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You're talking about an issue that has been one for quite some time in our industry so this won't be the first time we risk offending someone.
It's not simply physical appearance; it's more about the image you want to project and you have to project a professional image if you're going to be successful. With manufacturers making products that can go straight to end users via big box retailers and the alarm companies that are surrounding the locksmith, the industry faces some serious challenges. They are looking and acting professionally and taking the business that should be the locksmith's. The locksmith is the one who should be automatically associated with security.
What else do you think is important to keep in mind to be successful today as a locksmith?
Education is key. The customer is becoming more knowledgeable mainly due to the Internet and the amount of information they can access. If you don't stay up on it, then people will tend to not take you seriously. If you don't know about the latest products, you won't have the answers the customer is looking for. There are locksmiths out there who are making sure their techs are educated and are trying to steer the business back towards us, the security professionals.
I've gotten myself in trouble by questioning the efforts being made by associations to properly promote the industry as a whole. What are your thoughts?
I think that any association in any industry should do as much as it possibly can to better the industry and to influence the public perception of that industry. There needs to be a definite move in that direction or in five years there may not be a locksmith industry left. I know that sounds ridiculous from someone who's been in it for only five years, but in that time I've seen amazing changes in an industry where it's becoming harder and harder to do business. Every year you can bet on increases from a major manufacturer but it seems like the price is always the same at Home Depot. The only thing we can do is to stay ahead of it and offer a professional service, which is something you can't get most other places.
Where do you see your business going in the next five or 10 years? Do you have a plan?
We always have a plan in place. You have to be ready and willing to change the plan at any moment and be flexible in a fast moving environment. If the industry changes as much in the next five years as it has in the last five years, it will be a completely different industry. There'll be locksmiths around who will be more like an ADT type company. You're still going to have the 1-800 guys but you're seeing more and more the trend towards not having to use keys at all in the future.
When you made a conscious effort to change the public's perception of you, did you see an immediate impact?
It drastically changed! When I tell customers that my company installs access control systems, they then respond by talking to us about upcoming jobs and needs that they had. Previously they would respond with a polite “oh, that's great” and drop it. Everything is a matter of perception. Obviously you have to market yourself. But you could market yourself all you want and if you look like a slob and without enough product knowledge, then they're not going to listen to you. I also think a company has to streamline and create a ‘brand' that the customer will remember.
During the planning stages of your day with your employees, do you talk about sales and how to accomplish additional sales out there?
It's an ongoing training process. I have very good guys that work for me; they're skilled, intelligent and very courteous. This is something that they want to do; they want to work for a company that they're proud of and supports them in their efforts to do work that results in a quality service at a fair price.
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