Robert Baker - Co-founder of Mac to School

The early morning is my most productive/creative time. I like to jump right into my laptop over a cup of coffee and knock out any creative action items I have.

Robert Baker is the co-founder of Mac to School. He has worked in the Apple industry for 15+ years. With a broad base of experience as a hardware technician, software consultant and sales manager, he helps customers and others navigate the Apple ecosystem.

Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Robert has been tearing apart and re-building Apple computers since childhood. A serial entrepreneur, Robert’s first business was selling mix-tapes in middle school. His next ventures included selling custom PCs in high school and a web design firm in college.

Robert’s passion for customer service, Apple equipment and design led him to co-found MacService is 2003. MacService helped pioneer the model for mail-in computer repair and is one of the largest independent Apple service providers in the United States.

Building upon the success of MacService, Robert co-founded Mac to School in 2012 to focus on the education market. Mac to School has since become the leading seller of recertified Apple equipment to the U.S. education market.

In 2014, Robert co-founded the Give Mac foundation to help provide free Apple equipment to schools and students in need. Robert spends his spare time traveling, CrossFitting and helping others achieve their business goals.

Where did the idea for Mac to School come from?

We had been repairing Apple computers for schools through our repair company, MacService. We identified that our current education customers were looking for ways to stretch their IT budget while still getting quality devices for their students. We took a look at the entire lifecycle of Apple devices in K12. We knew that while Apple devices are initially expensive, they do outlast their PC/Chrome counterparts and deliver great long-term value. We found that we could use our expertise in Apple service to recertify devices and deliver Apple equipment that could give educators more access to the Apple ecosystem at a fraction of the price.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

The early morning is my most productive/creative time. I like to jump right into my laptop over a cup of coffee and knock out any creative action items I have. My next stop is to check in with my team. I’m either providing new tasks and directions or checking in with them to see what they’re working on and how I can help. The afternoons are when I let my mind wander and come up with some new ideas to work on. In the evenings I work out and reset myself for the next day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When I started, it was long hours and lots of caffeine that helped bring my ideas to life. Now, I look at who on my team is best suited to get a project done. My job is to define a project’s success and help create a guide for getting there.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Geo aware apps. Technology that works in the background and changes depending on where I am.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I analyze the businesses around me and learn from what they are doing right and wrong. For example, when I go out to eat, I examine everything from the lighting to the font on the menu. I try to incorporate things I like into my business and make sure to avoid the things I don’t like.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked at Fry’s Electronics for two weeks when I was desperate for a job right after high school. The entire organization is run the exact opposite of my personal values and tastes. I learned that your work environment is vital to your success and you should always strive to create and work in the best environment possible.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Hire sooner. Getting the right people on board is a constant challenge, but the payoff in increased output makes all the difference in the world. Learning to let go and develop others has helped me improve my own work output.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Clean my work area. Staying organized and focused requires an inner discipline. It’s very easy to accumulate tons of paperwork and other miscellaneous bits into your workspace. Having a clean and clear workspace sets me up for success and lets others know that I have self-respect and that I pay attention to the details.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Never give up. When the financial crisis hit, we lost half of our team and had to really batten down the hatches. I took comfort in knowing that – no matter what – we would never give up. We were able to retain key people because they knew we wouldn’t abandon the ship and came out of the storm leaner and stronger.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We started a PC repair arm called “PC Service.” We spent a lot of time and money trying to expand our business into a vertical that was outside of our expertise and values. The margins, passion and service expectations just weren’t there. We learned to stay in our lane and when expanding into new ventures to keep to our passions and strengths.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I love geo aware apps. I’d like to see an app that recommends restaurants in new cities based upon the kind of food I eat at home – all happening in the background, of course.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I love to drive. Cars, motorcycles, skateboards, anything that I can steer and make go fast.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Dropbox for sharing docs with the team, Adobe apps for designing and Spotify for listening to music while I work.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Hug Your Customers” by Jack Mitchell – one of the first business books I read when starting the business. Customer service is the #1 foundation for any business we start. It’s not enough to say your business cares about customer service; you have to live it and work on it every day.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Jack Welch, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs all have/had traits I really like along with some I don’t. I try to incorporate the good while avoiding the bad. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

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