One week ago I attended the Greater Philadelphia Locksmith Association (GPLA) convention and banquet. This association has been in existence for more than 60 years. For 29 out of 30 days each month, these locksmiths compete on the streets of Philadelphia, then meet one day a month and put competition aside. That is the day to share their experiences, learn new techniques and carry on association business.
The GPLA and every other known local and national locksmith association across the country are called professional associations. According to most definitions, a professional association is usually organized to further a particular profession and the interests of that profession.
Another purpose of professional associations is to protect the public interest. Locksmith associations had perhaps not done a particularly stellar public interest job until recently when the scammer issue came forward. Now some associations are concentrating a good deal of energy on the scammer issue.
There is a delicate balance between protecting the public interest and protecting members of the profession itself. Licensing laws can be seen by some as protectionism rather than as an honest effort to assure the public that any licensed locksmith they call will be properly trained.
As good and well-meaning as most professional associations try to be, I believe they are all lacking in one critical area. Every locksmith association that I know of offers courses and training only for the individual. Once an individual is trained, the responsibility of the professional association stops. It is then up to the individual to enter the marketplace and find some profitable way to use their knowledge. In other words, find work.
Another type of association is a trade association. There are many possible avenues for a trade association to take, but the main value would be in networking. There are hundreds of businesses in this country with multiple locations. Right now there is no existing system for widely scattered, individual locksmiths to work together and develop national accounts.
Some manufacturers and a few individuals have privately started national account programs. At least one company has been purchasing local locksmiths to build their program. Competition is healthy and there is nothing wrong with what these companies are doing. However, without a competitive system of our own, profitable income from large commercial accounts and recurring monthly revenue will remain out of our reach.