Although there will always be the customer who thinks retail locksmiths “cut keys for a living,” there is actually a laundry list of things the security professional does on a repeated basis to make their money.
In addition to key duplication and origination, most locksmiths act as security consultants, job surveyors, cost estimators, sales, service and repair specialists and more. Apprentice, journeyman or skilled technician, your customers require you to continuously learn about new products and techniques to stay in business.
As the various specialty fields of our industry have grown and expanded over the past decade, some locksmiths have chosen to specialize or focus in a specific area. Three of the most popular specialty fields are; safes, automotive and access control. I spent time with three retail locksmiths to see how and why they decided to specialize.
Gene Gyure owns Starfleet Lock & Safe in Springfield, Ill. He has been in the locksmith business since 1980. Starting as a bicycle repairman in a combination locksmith shop and bicycle dealership, repairing bikes was okay, but he took every spare minute he had to learn the ‘other side’ of the business.
Gyure opened his own business after his former employer closed up shop. Starfleet is a two-service vehicle business located in an industrial section of town. The store has recently increased its square footage, enabling new office space and a safe showroom to further boost the business. Safes on display include Amsec, Meilink, Gardall and General brands in various configurations. Burglary, fire, personal and deposit safes provide a wide choice for the customers. Some reconditioned safes round out the selection.
Although Starfleet still does commercial master keying and re-keying, some residential lock work and basic automotive, safes are the specialty. The safe work specialization includes servicing mechanical and electronic safe locks as well as opening safes, vaults, time locks, safe deposit boxes and GSA containers. Gyure also retrofits electronic safe locks onto customers’ safes for ease of operation.
Specialized work requires special tools. Gyure has invested heavily in hardware. Special drill bits, drill stands and drill motors are only the beginning. Standard and oddball safe change keys, various boroscopes, viewing cameras, monitors and attachments, as well as a wide variety of repair and replacement parts and lock mechanisms are kept on hand to be able to do a complete job in one trip at the job site.
The biggest tool in his arsenal, though, is knowledge. The wide variety of reference material is probably more important than anything. The ability to decipher drill points and angles, lock construction information and exploded views of locks makes the job go usually as planned.
An ALOA Certified Registered Locksmith, he also is a member of the Safe and Vault Technician’s Association, SAVTA, and is certified by various manufacturers to do specialized lock work and open, service and repair GSA containers.
Ongoing training includes attending the Clark Security Products 2008 Security Conferences and Expo in Chicago and the SAVTA convention.
A lot of local locksmiths happily refer safe work to Starfleet because they don’t have the technicians or knowledge to do detailed safe openings and repair. It was this void combined with the challenge that led him to focus on the field.
Gyure has done numerous jobs for law enforcement agencies and the military. He estimates that about 70 percent of his business is warranty and repair work for the national service contractors and safe manufacturers.
When he gets stumped or needs a question answered, he relies on other safe specialists and the Internet. Paul Schaeffer is an experienced Diebold/Mosler technician who shares valuable information with Gyure on occasion and also calls him for information. With the locksmith forums on the internet, detailed information can also be exchanged with a wide selection of security professionals possessing a total of hundreds of years of combined experience.
Planning to continue focusing on safes and related work, Gyure is looking to acquire an updated safe moving trailer that carries heavier loads and more safe moving equipment, including a stair climber.
The company advertises the specialized services it offers on business cards, their service vehicles and in a small online Yellow Pages ad. Their website also offers a free security survey checklist and tips for travel security.
Gyure stressed that the most effective advertising is word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers.
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