The locks on the doors on most homes keep the skilled burglar out
for about 30 seconds! This is especially true if the only thing
slowing him down is a standard key-in-the-knob lock.
Statistically, there's about one residential burglary every 30
seconds in this country. Traditionally, as the economy falters
and times get harder, the number tends to rise.
Quite naturally, people are concerned and frightened. As a
result, locksmithing is not only one of the new "demand"
businesses, it's rapidly becoming one of the more profitable
businesses for entrepreneurs with not too much capital to invest.
Today's locksmiths are usually well versed in mathematics and
basic electronics. They almost always have to be, what with the
new types of locks being introduced. Today's locksmith is more
likely to be known as a "Security Specialists," then just
ordinary locksmith, as in the past.
Even so, most locksmithing businesses are still one-man
operations. In many instances, it's a husband and wife family
affair, with the husband handling the mechanical end and the wife
doing the books and financial end of the business. Most of these
small operations concentrate on the repair side of the business,
and deliberately choose to remain small in size. As we will
discuss later, however, this need not be the case; these small
businesses CAN "grow up."
According to the area in which he is located, and established,
well organized and trained locksmith may gross between $50,000
and $60,000 per year, using a van as a mobile "workshop," and
space in his home as an office. Remember: As the economy turns
toward recession, burglaries increase and people become aware of
the need for better locks to protect what they own; thus the
locksmith enjoys an increased income during hard times.
Just because locksmithing is a "personal" kind of business, and
can be started on a shoestring and operated out of the home,
that's not to say that a locksmithing service cannot be developed
into a million dollar business. On the contrary, there are a
number of operations in some of the larger metropolitan areas
that have several mobile locksmith vans on the road, in addition
to retail store locations. These operations are grossing well
into the million dollar figures every year.
It's a matter of desire, determination and personal fulfillment
and satisfaction. Attitude, marketing skills and general business
knowledge are also positive attributes necessary for real
success. Very definitely, the sharp businessman with determined
ambition can dominate any market with a modern locksmithing
The key ingredient to this business is the utilization of proper
marketing and selling skills. It goes without saying: you can
know all there is about the mechanical functioning of the
business, but without innovative marketing and selling skills,
your business will surely flounder.
However, given the marketing know-how, plus persistent sales
efforts, you can succeed in this business with the knowledge you
can acquire of the technical side. The success of any business is
built upon the marketing and sales expertise of its founder,
because after all, "mechanics" can always be hired, if you decide
to go that route rather than learn the trade and the business.
Your marketing efforts should stress the theme that your services
will allay the fears of your buyers. You want to get across to
your prospective customers the sense of security your service
will provide: You can make them safe in their own homes; no
longer will they have to worry about being rudely awakened in the
middle of the night by a burglar rustling around in their house;
no longer will they have to worry about coming home to a house
that's been cleaned out or ransacked.
Once you understand that fear is a basic human instinct, it's
easy to see that virtually everyone can be a prospect for your
service as a locksmith. Your potential market includes everyone
in your area, because everyone has possessions. So every
homeowner, every apartment dweller, every business owner, all the
schools, churches, government institutions, and a wide variety of
other commercial and industrial accounts can be yours.
In this day and age, new homeowners and apartment dwellers want
locks changed the day the move in, so that the former occupants
and other key holders will not have access to their place. In
addition, there will probably be the need for additional keys for
each member of the new family, now that new, safer locks have
Commercial and industrial accounts present and even lucrative
market. larger companies tend to want their keys
"departmentalized," so that office workers can get into the
building on weekends, but not into the factory or shipping areas,
and vice versa. Banks and savings institutions frequently need
the safe deposit locks changed.
Generally speaking, newcomers to this field should focus their
efforts on the commercial market is vast, and often up for grabs
in many areas. In addition, the profit margins in these areas are
excellent! With one of these accounts you'll have to work paying
about $500 or more per visit, compared with $25 to $50 per visit
per residential job. With commercial/industrial accounts, there's
also the possibility of ongoing service and maintenance.
Definitely, the commercial/industrial business is well worth
going after, and can put your business in the black very rapidly.
However, it does take aggressiveness, and the determination to
sell these accounts.
Start small, Consider working out of your home in the beginning.
Most of today's successful locksmiths began by working out of
their homes, with the family car or van outfitted with the tools
and equipment needed. Such an approach will enable you to get
started for a little as $1,000. You should be aware however, that
this is just a beginning, and not all it's going to take to
really establish your business. With this level of investment,
you're more or less limited in the business you can handle and
the money you can make. Locksmiths who want to make the really
big money should be investing all their early profits into more
equipment and inventory up to a level where they can offer
complete full service locksmithing. Such a business would require
at least $5,000 in equipment, perhaps even $10,000, depending on
how many different services you want to offer. this estimate for
start-up costs does not include your van or inventory of spare
parts and new locks.
