How to Properly Cover Your Assets

April 7, 2022
Hiring professionals to help you to take care of your business is essential for any locksmith.

Security is job one for the locksmith, but what are locksmiths doing to keep themselves and their business secure?

This was the question meant to be answered during the latest meeting of Locksmith United, held April 4. With the title of “Cover Your Assets,” Locksmith United founder Wayne Winton provided several suggestions aimed at helping locksmiths to protect themselves on the job and off. His top two:

  • Hire a good attorney.
  • Hire a good certified public accountant.

Legal Advice

Although Winton notes that a service, such as LegalShield, can answer basic questions, a good attorney is necessary, particularly with respect to contracts. You should look for someone who is familiar with local laws and a locksmith’s type of (typically small) business, Winton says. This will help when it comes time to write disclaimers and liability waivers, which are necessary to protect against potential lawsuits from customers.

“It’s not if, it’s when you’ll need this to fall back on,” he says. For example, he notes that for safe moves, he has a liability maximum of $5,000 or the cost of the move, whichever is less. This is to protect against the potential damage caused by the heavy work. “We’re going to do the best we can to make things right” if something goes wrong, Winton explains, “but customers have to realize that under these conditions, things can happen.” As for the liability waiver, “they’re going to sign it, or I’m not going to move that safe in,” and the customer can hire a different locksmith.

This also can prove valuable if a customer wants you to install something that could violate code and create a potential liability situation later, such as a double-keyed deadbolt on an egress door. “If you’re going to put any electronic access on a door, get a letter from the fire marshal that says this system is OK,” Winton advises.

Another instance where having a professional lawyer look over your agreements would prove beneficial is an employment contract if you have employees — so your lawyer should be familiar with labor law, as well. Employment contracts could outline job duties, time off, workday requirements and even a training period in addition to pay. They also would include reports of a criminal background check or a driver’s license.

Winton gives the example of firing an employee who is found to not have a legal driver’s license, and the employee sues for wrongful termination. If you don’t have an employee agreement that lays out such conditions, “the court will say, it doesn’t exist if it’s not in writing. If it’s not in there, you’ve lost.”

Also, when on the job, Winton advises you to document as much as possible, with pictures and video. This not only would be of the work you do but also the conditions before and after to note the conditions of the surroundings or post-work cleanup. “I take video of every single job I do,” he says.

Financial Issues

A good certified public accountant will pay off in much the same way as an attorney, particularly at tax time, Winton says, noting that more businesses fail because of tax problems. You could do your own taxes, Winton acknowledges, but he equates that with a consumer trying to move their own safe or make their own keys to a car. A professional will be in the know about issues that are important to small businesses.

Another piece of advice that doesn’t cost anything: Keep your business above board. Although he acknowledges that the temptation is there to slough off the paperwork on small jobs, Winton says he records every penny that comes in and goes out of his business.

“In my state and for my type of business, I know it’s just a matter of time before I’m audited,” Winton says. “I know that and go into it confident that I have my ducks in a row.” He recommends a paper trail for every transaction and running it through your accountant.

It’s also good to have good accounting software for your business. Winton says he uses software that allows him to capture live signatures in the field and to include images with invoices.

Finally, make sure your business has the right insurance. Winton says he has full coverage on all his work trucks, including coverage for modifications he made to the vehicle to turn it into a serviceable work truck.

Locksmiths also should consider inland marine insurance. Don’t let the term fool you: Inland marine insurance is coverage of products, materials and equipment transported over land. “Mobile locksmiths need it, 100 percent,” he says. “I wouldn’t run my business without it.”

As part of his presentation, Winton offers to provide locksmiths with his PowerPoint as well as samples of the contracts he uses, but in any case, you should run anything past your own attorney or accountant, because state and local laws vary significantly.

Go here for a full video of the presentation.

Locksmith United

Locksmith United is a monthly Zoom presentation to discuss locksmithing and provide information to others in the industry. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, the first Monday of each month. The next meeting is scheduled for May 2, 2022. The preliminary topic is employment. All locksmiths are invited.