Keys To A Profitable Future: Locksmithing In 2014 And Beyond

Dec. 2, 2013
Securing an opening is what locksmithing is all about. Electronic locking systems are just an extension of what locksmiths have been doing for hundreds of years.

As every new generation comes of age, these young adults typically look at society and see plenty of room for improvement and technological advancements. They want to make their mark on society. Think back 30 or 40 years ago. Business communications was accomplished mainly by mailings and telephone conversations. Then innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates came on the scene. Today, we can’t even imagine running a business without e-mail, web sites and cellphones.

The locksmith business has undergone its own transformation. Many of the procedures we depended on 50 years ago do not enjoy the same demand today. While there is a continuing need for servicing key-operated mechanical locks, that demand has been declining.  Young people do not seem to be especially attracted to traditional locksmithing as a life-long career. One only has to attend any locksmith convention and observe the escalating median age of attendees.  As older locksmiths disappear from the scene, their businesses have been more likely to close than to find young people who have the desire to take over.

However, the security industry is far from becoming extinct. Just as society has changed during the last 50 years, requests by the public for security products have also changed.  Lock manufacturers have been quick to recognize this trend. With very few exceptions, every booth at the recent American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) convention featured some type of electronic security product. 

As the security industry changes, progressive locksmiths must also be willing to change in order to stay relevant. Almost every man and woman in the country carries a ring of keys. Keys can be lost or need duplication.  A need for extra keys or key replacement has always provided a ready-made customer base for locksmiths.  A locksmith has always expected that a certain amount of the population would come through their door each day needing some type of key or lock service.  Very little advertising or sales ability was needed.

During the last twenty years there has been a slow but steady movement towards introducing electronics into the security field. Car locking systems are a prime example.  The basic similarity between electronic locks and mechanical locks is that they both secure an opening.  Each type of system requires a latch or bolt to do the fastening.  Securing an opening is what locksmithing is all about.  Electronic locking systems are just an extension of what locksmiths have been doing for hundreds of years.

Locksmiths are trusted members of society around the world.  The public has learned to depend on the expertise of a locksmith for every key and lock requirement.  But what the public depends on us for is also becoming a problem. Locksmiths are generally not recognized for their electronic knowledge.  In my opinion, the public is not thinking of locksmiths first when they want some type of electronic security device.   

Consider our priorities lately. This industry has been concentrating on scammers and what to do about locksmith licensing. Meanwhile, companies like ADT have huge advertising campaigns describing how they can install electronic lock systems.  ADT never mentions the word ‘locksmith.’ Returning Monthly Revenue (RMR) is the where companies like ADT generate their income.  Their TV advertisement campaigns show that electronic security must be a profitable meal ticket.     

Staying Profitable

Locksmiths are currently not considered by either the public or the electronic security industry as the primary expert to contact when electronic security is needed.  But electronics is where the security market is headed and this is where big profits can be made. We are at the point where locksmiths must either alert the public that we are ready for the electronic era or face the fact that the demand for traditional locksmith services will never be as great as it once was.

Locksmiths gearing for the future must do several important things.

  • First, they must attend every available educational opportunity to learn about electronics.
  • Second, electronic business requires sales effort.  Let your customers know about the new types of security products you can install. Competitors from other fields are already up and running. You will be competing with bids for jobs that once were closed only with a handshake. 
  • The security business is changing and locksmiths must change as well. There are 100 million individual homes in the USA and every one is a possible sale either for electronic security or for a decorative hardware upgrade.

The economy is moving upward and the business forecast in 2014 looks positive, but only if you are willing to make a commitment in the direction the security industry is headed.