So it was like the business was yours from the beginning?
No, it wasn’t. I had a lot to learn. It was a small company and I wanted to make sure it would be on the rise. I wanted to be the one making my own decisions and not have someone make them for me.
What was your biggest challenge?
Knowledge. It takes lots of knowledge to know the locksmith trade and it doesn’t come quickly. It requires lots of persistence and mistakes. When I first came on board, foreign auto was a big challenge but it turned out to be easy because there were codes on the locks.
Were you doing electronic security from the start?
Not really, we were your mechanical-type locksmith shop, doing residential, commercial and auto work. Joe’s biggest account was a bank. He did the safe combos and safe deposit work and I did all the door work and the behind the teller area work. Eventually I learned safe work because of how much work we did there, but that was really Joe’s end of the business. As we grew and it was obvious I’d be more involved, Joe got into alarm work and started a company called Haddon Security, which was a step taken towards me buying Haddon Lock which is what eventually happened.
When you split up, were you thinking you’d only be doing mechanical lock work?
I always had an open mind when it came to taking on new things. Joe did instill in me that I wasn’t going to make a living only by opening cars and installing deadbolts. If I thought it was profitable, then I’d invest in tools and education. I would always network with other professionals that would guide me through the tough jobs. I’ve always known that to have a successful business, I’d have to be open to new avenues of revenue; that’s one of the reasons I believe my company stays busy.
Many locksmiths say that if you don’t move towards making electronic security an everyday part of your offering, you’ll be left behind with not much to do. What do you think of that?
I see us as the modern day blacksmith. Every town had a blacksmith. Then cars came along and we didn’t need as many horses or blacksmiths. There aren’t as many locksmiths as there used to be because of big box stores selling locks for less than we can buy them for. There just isn’t the same need for the mechanical locksmith as there used to be.
Since you have such a good understanding of the entire door opening, it seems like the transition to electronic security would be made with minimal difficulty. Do you recall when you began doing electronic stuff?
I was doing electric strikes early on in conjunction with “buzzer” systems. I made sure I was able to do that early on even if it was self taught. It’s interesting you mention the entire opening because I’m training a new employee now and I tell him, “Wherever you go, there’s an opportunity; when you walk through a doorway you get to look at someone else’s work, see what a good installation looks like versus a bad one.”. I think you learn as much from a bad one as a good one. You have to be aware of your surroundings, just look around.
Sometimes I look at installations done by a companies in the burglar alarm/fire business and scratch my head wondering why they chose the hardware they did. The answer is that they don’t know hardware. I’m a locksmith who knows how to choose the proper hardware for each situation. Knowing whether to use a mag lock, electric strike or electrified exit device requires knowledge of codes and understanding of your customers’ needs and the total door opening.
How does the conversation about electronic security typically come up with a customer? Do you present the option or do they ask?
There’s an education process. I have to educate the consumer about what we do. Very often, you’ll hear them say “I didn’t know you did that.” When meeting with a customer, I look at it as an opportunity to sell. I’ll give them a little background about the company and what we can provide for their security needs. We’re not just a locksmith shop; we install doors, repair doors, continuous hinges, door closers, access control etc. We also sell and program remotes and transponder keys. People often think they have to go back to the dealer for those items.
Jared Urman, Access Locksmithing
One reason that I conduct interviews with industry professionals in this column is to hopefully inspire readers to change something about the way they conduct their business, with the result being...