Hey this is PJ with CL kiss appliance, and I have Chris with me today from BCS locksmiths. Chris thanks for coming on. I appreciate it thanks for having me PJ yeah, you got it so I wanted to have a conversation with Chris as being a mobile locksmith and what that looks like today in 2020, and you know he's, someone who started his business.
I don't. Let him get into all the details here: um in a few moments, but I'm, really excited to, hopefully have him share some of his knowledge and his experience and what it's like to start a locksmithing business in today's world so Chris once again, thank you.
Yeah yeah! It's, a sincere pleasure. Hopefully we can get a lot of topics covered and definitely go over. You know how things have changed and where things were kind of heading now and in the very large gamut that you know mobile guys face nowadays, absolutely so let's start off.
So how did you get into Waksman um about ten years ago? I was a project manager for a very large national retailer. Don't want to give me names on that one traveling all around in northern western, United States, new stores, remodels and everything, and I was looking for something a little more different.
You know you don't, be at home more often, and a good buddy mine was doing a lot of contract work. You know I'm home warranty companies and insurance companies, locked outs, repairs and stuff, like that, and I had some technical background with small electronics, soldering circuit boards, arcade machines.
I had a whole lot of really hands-on experiences and you know kind of growing up in that when I was young, but my first jobs and so forth. So I had, I probably understanding on small mechanics and he says you'd.
Be perfect for this and eventually turned into I love this, which turned into you know and just lit that fire of I want to learn more. I want to learn more, which turn into you know my own business, okay, interesting.
So how long have you actually been in business for as a locksmith for myself? I've, been in business for six years and be part of that. It was all you know, training and learning. You know working with other people and but yeah.
It's, been a very it's, been a very encouraging. You know six years and I'm. Looking for you know many more well that's, awesome man. You know I'm. The amount of businesses in general that make it six years, isn't a lot, and so you know my hats off to you for thank you.
You know doing it so and should I mention you're head of Spokane Washington, yep yep, right, yeah, good old, Pacific Northwest here absolutely now, so what type of locksmith theme do you do like residential commercial motive? Um? I try to do a little of everything and having a good, well-rounded technical set of skills is important and the reason I say that is there are days I get.
No automotive calls and I'll, do nothing but strictly lock changes and there's days. I'll, be you know I'll get four or five calls for antique locks or mortices. You know three. 1920S, buildings that need lock, serviced and then kind of be you know, Rob back to life and and knowing how those work and the functions, and you know how to really service those all those things come into play there's days.
I have a little entire weekend with nothing, but commercial calls, so it's. Uh it's. It's a little bit of everything, and I think that's really done very well. If you are specifically a commercial guy and if you're, specifically automotive guy having those great skill sets and all the advanced stuffs really good, but I try to do a little bit of everything this way to pay.
What my customers needs are. Okay, so you'll, do automotive, residential commercial, yep, okay, Wow and lockouts? Oh yeah lock out some, not so many Moors I used to, but as you as your business grows, and you have that solid client base, you're, not really taking those emergency calls anymore.
Some people may say that's, a young man's game getting up to 3:00 in the morning to do those, but you know sure you get away from those after a while. Okay, how many years do you think you were taking a lot more of a gosh? I definitely say the first half of being in my own business.
It was a lot a lot of the 2 a.m. 5 a.m. calls. You know a lot of stuff in the wintertime with you know: people losing their keys in the snow and key snapping and you know frozen locks, sure um. I tried to do that as much as I can now, but you know you do.
7. 8. 9. 10. Appointments a day, your your body just says no more, absolutely absolutely so. Do you do 24 hours? I tried you to the best of my ability when I say that is, I will continue running calls until a certain point, but you know if, if the phone rings at 3, o'clock and - and my body says you just cannot go any further, I may miss those ones.
I try to also really restrict winter after hours calls because you know it's. Gon na be a life-threatening situation where people aren't trapped outside and it's. You know obviously problematic up here.
We get, you know negative 10, 15, 20 degrees sometimes sure compared to hey. You know I have a lock that want it's kind of acting funny. Well sound. What son that's important for in the morning and it's below 20 degrees outside you know absolutely so it's.
It's kind of conditional on the season, but I definitely try to be as available as I can. As often as I can. Okay, okay, now with you being now, do you have any employees? No, it's. Just me, 1 %. Okay, which has its benefits, it also has its faults.
When you succeed, you get that big project, you get that been in there. You get that. You know that that big client taking care of five storied apartment building it's. Great you hand those keys off. It feels so good.
