Unlike most of the locksmiths interviewed for our 30 Under 30 Series, northern Michigan locksmith Jared Urman did not join the family business, nor did he even know any locksmiths before entering the field. After college and some work experience, he was looking to own his own business and started up Access Locksmithing, Web Site: www.accesslocksmithing.com. in Petoskey, Mich.
Following are Locksmith Ledger’s questions and Urman’s answers.
Why did you choose locksmithing?
I wanted my own business. My background is in construction and I have a bachelor’s of science degree in business. I also have a contractor’s license and installed doors and locksets.
Did you take additional training?
Yes, I started out by attending Lockmasters Security Institute in Kentucky; I took the Fundamentals of Locksmithing class. I read the locksmith magazines, took training classes through distributors, Stanley Best and Von Duprin factory classes in Indianapolis, and attended SAVTA (Safe and Vault Technicians Association annual show, scheduled April 19-24, 2101, in San Diego).
Have you been to an ALOA Show?
Unfortunately, they are always in the summer and that is my busiest time.
How did you get started?
I wrote up a business plan and planned to apply for a loan with the Small Business Administration, but then my father offered to make the loan instead. I equipped my van and had about a year of not making any money.
How long have you been in business?
Are you mobile only?
Yes, I have my van and a shop in my garage.
Do you have any employees or are you a one-man shop?
My brother and two cousins who are still in college help me with door and frame replacement jobs. In addition to locksmith work, we handle commercial doors and frames, which is a good fit with my background in construction.
What is your schedule like? Are you on call 24/7?
Pretty much – the phone rings at all times of the day and night. Because this is resort country, it is busier in the summer and winter. In the summer, the phone rings a lot just before dark as boaters come back in off the lakes and discover that they’ve locked their keys in the car.
In the winter, there are three ski resorts within a 25-mile radius, snowmobiling trails and cross-country skiing. There is also a casino here in town.
November and April are the down months, in between tourism seasons. It really picks up again May through September.
Do you do all types of locksmithing?
When somebody calls, I’ll always take the job. I’ve done safe opening, automotive, residential and commercial.
Commercial really drives my business. I’d say it accounts for about 65 percent. Our customers include four schools, the casino and the local hospital. I am also a licensed automatic door inspector.
Do you do a lot of electronics?
At one school, we just installed Schlage CM locksets. The hospital is just starting to convert to a card reader-based electronics. I’ve installed a lot of electric strikes, mag locks and card readers. Still, people up here are just beginning to explore electronics.
What about automotive?
We do a lot of transponder programming. There’s only one other locksmith up here that can do transponders, so I get some referrals from other locksmiths.
What equipment do you have?
I have a T-Code Pro classic and an MVP Pro. I can do most models. Many of the customers up here have high-end vehicles, and the dealer may be a three-and-a-half hour drive away.
How large a geographic area do you cover? Do you charge based on distance?
Yes, we absolutely have to because it is such a large area. We try to stay west of I-75 – Petoskey, Charlevoix, up to the Mackinaw bridge, but I have gone farther for a good customer.
Can you carry everything you need in your van?
Absolutely. It is well stocked and I have some top-of-the-line equipment. I used an ITL 950 machine for cutting keys by code and a Bravo 3 duplicator.
Since many of your residential customers are vacation rentals, are they interested in digital locks so they can give out codes instead of keys?
No, not yet. Many of the upscale vacation rentals are more concerned about appearances. They want a certain look for their front doors.
Do you see a lot of decorative hardware?
There’s one specialty hardware store here that sells a lot of Baldwin door hardware, which is very popular. Baldwin really stands behind their products. If I need a replacement part for a repair, they’ll send it right to me.
What about restricted keyways?
I’ve been trying to promote them. There’s not a lot of crime up here and people don’t seem to want to upgrade unless they have a break-in.
Do you spend time educating customers?
We have Home Depot and Lowes up here, and they can buy a Schlage F series lock for a reasonable price. I’ve had customers take it out of the box and feel it and then did the same with an A series lock. They are surprised at how much heavier and better quality the lock is that I sell and install.
Which part of the business do you enjoy the most?
I like running the business and solving people’s problems.
How do you market your business?
Whenever someone calls, I ask them where they heard of Access Locksmithing, and most of them say they saw my ad in the Yellow Pages or I had the best looking ad in the Yellow Pages, or they knew my grandfather or family.
Of course, referrals always turn out to be the best customers.
Did you grow up in this area?
I actually grew up on Mackinac Island. My father was school superintendent and my mother was a teacher, in fact she just retired a year ago They now live in the Petoskey area but still have a place on the island. My whole family is still in this area.
Do you come from a family of locksmiths?
No. When I was growing up on Mackinac Island, I didn’t even know what a locksmith was. I did a lot of construction projects with my family.
We’ve heard countless stories of scam locksmiths advertising names like AAA Locksmithing in the local Yellow Pages, but in fact being neither local or a qualified locksmith. Has this been a problem for you?
No, it is more in the major cities.
Do you have a lot of competitors?
There aren’t that many locksmiths up here. In fact, that is something I researched when I did my business plan. I found that most of the locksmiths were older guys getting closer to retirement, and they seemed happy to take some lockout calls and rekey front doors, but not so eager to get into the newer stuff like electronics.
Is licensing required in Michigan?
No, and I think that’s a big part of the problem. I’m an advocate for licensing and I’d like to see it required in all states.
How many locksmith distributors do you use?
I buy through everyone I can, based on service first and then price. I like IDN Hardware Inc., Akron Hardware because of their free freight offer and H.L. Flake, among others.
Do you order online or do the distributor reps visit you?
I order online through H.L. Flake and usually over the phone with the others. I don’t have time for them to come in person, but work well with their reps over the phone.