ShapeShifter

How a dyslexic repairman opened his own store and turned R900 into R1.4-billion

(Click here for more "Shapeshifter" articles such as this one.)

Hirsch struggled at school due to dyslexia and eventually dropped out in standard seven (grade nine).

After completing an apprenticeship he started repairing appliances at a company in Durban North. He kept on bumping heads with the owner because he wanted to push the margins up while Hirsch preferred reasonable rates in order to keep customers happy. “If you think your ideas are going to work why don't you open your own business?” Hirsch recalls the owner saying.

“Good advice; I’ll take it!”

In 1979, with a grand total of R900 in his pocket, Hirsch took the leap and opened his first electrical appliance repair store in Durban North. “I had to pay R300 in rent and a R300 electricity deposit upfront. So, on day one, I was absolutely flat broke,” says Hirsch.

Where others might have seen the opportunity to make a quick buck, Hirsch had other ideas. When his competitors opened shops in the same area, Hirsch doggedly kept his head down and focused on his own business.

In most businesses there is commonly one distinguishable tipping point; a moment when, looking back, the entrepreneur can point to a catalyst for significant growth. For Hirsch it came in the unlikely form of a microwave.

Microwaving it to success

“I bought two microwaves and, after 30 days, they were still sitting in the shop. I hadn’t sold them because I didn't know anything about them”. Thrilled at what he discovered about the versatility of the product, he and his wife arranged a product demonstration for one evening, inviting 13 couples to show them what the product could do. “We sold 11 microwaves that night,” Hirsch recalls.

Word spread and Hirsch’s quickly became known as the microwave experts, a reputation that eventually enabled them to open a microwave cookery school at their new premises in 1983.

Sticking to the basics and doing that well

The philosophy on which the Hirsch culture was established is sticking to the basics. “One thing you've got to do when starting your own business is to stick to the basics continuously,” advises Hirsch. “Every successful person does the basics right over and over and over again. We have always tried to remember and implement the little things such as greeting a customer, smiling, walking them back to the till and carrying their parcels to the car. These aren’t insignificant things – they are the fundamentals on which success is built.”

Hirsch’s started off with t R900 in 1979; today they have a turnover of approximately R1.4-billion.

Article by Sithandwa Ngwetsheni

(Edited by Kabous le Roux)

(Click here for more "Shapeshifter" articles such as this one.)

Click on play to listen to Nikiwe Bikitsha's interview with Allan Hirsch.

Watch Allan Hirsch take on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. "Our prices are really hot, and our fridges are..." :-)

702 welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the 702 community a safe and welcoming space for all.

702 reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

702 is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
Meet Maryana Iskander, on a mission to find employment for 1st-time job seekers

Meet Maryana Iskander, on a mission to find employment for 1st-time job seekers

Bruce Whitfield interviews Iskander to learn about her non-profit company that partners with South African employers.

Meet Elmar Conradie, CEO of low-cost FlySafair (world’s most on-time airline)

Meet Elmar Conradie, CEO of low-cost FlySafair (world’s most on-time airline)

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews Conradie for his “ShapeShifter” feature.

Meet marketing guru Yossi Schwartz (learn why he’s leaving it all… for whisky)

Meet marketing guru Yossi Schwartz (learn why he’s leaving it all… for whisky)

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews Y&R SA Chairperson Yossi Schwartz.

Meet Jonathan Ball, founder of South Africa’s leading publisher of English books

Meet Jonathan Ball, founder of South Africa’s leading publisher of English books

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews Ball, who created Jonathan Ball Publishers 41 years ago.

'ANC has to change or it will die' – anti-apartheid activist Lord Peter Hain

'ANC has to change or it will die' – anti-apartheid activist Lord Peter Hain

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews anti-apartheid activist and British Labour Party politician Lord Peter Hain.

Ina Paarman's business started in her garage (now she exports to 32 countries!)

Ina Paarman's business started in her garage (now she exports to 32 countries!)

The Money Show's Bruce Whitfield interviews Paarman about how she turned her brand into a household name.

Popular articles
Why the PAC wants South Africa renamed Azania

Why the PAC wants South Africa renamed Azania

Pan Africanist Congress's Narius Moloto explains why it supports the name Azania, a word which he says has Arabic origins.

Opinion:  Bishop Lekganyane is right

Opinion: Bishop Lekganyane is right

Stephen Grootes weighs in on comments made by the Zion Christian Church Bishop at the weekend.

Getting to know MP, Dr Makhosi Khoza

Getting to know MP, Dr Makhosi Khoza

Dr Khoza is admired by South Africans for her role in the SABC inquiry as a ANC member of parliament.

Who is Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi?

Who is Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi?

The EFF lawyer stole the show during the state capture report court battle.

How to make your first million

How to make your first million

Warren Ingram discusses his new book in which he shares practical ways for ordinary people to achieve financial freedom.

Meet the founder of Capitec Bank, named ‘Best Bank on Earth and Cheapest in SA’

Meet the founder of Capitec Bank, named ‘Best Bank on Earth and Cheapest in SA’

Michiel le Roux speaks about the fascinating story behind the little bank that has the Big 4 shaking in their boots.

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

WIN R2000! But only if you can prove you're a whiz of the MTN Biz Quiz by answering the following three questions...

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Is social trend Blesserfinder, where girls are allegedly matching up with rich 'benefactors' in exchange for sex, a real thing?