It feels fantastic. It was all on you, you, you built that client up, you serviced it 100 % of its yours and it feels amazing now the failures. When those happen, you have no one else to blame, but yourself so the highs are high and the lows are low.
Okay, you know yep absolutely now over the years. What have you found to be your sweet spot now and what I mean by that is, I mean locksmith in, like you know, especially when you're, doing residential commercial automotive lockouts, I mean there's such a wide variety of skills That's needed right and services that you're, providing yep.
I'm. I'm guessing over time. You kind of develop like what type of jobs you're wanting to do. At the same time that are also really profitable right, I think there's. You know the same. You know it's hard to be.
You know something to everyone, yep right and I think in a locksmithing world, like from my perspective, in 2020, there's. A lot of there's, a lot more people that have kind of shifted from doing everything, yeah and they, you know, are just on a mode any more specialized, yeah more specialized, and so I'm, really curious with you who you've, been able to keep up on all your skills and provide good customer service.
But what have you found to be what you enjoy doing the most and is the most profitable? I think that question can we be based on your background, if you have experience with automotive being that you are a mechanic or you worked in the mechanic shop, you have an understanding of ignition systems and key systems.
Pursuing automotive is definitely in your best interest, because you already have a baseline understanding. If you & # 39. Ve worked in facility main instance, things like that you understanding of you know egress and fire codes and life codes.
You're very familiar with that, but I found for me to be the most profitable and I didn & # 39. T really expect it to be that much until I really got a system down and worked out very well was was residential.
A lot of guys interesting well that's, that's. Usually, you know the expression I get from is law guys and see what residential and you know if, if you have the right tools and you have the right knowledge and experience and equipment and technique and - and you know, skill set there - you can, you can really Knock out a lot of residential work, whether it's, you know: installs repairs, Riki's upgrades very quickly and you know you can put it out to an automotive key.
You could be there for 20. 30. 40. 50. Now, obviously growing the issue is even longer on automotive, but the the amount of range you're gonna see in residential, not a whole lot. We've, been looking at the same, bore on doors now for the last 50.
60 years, almost a good point, so your you know this. If you take that old lady, that hasn't been serviced in 20 years, you know that the next lock you put there less like a five inch back. So there's, something even then there's.
You know resources for that. You know that that new locks and a fit in there pretty snug with some minor adjustments. So you can come you. You can turn them out pretty quickly and I found that residential for me has been a good moneymaker awesome, especially spring/summer.
You know, depending on you know, the the season. Winter is usually a lot of emergency work, but spring summer fall new homeowners. People come into the area, people come and they'll leave in oh yeah interesting now.
How do you rise to the occasion as far as when a lot of customers with you know, with with residential locks being the least expensive mm-hmm? Do you ever get customers demand like hey, you know I need to replace this lock or, like your cost of wreaking they're like hey, I could go down to the hardware store and get new locks.
Do you run into that? Absolutely there? There's, definitely distant any any business, whether it's electrical plumbing. You know automotive body paint whatever there's, always those customers that you know are just gonna want the cheapest cost and that's.
Okay and it's, part of that being available for them and knowing that you can still provide that service quickly. You're in you're out. You're still making a money moving on the next one. There are those people that want those cheap locks.
They swap you know hey this old. You know five dollar locks busted. I just wonder five dollar lock that's, fine and then knowing that those people are still gonna, be there there's, you got steakhouses a hundred dollars of plate and you have a dollar store.
It's been older, you'll operating that range and knowing that you may not be able to sell them on a brand new mtech handle set, but you can still provide the service for them. Okay, you know okay, and so, when you're on a job and it goes from being like a rekey to a you know what this locks actually broke.
Yeah it's not worth for me to repair it, and you know you tell them one of your walk prices. How does that go if they have resistance to it? That is a good question. It's, not something Sprott up. Very often people know that of the parts broken needs me to place.
But yes, I do keep a good range of hardware. I'm, not stocking for Nadal or Italian handle sets in my man, but the same time I do have some of the you know the contractor style, just a really cheap ones.
I know the customers exist. I may not get any if all profit on it, but this person may need services later they may need. You know something for the car. They may get something for their business, so it's.
It's. Knowing that you & # 39, ve built a relationship with them, even if it's over a five dollar or not okay, you know okay, interesting, so going forward. Hmm. What do you envision? Walk sniffing looks like for you for me.
I think I'm gonna continue to just really expand that rounded skillset, and there are things I'm really interested in doing like vault works, really cool. I mean you see these really ornate locks and the same time I really love working with antique stuff, because, where we live at, we have a lot of really old buildings, and I've had some really good chances.
