Looking Beyond the Vertical Market: Discovering Opportunities to Expand Your Business

Looking for new jobs, new customers and new challenges?

We locksmiths go to work each day and do what we do. We interact with our customers and potential customers. For them, we provide peace of mind by cutting keys, rekeying locks, repairing locks, installing locks and door hardware. We unlock doors, we fit new keys when they’ve been lost and we provide service. Generally the duties of a locksmith revolve around locks and keys. That is our vertical market.

Sure, many locksmiths get into safes and safe work. Some are involved in high-security and specialty automotive work while others have discontinued most auto service.

Your vertical market is the basic services you offer that make up most of your work. It may vary from that of your competitors to some degree, but it’s the core of your income. If you are swamped with work and don’t have enough hours in the day to get it all done, you’re probably not looking for more.

On the other hand, if you are the type of locksmith who is always looking for new jobs, new customers and new challenges, consider looking beyond your vertical market. Depending on what services you offer now, some of the following ideas may already be within your vertical market.

If you are like many locksmiths, whenever you travel to a different city you whip open the yellow pages and look at the ads of other locksmiths. Sometimes you even drive by to take a look.

Having spent over three decades in the retail, manufacturing and distribution sides of our industry has given me the opportunity to see hundreds of locksmith shops all over the United States and Canada.

I’ve seen locksmith shops that sharpened saws and knives to supplement their lock business. I’ve seen lock shops combined with tattoo parlors, sign shops, bicycle shops, hardware stores, lawnmower repair and more.

For the purposes of this article we’ll concentrate on other opportunities that parallel the general security industry. Take a look at the following categories to see if they give you any ideas, or put your mind in gear to develop a course of action to expand your business base.


One of the simplest ways to expand is to become involved with electronic access control. While most locksmiths start out selling basic electric strikes with a push-button release, the move to keypads and card readers is a simple one. Electro-magnetic locks, electrified exit devices, power supplies and biometric devices will quickly fall into line as your ability increases. The physical mounting of the hardware and power supply components is tied together with wiring run between them to complete the installation.

A number of manufacturers offer stand-alone, battery-operated access control locks and lock systems. Most of these require a minimum installation procedure when replacing a standard door lock. Because they are stand alone, they do not need any wiring runs or separate power supply. Programming is accomplished at the keypad or through a software program on a laptop computer or communicating through a data transfer module.


This one is a little tricky. Although the physical mounting, installation and programming of alarm equipment is something most capable locksmiths could handle without a problem, there are various restrictions. Most cities and states have specific licensing and permit requirements for alarm installers. Some areas will allow you to install a local alarm that activates an onsite siren or strobe light without a permit, some won’t.

Offsite monitoring is the next step. The monitoring of alarms is a business unto itself. If you are allowed to sell, install and service alarm equipment, you probably would still use another company to provide the monitoring service.

Some locksmiths have found a niche market by providing subcontracted labor to install electric strikes and other electrified locks to local alarm companies that prefer to have their installers handle the alarm equipment installation only. In most cases the alarm company runs the wire to the door (the part most locksmiths like least) and the locksmith completes the installation of the locking hardware.

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