Locksmith Rehab

May 2, 2019
Is it time to start fresh and rethink your business from the ground up?

Richard Rawlings, American entrepreneur (founder of Gas Monkey Garage) and TV personality, explained how he started the television series, Garage Rehab, on Discovery. "What really sparked my interest on creating this show was I've been in that position before," he says. "And I went broke a few times while trying to get Gas Monkey going and get it off the ground.” (“Richard Rawlings helps struggling shop owners on new TV show 'Garage Rehab,' debuting Aug. 30.” Aug. 29, 2017, Dawn Burkes, Dallasnews.com)

Rawling’s show, which began on the Discovery Channel in 2017, aims to help shop owners avoid some of the same pitfalls Rawlings faced when opening his now world-renowned auto shop. In the show, the Fort Worth native takes over some struggling auto mechanic shops with the help of designer Chris Stephens and project manager Russell J. Holmes. “I've been very, very fortunate,” Rawlings said, “and very blessed to have had the success that I've had. And it just seemed like a really cool idea when I came up with it to be able to go out and help other people who have been in the same spot that I've been in and hopefully get them turned around and pointed in the right direction. I guess the human nature part of it is what really sparks me the most.”

When asked to explain the mistakes most auto mechanic shop owners make, Rawlings replied, “Mostly, they let themselves get bogged down in the minutiae. It starts going bad so they wake up bad. They wake up feeling bad about it. They can't get themselves motivated. They let it all gang up on them. And it's like they can't dig out of their own black hole.”

I couldn’t help think about what Rawlings said when analyzing today’s retail locksmith shops, which seem to be part of a dying breed. When I started in the lock business in the 70s, I recall many more thriving locksmith shops than today -- shops with counter people, full displays, safes in the showroom, and hundreds of keys on key racks. Today, so many locksmith companies are converting to mobile shops without showrooms and focusing their businesses on service calls. Often the owners are doing the service work themselves. The locksmith showroom seems to be gradually disappearing, much of it because of the high cost of having employees as well as the cost of a building, including its rent per month, maintenance, and having to make sure someone is working the counter at all times.

I believe that many of today’s locksmith shops could use some real “locksmith rehab,” a thorough cleansing out of old habits, a complete review of what each locksmith owner is most accustomed to doing daily and deciding what still needs to be done and what doesn’t.  Think about it for a few minutes. Do you still advertise the old-fashioned way, on Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, or in printed materials? Ask yourself if you still answer phones the way you used to. Do you focus on fixing and installing locks, rekeying, or cutting more KW1s and SC1s than newer automotive and high security keys?

Think about your business as if you are a brand new customer. Do you walk into your storefront or look at your locksmith van the way a new potential customer might? Locksmith rehab, like Garage Rehab, would start with the appearance of your business. Are your floors clean?  How does your showroom look?  Do you actually have one or is it dirty and disorganized?  If someone new walks into your place of business, are they impressed or do they think to themselves, ”I’ll just go to Home Depot or Grainger the next time I need some security?”

Pretend to be the customer who calls you out of the blue.  How do your people answer the phones? How do you respond to contact info on your website or do you even have a website? Imagine your service person entering a home or business. Does he inspire confidence in your company, that you are the best security specialist for the job? How does the tech talk to each and every customer? How do you or your employees appear to customers?

Do you still call yourself a “locksmith” or are you a security specialist or security consultant? A locksmith sounds like a blacksmith, someone who works on locks the way blacksmiths used to work on horses. But the lock industry is an old-time industry in a burgeoning and broad field of home and commercial security. We all get used to doing things a certain way. We get comfortable and set in our ways and do the things that worked for us in the past. It’s human nature. Many locksmiths tend to do the things they have found successful in the past. And that’s okay, but will that take you 5-10 years into the future?

Maybe it is time to do your own personal rehab, as if you’re a locksmithaholic, a creature of habit. Is it time to start fresh and rethink your business from the ground up?

Ask yourself a simple question for the answer: Will you ever have a use again for those 1948 Chrysler key blanks hanging on your keyboard?  Is your bench space being filled by a bit key machine which could be put to a more profitable use with an electronic laser key cutting machine?  Is your display area cluttered with deadbolt displays instead of electronic push button locks?”   

If you want to “come clean” and get help with a “locksmith rehab” of your shop, truck, or business, talk to your SHDA distributor. SHDA distributor members should have people who can help you rethink your business. Maybe they aren’t experts like Richard Rawlings with TV crews ready to completely redo your store from the ground up. But many SHDA distributors are willing and able to help prepare locksmiths for a new fresh start with products, training and advice. Maybe you won’t radically change your business approach but you can and should focus on meeting the emerging and often scary challenges of the 21st century. Your livelihood depends on it.

Arnie Goldman is President of IDN Hardware Sales, a division of IDN Global (and SHDA distributor)