Work on you have somebody's, turned the century properties and historic properties, and that I just love that stuff the same way. A car guy loves those old. You know 1940s style cars and - and you know the old f-100 series - and you know they love that, but yes, they'll, go and work on a modern car.
So I mean for me: I I really look forward to a lot of new stuff and I think that as technology progresses right now, you're gonna see a little bit more of a divide between automotive and commercial, and you know residential has Its ups and downs, you know smart lots of stuff coming out, but that gaps only widen even more.
If you were to go back 40 50 years, a locksmith had one tube, maybe key machines, small inventory of keys. Now it's this program or that programmer this cloner. You know this type of tool, this type of router this.
You know all these different templates. So as security changes with technology, it really has divided those those segments between residential but on commercial. I think okay, interesting now for someone who's, thinking about starting their own mobile walks, nothing business right, I think I said earlier, you know, being a mobile locksmith, I think, is the new norm right.
I mean I think, thirty years ago, establishing a lock shop. I mean. Is that something that you're, that you consider um absolutely and if you look at a normal metro area, usually mobile, guys'll outnumber the shops in a pretty good.
You know pretty good number and figure they're. You know, and there's, it's, one of those things with with internet being the way it is it's, a lot of it's, touch and go service. Hey you make a phone call and you have all their face.
You need at your hands with your smartphone, so there's, not one hold on need for people going to shops and we're. Seeing more and more of that is, you know, search engines change and they dominate definitely the way people shop and get these types of services.
When, when people are looking into you know a mobile business, it has a lot of advantages. Your overhead is extremely low. You're, not paying for Reno facility, but the same time it's. You're, a mobile business, your service vehicles only XYZ and shape and size.
So you can fit so much in there. Okay - and you may you may miss out on that one person coming in, they wants a key mate and they may be a property manager with a hundred properties. You never know sure you do play a little give-and-take with that, but we are seeing a lot more of the older locksmiths that have shops that are closing up there's, not something there's now.
A whole lot of excitement for some to jump back into that position. It's. Usually the Mobile's kind of the desired business model right now, absolutely, and so, if you were yeah, so if you were getting ready to start your own locs, that mean business and yet are there some certain steps that you would want to take It first that you know now, six years later, yeah absolutely absolutely um.
I was fortunate enough to have a pretty good grasp on SEO marketing web development in Web Design, some social media, and I think that now the way that internet businesses are structured, whether it's, different selling cupcakes.
If you're a locksmith, if you you know you, you build and sell tree houses sure it all comes down to funneling those customers toward you. You can be - and I know several locksmiths that are fantastic.
They they can do some amazing things, but they have no grasp on how to use search engines. Now that's, not the end-all be-all, we shouldn't, always be reliant on them. But if you're starting out without a saturated market or a huge client base, you're gonna be really focusing on getting your name out there.
That's. Unfortunately, in 2020 is doing. You know through search engines. Okay, so you think something if you're, going to shut your own locks within business, to make sure that you have a website. You need to be really on the ball when it comes to your SEO, knowing how to build present yourself out there correctly, I mean you, go out there and beat the bushes and hand out cards all day, but it ultimately didn't people when They cold call.
They're gonna be looking for this information. They want to see this type of business. You know you're. You know you looking at what a five second impression window. If they like you, they call you they don't do into the next one.
Okay, you know. Okay, any other tips or advice you would have for someone starting out know your strengths know that you cannot learn and do everything, and sometimes even in a lifetime. In this industry, there's.
There's more and I'm learning all the time and it's. It's, something that the industry has not gone anywhere in the last thousand years and it probably won't, be going anywhere else in the next thousand years learning to adapt.
Knowing that hey, I used to make keys for 1980s cars once upon a time those cars are gone. What's going on now? Where does the industry heading? If you're, not emotive guy, what a car is going to be looking like in 10, 15 years, if you're, a commercial guy, how big is tech going to play a role for access control? And you know, a lot of people now are using smartphones for access to buildings.
How can integrate these things? Your residential? What's? What's? Good? What's? New smart locks have been a major phenomenon in the last 5-10 years now and they're only getting better and stronger and cheaper, and eventually I don't, see they gonna take over the market, but eventually they will have a Very strong foothold and what we see in our homes, okay, so with with the smart locks, do you find customers like? Are you providing a lot of them or defend? Customers have bought them at maybe a big-box store and they want you to install them.
We see a little bit of both. There are definitely customers. I will go out for a simple, lock out, hey, you know. Young couples locked either house that isn't bought it. They didn't realize this door.
