The Next Generation Takes Over At Lockmasters

Aug. 1, 2005
His father is a towering presence in this industry, and his grandfather was the innovator among innovators. Mark Miller is the third generation to lead Lockmasters.

His father is a towering presence in this industry, and his grandfather was the innovator among innovators. Mark Miller is the third generation to lead Lockmasters. His first memory of safe and vault work is from age 7. Upon losing his key to a small bank safe, father Clay showed Mark how to smoke a key blank and make a new key for the bank safe.

After the Millers relocated Sargent & Greenleaf Inc. to Kentucky, Mark worked at the factory whenever possible, mowing the then 40-acre factory grounds and painting the yellow caution lines on the factory floor. While in high school, working every afternoon at S&G, his jobs included die casting, plating, painting, assembly and more.

His father became president of S&G. Litigation between S&G and LaGard found Mark digging through files looking for relevant documents. Then his grandfather Harry retired from S&G. Harry, Clay and Mark's uncle Benson decided to sell the family business. At that time, Clay Miller negotiated and bought Lockmasters from his father and Mark's grandfather, Harry.

With high school behind him, Mark took advantage of the Lockmasters School, then located in Satellite Beach, Fla. Mark and Clay moved to Florida where they spent the next year learning the ins and outs of the current family business, Lockmasters. Mark went through the full training program.

Florida was nice, but Kentucky was home, so Clay and Mark literally loaded it into moving vans and drove it back to Kentucky.

Next, Mark went to work with Nick Gartner at LaGard in California, spending time in the factory. At this time, Nick Gartner and LaGard were prototyping and introducing electronic safe locks to the market. "It was truly a new way of doing business and an invaluable learning experience. I got to experience and learn from the best of both worlds," says Mark.

While in California. Nick also had started U.S. Security Safe. Mark built and painted the safes, then headed out on the streets of southern California to sell them. He traveled the California coast, shop to shop, introducing the new line of safes in an extremely competitive territory.

This was Mark's first official introduction into sales, his true calling, some would say. "It was inspiring to meet locksmiths and hear of their past experiences with my family, Lockmasters and Sargent & Greenleaf." This was a pivotal point when he realized that he was "born to sell."

Upon his return to Kentucky in 1986, Mark was back on board at Lockmasters. As the company grew, Mark began instructing courses. "The one that sticks out the most though was when we were in the Ozark Mountains for a seminar weekend. I got up early Saturday morning to set up for Safe Lock Servicing Course, but as I went to get the equipment out of the rental car, I realized I had locked the keys in the car! So here I was the safe guy, who had to go into the hotel lobby where everyone was registering and ask, 'Can anyone open my car?' Needless to say, I still hear about that one."

Mark then began teaching manipulation and other programs internationally. As international sales manager, he established an international distribution network. In the late 1990s Mark and others at Lockmasters decided it was time to expand their business into tools for all types of locksmithing. "At the next ALOA convention, I knew we had a winner. The response and the sales were phenomenal."

Among his many accomplishments and contributions to the industry was his formation of the Friends of SAVTA Auction, and his time served as a SAVTA board member. During his tenure as the "auctioneer," in excess of $125,000 was raised. Additionally Mark hosted the first ALOA Scholarship auction, which provided a lucrative contribution toward the continuing education of locksmiths and technicians.

When asked what he felt was behind Mark's success, his father Clay, proudly responds, "It's his outgoing, pleasing personality and his sincere interest in helping people and his deep respect and appreciation for his family heritage."

When asked about his most proud and memorable moments, two things immediately came to mind. "Having the SAVTA convention here this year during our 50th anniversary was a milestone that will stay with me a long time. It was overwhelming to have what I consider the icons in this industry at our training facility and at the banquet."

"Secondly, when my father received the prestigious Philadelphia Award – I was overwhelmed with pride. It was one of those moments where it really hit me, that is, what an honor and privilege it is to carry on the tradition that began with my great grandfather."

Since 1986, his company has grown from 10 employees to more than 40. Literally, thousands of tools have been added to Lockmasters' catalog. Mark has been personally responsible for the development of many of these new tools and for the expansion into locksmithing and automotive tools. In 2002, Lockmasters' rolled out their PUREAuto® Automotive Training Weekends, teaching in excess of 1,200 locksmiths automotive locksmithing across the US each year

While it's easy to get a smile out of Mark - nothing brings it on faster than the mention of the two most important parts of his life; his daughters Madeline and McKenzie.

This year Lockmasters celebrates its 50th anniversary. In September this year, the torch will be passed on again; as Mark becomes the third generation Miller to own Lockmasters Inc. Unlike the two before him, he has been able to build on three generations of experience, and now his own experience will help him direct and guide this family business to the next generation.