A Locksmith Survival Guide

Sept. 1, 2009
Forget the economy when you’re working. Focus instead on the little things that you can do to improve your customer service and lower your costs.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but has anyone noticed this is a tough time to be in business? Whether you're a locksmith, chiropractor, or used car salesman doesn't matter. The burdens on a small business in troubled economic times are ever-present. Every business owner has to think about his or her future in this environment and plan for the worst of times, not the best of times. We all need some serious contingency planning.

So here are just a few suggestions for you to weather and survive in difficult times and be inspired to turn trouble into success.

Calm down and don't get overwhelmed by what you can't control. We can't control the car companies, the banks, and the government. It's hard enough coping with what we can control. We have daily concerns in dealing with our own companies, employees, families, bills, and taxes. But it doesn't help to complain about it.

We should focus on making each of our businesses as profitable as possible. How? Consider the following questions.

Do you need your Yellow Page ads or can you reduce them and their costs?

Look at your health insurance costs and shop them around. Can you get a less expensive type of plan? Maybe next year this will be in the government's hands, not yours (but I wouldn't bet on it.)

Can you raise your delivery charges and service fees without your customers objecting too much?

How about making an employee part time instead of full time?

Are there small changes you can make to your company to improve your business?

Do you need to drive as much if you plan routes better?

Can you get the products you require shipped to you without paying freight charges?

Can you save on your truck costs and make sure that you're driving a little less?

Many of you have realized that running a locksmith shop is costly and that being a mobile locksmith allows greater potential for profits.

Start with little incremental improvements that you can do today to reduce your costs and increase your profits. Be a positive leader by showing others how to tackle fear by focusing on the fundamentals of good business.

Here are a few ways to help you survive these crazy economic times:

1. Even if your business is suffering, treat every customer as if they're your only customer. Give them great service and hopefully they will want to do more business with you and tell their friends about you. Don't tell them your problems or plead with them to do more business with you. Show them products and security solutions that will make them safer.

2. Know that when the economy is worse, fear increases, which means that people are more worried about their money, their business and home security, and their families. Take advantage of this by becoming even more knowledgeable about safety and security. You can help people feel more confident about protecting what they own. (For example, when many people thought that their bank accounts weren't safe, sales of safes rose sharply. People took money out of the bank and put them into new safes.) Be ready for the newest opportunities. Show your customers why it's important to do business with you. You can help them feel better about their own security and peace of mind.

3. Don't focus too much on the scammers out there trying to get rich quick from unsuspecting consumers. Let your customers know that you are the professional security specialist and make sure they have your business cards and phone number handy. Stamp and coin keys and cylinders with your phone number, advertise more effectively on the Internet, and make sure to tell your customers to tell their friends about your knowledge and professional expertise.

4. Business is mainly building and keeping good relationships. Treat your employees well, your suppliers courteously, and your customers with great care. Build a strong, energetic team around your employees, your customers, and yourself. When the economy strengthens, you will be ready when your customers are ready to buy more.

5. Think outside of your little box. Don't do what you have done because you have always done it. Think about the challenges out there and try to make them opportunities. Think of creative ways to make things better. Be positive even when everyone is negative. People like to do business with people who make them feel better. So even if you're down in the dumps, smile and act like you're having a great day. It might rub off on your customer or employee and make you a little happier as well.

Work hard at work but afterward, go home and enjoy your family and friends, and know that you'll come out of this okay. Ask yourself, “What's the worst that can happen?” If you go out of business, you'll work for another locksmith or institution or change careers. If you owe more than you have, ask your creditors to work with you. Try to communicate as truthfully as you can and stay positive.

Like most of you, I am deeply concerned about what is going on in the locksmith industry, in the auto and construction industries, and in the entire country. There are days when I get scared and wonder what the future is going to bring. But I have learned in my 30 years in business that whatever happens, we need to be thankful for what we have. Things can always be worse. Forget the economy when you're working. Focus instead on the little things that you can do to improve your customer service and lower your costs.

The world is full of so much negativity and pain right now but it is also full of so many amazing opportunities to be inspired. Inspiration is everywhere you look for it. Seek it out and find it; make time for it. You need it now more than ever.

Arnie Goldman is the president of IDN-Hardware Sales, Inc. and a member of the SHDA Industry Advocacy committee.