Didn't have a key to it. You unlock them, they say: hey, we were looking in the smart locks and that kind of opens up that conversation, and you know that's, that's, something that we do get a good amount of questions, at least from you know, From out all the time is, how can we, what's the process? Can you provide one, but there are people that do have their own and hate to say it, but yeah the big-box stores when they're okay, but we do get a lot of the really oddball ones from you know: Amazon, eBay and all the Different places, the Lord knows where they come from and they can be, you know a clone of a clone of a clone and and that's.
One thing you have to be really careful about because you could be opening up a product and installing something you don't really know its history. Is this company, even in business anymore, in yeah? How safe is it? What if it doesn't work in a week? Yeah right, I mean you're like well.
You have someone let's say you come over to my house to do a recce and I'm. Like hey Chris surprise, I got just walk here from eBay yeah that I got it for you know twelve dollars this electronic lock that I can hook up to my phone through an app.
Can you put it on for me and show me how to use it? Yeah, well, you do that. What do you that's, that's? Tricky and I do get those calls occasionally. Every now and then I'll get a customer. We have some portions of Spokane, they have some very older buildings, a lot of that stuff, Steelcase mortises and then I'll, get a customer that says hey.
I bought this nice new shiny, smart lock. It does anything you know it has alarms and all these web functions. I want you install on this door. Okay, your doors three inches thick and it has a mortise in it.
Hasn't been touched or lubricant in you know, 80 years that it just it can be done, but customers only realize that that solution that you saw on a YouTube ad or you saw on you - know social media posts for this product.
You really liked does not always work and orientate correctly with the type of door you have. I think it's, important that people know that, yes, those solutions are there, but, more importantly, it's, a work with a professional.
Even if you don't hire them work with a professional hey. You know I have this type of lock. I have this type of door at this type of situation, and I see people that put high-end high security dead, bolts on a door that has a 4-foot window on it, and you know from a security standpoint that's great, but that window can Easily be broken into you and it's.
One thing you know hey that's, that's cool, but you have to think a couple steps ahead of that yeah I & # 39. Ve always thought that, back when I was doing locks with him working like an install, a deadbolt and I'd - get ready to do it.
It would be like a hollow core door mm-hmm. You know I'm. Like this I mean you can try and keep a kid out, but y'all learn. I mean that it'll work yeah, but you know as far as security goes and that's.
I think the internet - and you know just this - is the way information shared nowadays there's, really kind of pull people to think that not say that they know more, but the information is out there much more than it used to be so.
The professionals opinion usually comes second to what they see and know so far from the matter of creation, that's out there mm-hmm now that's horrible, but it definitely, you know, has caused a lot more mistakes and hiccups and like To see for, for sometimes sure you know sure now they're gonna close this out here I just want to touch on so you know.
Six years ago you started I'm sure you really hit the ground running yep and a question that I & # 39. Ve always had is so like before you talk about. You had a job right, EE. It would show up every day you been the day you go, you know you go home.
Well, as a mobile locksmith, you don't, you don't have anywhere to show up to to start your day right. So I'm. Sure part of that is awesome. Yeah has its benefit and I'm sure part of it. You can kind of get into a funk.
If that phone's, not ringing right, yep um. How do you navigate those waters? There's peaks in those valleys just like in the industry, and it really depends on what your skill set is and knowing that it may be slow right now.
It may be busy here and it's, and it goes back to that rounded skill set like I'm, saying I I may have weekends - are really popular for a fraud emotive there's, a lot of guys that Do auto mode they don't work weekends after hours, so I dunes tend to get a little bit more that way.
Okay and it's. Uh it's being able to say wintertime. I got more of this summertime. I got more of this and being able to adapt now the phone not ringing entirely. There are rules, just you know, like anything there's, you know there's busy days in there slow days and taking advantage of those is really important.
It's, it's. One of the things about being an independent guy is when you have downtime gonna take advantage of it. You have to wholly take advantage of it. You have inventory a part of ordering. You have follow-up, you have via so many things you can be doing and if you are not pushing yourself to do that, then I guarantee you the next guy that wants to be.
You know better than you will. Definitely do it sure. So it's, it's. A matter of you know, you are your own boss, you are you don't accounting HR, you know PR department and if you don't have an understanding of that.
Then you know it's, not saying it's. It's, not very gonna happen, but you will have to learn the hard way. Okay! No no was it very weird for you at the very beginning. You know six years ago, when you can, you know you're like hey it.
I usually get up it. You know 6:00 a.m. oh yeah and you know get ready to go to work and all of a sudden you wake up, and you're like hey, I'm right, where I need to be right now when I first got started And I was doing every single call, I was racing to them.
