Transitioning Into Electronics

Haddon Locksmith (www.haddonlock.com) owner Jim Sundstrond started working as a locksmith in 1988, back when the job mainly involved cutting keys and installing deadbolts. Today, he estimates that electronics accounts for at least 40 percent of his...


Was it an easy decision to invest in machines and inventory to do all you do here?

I’m always looking at the opportunity to invest in my company but I’m always cautiously optimistic when I do it. I remember when VATS first came out and I thought $300 was a lot for a VATS interrogator. I wondered how we would ever make the money back on a $20 key. I didn’t think I did enough automotive work to justify buying it but when I turned down my first opportunity to make one because I didn’t have the proper equipment, I went out and bought one. I always wait for the market to reach me, it’s a timing thing. Same with transponders, I didn’t get it right away but when used car lots were calling me to do them, it was time to invest.

Doesn’t it all come down to how you market what you’re business has to offer?

When I first got into business, the thing I marketed most was myself. I called people I knew from my hardware days to let them know what I was doing. One previous customer I called happened to be working for FedEx and I didn’t even know it. FedEx became my account because of that phone call. I wasn’t afraid to tell people what I was doing and got clients because of it. It’s not always about marketing your products. Sometimes you’ve got to market yourself.

We live in a time when people actually talk about whether or not we’ll be using keys anymore in the near future, what about that idea?

What about the need for locksmiths, period? You go to the big box stores and they’re selling locks the consumer can rekey themselves.

What does the current day locksmith have to do to continue to thrive?

You have to keep up with the times and the technology. You’re going to see less and less rekeys just like you see less lockout work because the scammers got that part of the business cornered. You could spin your wheels fighting that losing battle or look for new and better opportunities. Treat your customers like gold and they’ll take care of you in the long run.

How do you tackle new business sectors?

First you have to be open to the idea of doing new things. I never automatically say no to a customer. I look it as an opportunity to take on new things. I tell my employees that not everyone out there is our customer. You have to look for quality customers the same way they look for a quality locksmith.

We are a service company. That’s why I got into Locksmithing; there are people out there who will pay for quality service and products. We stay busy because I have a customer base that understands what quality is all about.

For the longest time I was afraid to do continuous hinges. I finally took a class and came away with enough confidence to do them and then it was a matter of having the opportunity to install one. Now I look forward to the chance to do them because it pays well.

Do you see yourself as being in business to come up with solutions for your customers?

I’m in business to make money but I accomplish that by marrying a solution to a customer. If you just think of the money, you won’t have many happy customers. I see lots of locksmiths who take advantage of each opportunity and when times are tough, these guys are very slow because they don’t have the repeat business a company like mine has.

Is electronic security important to your bottom line?

Oh yes, it’s huge. Between transponder keys, remotes, access control, and other electronic security that we do out in the field, I would say it’s at least 40 percent of my business. Although my trucks say Haddon Locksmith, I think locksmiths need to think of themselves as security professionals. If you’re going to just do locksmithing, there will be less and less of it out there and you won’t make money. If you’re a security professional and you grow with the times you’ll stay busy and alive. I know plenty of locksmiths who have nothing to do with electronics and they happen to be the same ones who complain about how slow they are.

Why are so many locksmiths still not doing electronic security?

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