Twenty-four-year-old Idaho locksmith PJ Slauson has been working at the family business, Country Lock and Key, for 18 years and started taking service calls at age 15. These days, he splits his time between the original locksmithing company and two other related family businesses, locksmith tool and...
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My father started Country Lock & Key in 1980. After I graduated high school, CLK Wholesale, which my dad started in 1988, started piquing my interest and I made a web site and started doing that.
With Aero Lock, we heard in 2007 that they might be closing their doors so we made a phone call to see if we could purchase it from them. Aero Lock has been around for quite a few years as a tryout key company. We make tryout keys for vehicles and motorcycles and RVs and also space and depth keys. We also set up quite a few master key systems for locksmiths. We purchased all the assets, business name, all that stuff. We just started officially in January 2008.
Is it difficult jumping around between three different companies?
Probably the hardest thing is when the phone rings. We have six lines and each one is labeled Country 1, Country 2, CLK 1, CLK 2, Aero 1, Aero 2. We also have a silk screening business where we silkscreen t-shirts. We actually just did 200 t-shirts for Advanced Diagnostics that they are going to give away at ALOA.
How many physical locations do you have?
Right now we just have two. They are about 13 miles apart. At one point my dad had four.
(Peter:): We couldn't find employees to run four locations properly, so we closed one and sold another. There was enough work, just not enough good people.
Roughly how many employees do you guys have?
Eleven right now, for all three companies
Are there more family members?
My mother is the secretary/treasurer of Country Lock & Key and has her own business. She makes rubber deposit stamps for banks and rubber address stamps. My sister is 22 and not really interested in locksmithing.
Are people asking for more electronics? Where are you seeing growth?
A lot more people are asking for electronics stuff, especially pushbutton stuff. Probably the two biggest areas of growth that we've been seeing are number one, automotive new technologies and number two, on the commercial side of things.
For me one of the most exciting things about the industry in general is that it is constantly changing and evolving. Part of the fun is to keep up with the new technology with all the prox and biometric stuff coming out. We as locksmiths and security professionals need to embrace the new technology. Those are new avenues of profit for us.
Do you do transponder programming?
Yes, we are full service from drilling safes to all automotive, high security, residential, commercial. We go out and make keys for boats. We do Medeco and Mul-T-Lock high security.
How much transponder programming equipment have you invested in?
We probably have close to $15,000 worth. We have a couple T-Codes, an MVP, we have NGS, a Dart and a GCL It takes a big investment but we find that it's very profitable.
When you do transponder programming, are you competing against the dealerships in your area?
(Peter:) A lot of dealerships call us for mobile work. We go out to the cars. We really work hand in hand. They help us out quite a bit and we help them out where we can.
(PJ:) If a customer comes into our shop and wants an extra Ford key made, we compete with the dealers there. But as far as key origination because the customer lost their keys, we don't really compete with the dealers at all.
How do you charge for automotive lockout calls? I'm guessing you cover a pretty big geographic area Do you charge based on distance or is it a flat fee?
For our local areas within a radius of 20 or so miles from either location, we have a flat fee, and then it gradually goes up as the distance increases. Where we are located is right out of Spokane, Wash., and Idaho and we go all the way north to the Canadian border. We also go into Montana a little bit.
Tell me about your typical commercial jobs and accounts.
Our typical commercial job involves rekeying buildings, installing a deadbolt or two, putting prox cards on doors. Customers include different cities, fire departments and government buildings.
What do you do to market your business and attract customers?
When we do a job, one of our locksmiths will give them a little survey card that asks ‘how did they find us?' Was it repeat, referral, yellow pages? It asks how they feel our pricing was, if the service technician was polite, and if he explained the invoice.