain to us what do you mean by frustration in your
example, service manuals: When you can find service manuals these
days they are in electronic form (usually PDF files) and they are
hard to read unless you zoom way in. But then when you zoom in it
is difficult to follow the traces because most of it is off screen
so you have to constantly shift and scroll. Things are getting more
and more complex and finding the information and parts you need is
getting more and more difficult.
Yong- How long
have you been in the Electronic Repair line?
Jestine Yong- Wow!
That was very long. Did you have any experience working in a
corporate line, or any other jobs you’ve done before other than
Ed- Laboring, carpentry and concrete
Jestine Yong- Why do
you choose electronics since your previous fields was not related
graduated from Tampa Technical Institute (Tampa, Florida USA) in
1970. But President Nixon was cutting government contracts and
there seemed to be no jobs in any electronics fields, so I went
into construction for about 5 years and enjoyed the work. I was
finally able to start at a TV repair shop at age 25 and have been
at it ever since.
What are the Electronic
Equipment that you can repair?
can repair most kinds of consumer electronics.
Do you learn the repair
on your own or from a Guru/courses/forum/books and
attended a technical school for electronics.
What is your education
school and 4 years of
How much time do you
spend on equipment before you give up? Why do you give
depends on how much the equipment can be replaced for. I also have
to give up if parts are no longer available to repair it or if I
can’t pin the problem down to a specific component or
What’s your favourite
test equipment and why do you like it?
/ DMM (Digital Volt Meter / Digital Multi-Meter). I like it because
with it I can pin down the problem most of the time. My second
favorite is the oscilloscope.
What was the last
electronic book and magazine you read?
Popular Electronics Magazine
Do you do your own R
& D to find a better solution in electronic repair, for example
like coming out with your own way of solving a particular circuit
Even when service literature is available it very seldom addresses
the specific problem at hand.
Generally on average how
many types of electronic equipment you can repair in a
and it is usually an assortment of different kinds of equipment,
such as TVs, compact stereos, receivers, amps, karaoke machines,
guitar amps, PlayStation 2 consoles and so on.
Do you meet regularly
with other electronic repairers to discuss about electronic
problems and solutions?
No. We talk about repairs amongst each other at the
What are the biggest
problems you are facing in the Electronic repair line
Availability of service
literature and parts.
Jestine Yong- Can
you share with us the mistakes you made or the bad experiences in
your repairing career?
nail had gotten into the sole of my right boot one time and was
contacting my foot. It was grounding my body to the concrete floor
I was on, and allowed me to get shocked from the hot side of a
power supply I was working on.
Another time I fired up a TV without the CRT
connected. I accidently let the HV anode cap arc to the metal ring
around the edge of a desk I was using for as a work bench. The high
voltage then arced right to my crotch and caused an RF burn. For
about a month that experience came to my mind every time I plug
anything in to the AC power.
Have you come across any
electronic equipment that you can’t repair? And how do you plan to
If I cannot get service literature or schematics and can’t see a
similar circuit in my head then repair may be more difficult. I ask
other techs when I get stuck on a repair.
What advice would you
give to a beginner who wishes to join this
Learn all you can about how AC and DC electricity
What is your future plan
for your electronic repair
Survive through and keep up with all the new types of TV, audio and
Jestine Yong- What
is your final message to our readers?
is a very rewarding field to be in. Every day is a challenge. Good
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