Perhaps a quick word of caution is in order here. You've no doubt
seen or heard some of the advertisements promising all kinds of
big money to be made with your own locksmithing service; "just
send for the learn-at-home correspondence course, and you'll be
home free." It's true that you can earn big money in this
business, but as we've noted earlier, without a lot of sharp
marketing and selling expertise, plus at least the essential
equipment to handle the kind of work these courses teach,
enrolling in one of these courses will put you no further ahead
than you are right now. This business requires EQUIPMENT and
You can make excellent money as a locksmith, so long as you
operate your business capably and in a professional manner. But
without a full line of the equipment required to handle a wide
variety of jobs, you will be limiting your total income
potential. The more you invest in quality equipment, the more
different kinds of jobs you can handle, and thus the more money
you'll be capable of making.
This is definitely a business in which you decide for yourself
exactly how far and how fast you want to go. As we've said, some
operators are perfectly content to work out of their homes, using
a mobile van. They don't want the larger problems involved in
hiring employees, or the expense of maintaining a retail
But to make really big money in this business, starting small and
working out of your home, you should plan to put more mobile
trucks on the road, and as soon as possible, open a retail
location. Each mobile van will give you another satellite
business, and a retail location will afford you a base
headquarters for your mobile vans.
It is of the utmost importance that you build and maintain a
professional image as a quality locksmithing operation from the
start. Clinging to the craftsman type of image will be of
advantage only if you wish to stay in the "Mom and Pop" category.
You should endeavor to handle all jobs as quickly and as
efficiently as possible. Outfitting yourself and your help in
sharp looking uniforms will help. Making your calls in a clean,
well-organized van will also play an important part in the image
your customers have of your business. You want your customers to
have confidence in your business, and in the quality of the work
you do for them. When they do, you'll find they are more likely
to pay their bills with fewer reminders.
Think of it like this: A large invoice presented by a man in a
clean uniform who drives up in a good looking truck and does
quality work is going to be paid more readily than one for $25
presented by a guy in grubby jeans who drove up in a 10-year old
With so many technological changes occurring within this field on
an almost monthly basis, it's to your advantage to stay on top of
what's happening within the locksmithing field. This means
subscribing to some of the better trade publications. You should
be attending the various Locksmithing Association promoted
seminars and workshops that offer ongoing help in both the
technical and financial side of this business. In other words,
you should plan to keep yourself up to date with a program of
There are several ways to get started in this business. You can
buy an existing operation from a retiring craftsman. Ask him to
help you with the technical side of the operation while you spend
most of your time actively promoting and managing the business.
Or, you can hire the technical help you need, and the sales force
to build the business while you do the managing. You can enroll
in one of the popular correspondence courses, become involved in
the business as you learn from the various trade publications,
and progress at your own speed. Our recommendation is that you
learn the fiscal and management side of the business, and hire
others to handle the mechanical or technical side. Thus the
purpose of this report is to indoctrinate you to the business
side. To explain the technical details of this business would
take volumes and probably much of the information contained would
be out-dated by the time it came to press.
However, we will provide you with an outline of the most common
types of jobs a locksmith should be able to handle.
RECOMBINATION LOCKS: A customer may want to change an existing
lock to work off a new key--the most common type of lock being
the key-in-the-knob cylinder or pin tumbler lock. When the proper
key is inserted in the keyway, spring-loaded pins are pushed up
and out of the cylinder, allowing the plug to turn, and opening
the lock. When recombinating, you're changing the depth of these
pins so that a new key is the only one that will work. Most
house, auto and padlocks are the pin tumbler variety. Different
brands of locks use different depths, space and keyways. But with
a given brand of lock, up to 50,000 variations exist. Thus, it's
not always necessary to change the new lock.
COMBINATING ALIKE: Some customers will have a house or business
with several different locks and keys, none of them alike or
using the same key. Sometimes people will want to change to a
system that will require the least number of keys to carry
around. Here, you'll be required to change the key coding so that
one key works all the locks. Sometimes this requires the
installation of common door hardware; however, in most cases,
you'll find the same brand locks are used throughout the
MASTERKEYING: Apartment owners and other commercial accounts may
want dual key access. This is done by using locks with dual pin
tumbler sets. One works with the apartment key, the other with
the master key. Keys are spoken of in terms of code numbers.
These are sets of digits reflecting the depth of serration. A
given lock is a master key setup might respond, for example, to
keys with code numbers 1-2-3-4-5 and 6-7-8-9. Mathematical
progressions are used in master keying.
LOCKOUTS: Frequently a person finds himself locked out of his
home, office, warehouse, car, etc. Invariably this happens at odd
hours of the day or night. So opening locks at odd hours of the
day or night will be a role you'll definitely play live of your
customers. A typical pin tumbler lock can generally be picked
open in about 30 seconds, using either picks or a single piece of
spring steel and good wrist work. All locks have tolerances and
variations in manufacture which will allow you to push the
cylinder pins up and out of the way while exerting a turning
pressure on the cylinder itself.
