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‘Patience is not my virtue,’ says uBreakiFix prez


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Justin Wetherill

“People get in trouble working with friends when they leave gray areas.” — Justin Wetherill is president of uBreakiFix with 401 stores.

Tell me about your upbringing.

I grew up in South Florida. I’m one of four children, and rushed through school as quickly as I could. I graduated on the same day with my associate’s degree and my high school diploma, then to college. Both my parents were the opposite of entrepreneurs. They worked the same jobs my entire life, 9 to 5. They commuted over an hour to work every day, and retired from the jobs they were in when I was born. Things were pretty predictable.

So your life today is the opposite of that?

My intention was to get a corporate job and work my way up the ladder. I always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, whether it was unlocking phones on Ebay, or buying Xboxes and flipping them. I always found a way to make a quick buck honestly. I got a job at an HR outsourcing company, I was a database analyst there. I quickly realized that in traditional corporate America, no matter how hard you worked there was no fast track to the corner office, it was going to take time. I think it’s probably fair to say, patience is not my virtue.

It sounds like you believe in hiring friends. How do you make that work?

I think today more than ever, liking who you work with can arguably be more important than the job you actually do. A lot of people find contentment and joy from the relationships they build with their co-workers. Work doesn’t feel like work if you’re with your friends.

We’ve been really transparent with people. If you early on clearly define what success looks like for somebody in their role, then it makes you not even have to have the hard conversations, because the person who is not fulfilling their commitment, they will do it themselves. People get in trouble working with friends when they leave gray areas. So if it’s ‘I feel’ or ‘I think,’ you get in trouble.

What are your core values as a leader?

The first one is humility. We’re grateful for the opportunities we have and the partners we have, like Samsung. I am super humbled by that, starting this business just over nine years ago in that rinky-dink store and now I’ve been able to travel the world and work with leaders in the business. The second one is transparency, and another is integrity.

Where do you think the humility comes from?

Honestly it comes from my faith, and it comes from me constantly being, whenever in life growing up, whether it would be a silly video game or a sport, whenever I got cocky it always ended quickly thereafter. The universe has always had a funny way of putting me in my place. I fortunately learned that lesson enough times to listen.

Beth Ewen

Beth Ewen, editor-in-chief, learns if it’s lonely at the top and other lessons from franchise leaders, and presents their edited answers here in each issue. To suggest a candid C-level subject, e-mail bewen@franchisetimes.com.

What has changed in your leadership style, now that you’re the ripe old age of 31?

We’re at a point where our small business is becoming an enterprise, and we’re hiring people who are smarter and more experienced than I am, so I’m having to listen and believe that other people’s ideas are better than my own for the first time, which is really awesome and exciting, but also really different. It was a big transition, for the organization growing up.

What are you listening for when you hire?

Everybody has their specific skill sets, so it’s 90 percent just BS, just getting to know them. Is it a lot of ‘I, me’ things, or is it ‘we, us?’ Do they talk about the team, do they talk about who helped them along the way? Just nuanced things. Are they in it for the right reasons? It’s hard to get to know somebody over a couple of hours, but if you have your ears open you can see big warning signs.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned, to pass on to others?

I think some advice I got earlier on in building this is, kind of work backwards. For me especially, as an entrepreneur, when I see a problem it’s my desire to put out the fire. But sometimes when you’re approaching a challenging problem, if you take the time to break it down and build a plan, ultimately it’s great.

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