A 1930s picture in an old Ledger showed a proprietor standing outside of his key shop located in Montreal, Canada. Two large signs hung in the front display window. One sign said “keys” while another sign announced that he sold razor blades. Several years ago I visited a locksmith business in San Antonio, Texas which devoted equal sized displays for both locks and hunting knives.
The point is that locksmithing grew through the years from meager beginnings as a secondary business to one which could stand on its own as a profitable enterprise. Whether it was vehicles, utility locks or commercial locks, spring and lever or spring and pin locking designs provided dependable, secure systems which could be readily serviced.
The last half of the 20th century was an ideal time period for everyone in the locksmith business. Almost every locksmith was a ‘general practitioner’ who could service, install and repair anything in the security field from door closers to safe locks and everything in between. We had very little competition from other fields.
I believe that the first decade of the 21st century has marked a transition period in the security industry. Security no longer stops with a dead bolted door. Ideas like audit trail, wireless, home automation and prox are not available with ordinary mechanical locks. The computer has changed everything. No matter how good a mechanical typewriter is, it cannot compare with a computerized word processor. This thinking is also strong in the security field where people want card access and CCTV cameras. Mechanical locks are a part of the mix but no longer the main event.
Locksmithing has now come full circle. It is no longer a singular business but rather a group of vertical markets. Unless you have unlimited manpower, it is necessary today to choose the best vertical market which will be profitable in your particular situation. Access control, vehicle lock systems, safe work, residential work or commercial work are just some of the possible markets.
In this era you have to choose one vertical market and be the best you can be. General practitioners will not be successful today. As example, you cannot take several days to install an access control system and expect to answer lockout calls.
The good news is that locksmith jobs today can be much more profitable.
Customers expect more from their security products and they expect to pay well for what they want. It is time to specialize and get involved. The bad news is that if you don’t get involved, someone else will.