Notes from the Editor: Longevity

Feb. 3, 2020
How to show the next generation that being a locksmith can be as rewarding as it has been for all of us

A recent Facebook post arrived from a locksmith who stated that he was beginning his 35th year in business. According to the post, his locksmith business began in 1985 and is still going strong. This is not the first time the mention of locksmith business longevity has come to mind. At almost every locksmith convention a high percentage of attendees are older people whom I have seen again and again over the years. It only goes to prove that this locksmith entering his 35th year is only one of many who have succeeded in the locksmith business for long periods of time.

Government statistics state that 20% of small business startups usually fail in the first year. A 50% small business failure rate is common within the first five years and 66% will fail within the first ten years. Then what is the secret to running a successful locksmith business for the long term?

To be sure there must be some locksmith businesses which have failed over the years from management problems, bad planning, financial problems, stiff competition and a host of other setbacks. But, the one big boost is the business we are in. Everyone needs security. Everyone uses keys, locks and allied hardware. Starting a locksmith business automatically provides a business advantage not enjoyed by someone selling luxury items such as boats or fur coats. Costs of opening a locksmith business can also be less than opening many other types of businesses. Many locksmiths begin as mobile operations. Not counting vehicle costs, product and tool stocking can be done with a small initial investment.

Success of any new business must include initial planning. First, is there a demand for a locksmith business in your area? My answer is that it requires approximately a population base of 25,000 people to support a locksmith business. Even if there are existing locksmith businesses in your area, is there a large enough population base for one more? Second, what area will you specialize in? Even if there are other competitors, perhaps they do not service vehicles, safes or other vertical profit centers.

Every locksmith I have ever met has been proud of his occupation and for the length of years locksmithing has profitably put food on the table for his family. Rewarding as it has been for all of us, the one problem area is to interest the next generation that being a locksmith can be as rewarding as it has been for all of us. Perhaps one way is to hire a high school student to work afternoons and Saturdays for you. In my case my father had me cutting keys and cleaning floors in his lock shop during my teenage years. It worked for me and if every locksmith shop did the same thing, we could have a base of thousands of locksmith candidates ready to take the reins for years to come.