AUTOMOBILE LOCKOUTS: This problem occurs frequently and will
require a different procedure. A tool called a "Slim Shim" is
often used here, and works on most domestic and many foreign
cars. this is pushed down between the glass and the weather
stripping on the door far enough to reach the back of the lock
cylinder on the door. You simply push down or pull up. A "button
popper" is also used, worked through the weather stripping on
vent windows in older cars, and angled back to the latch button.
LOCK INSTALLATION: Much of your time will be spent installing new
lock and door hardware. In many cases, homeowners and business
people will want to upgrade their security with the latest model
hardware for older homes, offices and other buildings. Many
locksmiths get involved in new construction of apartment houses,
condominiums, shopping centers and the like. Often you'll be
adding more security to an existing door, such as installing a
PANIC BARS AND DOOR CLOSERS: Many locksmiths working the
commercial or industrial market get involved in the repair and
installation of panic bars in public access areas. Panic bars are
those large bars you can push on to open the outside doors of
many public buildings. Door closers are those hydraulic devices
mounted at the top of these doors which return the door to the
closed position after it has been opened.
ALARMS, SAFES, AND VAULTS: The sale and installation of alarm are
a natural adjunct to the locksmithing business. Many larger
locksmithing operations move into this area, which is somewhat
specialized. Alarms can be the "perimeter" type which sound when
a door is opened after hours, or "area" alarms. "Space" or "area"
protection is generally preferred, and involves infrared,
ultrasonic or microwave sensors triggering alarms by detecting
Safe and vault work is another specialty. Some locksmiths have
major banks and savings and loan associations as clients. They
spend a good deal of their time changing safe deposit box locks
and maintaining vaults and the like. Gaining in popularity is the
safe and service of safes for homes and business use. You will be
exposed to all these specialties and to new technology at
seminars, conventions and workshops.
HIGH SECURITY WORK: A typical locksmith is a "general
practitioner," while the high-security locksmith is a
"specialist." High security work is often done for major
corporations, government institutions, large banks, race tracks,
museums and wealthy private individuals who desire maximum
security. Often this work involves access control systems using
card readers or voice print equipment, possibly combines with
electronic push button locks that work off a combination of
numbers known only to a few individuals.
In addition to these major areas of activity, locksmiths the
world over do key duplicating and impressioning, which is
replacing of lost keys with custom made copies, and a wide
variety of other types of sales, repair and service work.
In order to achieve maximum profitability as a locksmith, you
must be able to offer all these services to your customers. Locks
and security are the prime concern to your customer, and it
follows that when a customer wants help in this area, he wants it
taken care of immediately. Thus, you must position yourself to
handle this job immediately, or lose him to a locksmith who can
take care of his needs on the spot.
Do some market research. Analyze your local market area before
you embark upon this business. This can be done via letters to
the local locksmithing association, Chamber of Commerce, or even
by checking through the yellow pages. As important as anything
else, you'll want to know how many locksmiths are already
operating in your area, and how much of the market you can expect
to attract with your business. Most industry experts agree that
any more than one locksmith for every 30,000 people tends to
saturate the market. However, you should study the operations of
the existing locksmiths to determine if you can capture a good
portion of the existing market by offering more and better
service, especially with well-planned efforts towards the
commercial and industrial accounts. In many areas, the
established locksmiths have been in business for 20 years or
more, and are not interested in expanding their businesses to
include the newer and more intricate types of protection
Look your market over. Determine if there's been any real effort
to "sell" the market on upgraded protection. Door-to-door sales
efforts; direct mail advertising campaigns; local "hard sell"
newspaper advertising; home protection and business security
seminars, are angles that can be used to launch your business.
These approaches should prove to be especially profitable if the
existing locksmiths have been sitting back and letting the people
come to them when they have a problem. Get to know the building
contractors and start bidding on the installation of locks on
their building projects. You will get your share of business,
even though at first you may get contracts only from the new
builders who have not had experience with the other locksmiths.
For a fast start in this business, we suggest that you set
yourself up with a van and take your business to your customers.
It isn't absolutely necessary to buy a van off the showroom floor
and outfit it with all the equipment you'll ultimately need for a
full service locksmithing business. That would be nice, but it
would probably run you close to $50,000 or more. By shopping
around, you should be able to pick up a good, late model van for
about $3,000. You might be able to work an even better deal by
leasing a new van, and writing off the payments as a business tax
deduction. One thing you'll definitely want to consider is a van
that has a raised roof in order for you to stand upright in it.
After all, you'll be doing most of your work in it, and to have
to stoop all the time would soon become quite tiring. Generally,
you can run a workbench down either or both sides of your van.