I was very expedient and in my my attitude there was a lot of times, especially the winner. I would be doing 15 20 25 lockouts a day because I was taking every single one as quickly as I could. I'd fall asleep in my favorite chair with my boots almost like clockwork.
I'd. Wake up 3:00 in the morning or the phone's ringing, just give them walk out the door, and I was burning the candle at both ends and it takes a toll. It takes a massive toll. You know on your on your health, your life, just you know your your just everything and I've learned to really step away from that like if it's, an emergency that's.
Fine, you know pricing. We can discuss that, but you have to really separate where you want to be, and the life you're trying to have at the same time it's. Not all those calls come in, they will always be there and that's.
Something that took me six years to learn is that you cannot just be afraid that your phone will not ring and take advantage of the time when it doesn't, okay, so yeah. So you know that Lizzy to my last question, which is something I've seen a lot of you know growing up and the locksmith and business is my dad with my dad and oh yeah for so many years.
He did all the jobs right. He had a store, but he did all the job there's, a ride with them as a kid mm-hmm, and over the time I mean it, can wear you down right. It can wear you down that constantly.
You know when that phone's ringing. Do you take it? Do you not, and so I'm curious, what type of advice you could give someone who maybe finds them themselves working too much mm-hmm, maybe getting burnt out yeah right and but they don't want to spend more time with their Family, absolutely right I mean both of us.
Are you know similar ages? We have families absolutely, and how do you balance that? How do you balance the two of those like your ambition of being a businessman who also wants to take care of your customers? Sure, at the same time, you have a family at home.
It's, it's hard and it's easy at the same time - and I know that sounds strange, but when you're starting out, you want every client going every customer. You want every single sale because you want to make a name for yourself.
You want that reputation. You want to just drive drive drive drive. Is I've gone through things over the years here it's. You have to set boundaries. You have to set hard boundaries for yourself and when I say that is hey, I'm gonna go to the lake with my kids this weekend there's, no ifs, ands or buts about it, and oh yeah.
That's, we call hey. I need a key made for my car 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday and it's, an open. You know, don't pay whatever you want it's. You have to know hey not even answer that phone at that time. If you're, not gonna be around, but it's, setting a hardbound right, hard boundaries, realizing that you know your kids are gonna grow up so fast.
They're gonna, be they're young. Now then you're. Teenagers gonna be gone, and if you know, if you & # 39, re gonna spend their entire youth driving across the county. For you know those lockout, so those are no keys or whoever it is gonna be doing it's.
It's, something that you have to learn to deal with. Did you get older and it's? It's really important to know that if that's, what you want to do there are consequences you will burn out. There is no question about it.
If you, you think you can do it, you will burn out and those hard boundaries are really important. A for. You know the sanctity of your family because you know you owe to them to be in their lives and be it's.
You know you can only use a blade so often until adults, and then you have to sharpen it. You have to take that time away and that's again. Maybe a hard lesson that some some of these mobile guys have to learn.
Absolutely you know it's, not the calls aren't going anywhere. They will always be there your job correctly. Your clients will keep coming back and it is it's, a slow step at a time, but once it's there, it's.
It's. Great awesome man. Well, it sounds like you have a pretty good grip on it now drivin, so you know that's. Awesome. You know there's. There's, things to come with the experience and age and wisdom, and you know, and again unfortunately, sometimes it takes a few uh.
You know making bad decisions leads to making good decisions, sometimes yeah absolutely absolutely well Chris. Thank you so much for coming on journey. Yet anything else. You'd like to add or talk about it all um for the mobile aspect of it.
It's, just it's. Important to you know again, set boundaries, know your strengths and weaknesses be available when you should be and really know your market, that's also sign to. I think that a lot of mobile guys to jump in knowing your market is really important.
If I were talked to locksmiths a - and you know Connecticut, he may say hey, I only run across these specific locks. I run across sergeant Danielle and Yale on stuff, and then you come over here to where we are.
We see a lot of different key ways and a lot of different, lock Styles snow in your market, knowing your customers are needing and wanting all the time what type of vehicles we don't see a ton of your vehicles at Pierce.
That's, not what Sunday, a lot of guys jump into right away, whereas if you are living in somewhere that has a different different climates, a different culture, a different type of meal customer out there that's just as important and Setting your own boundaries, I've, been working on business; okay, great! Well, hey! Thank you for sharing very much absolutely Peter thanks for coming on now.
If someone, if anyone would like to get a hold of you, what's, the best way for the lab to do that, we have a lovely Instagram, it's, River City lock and key. We also have our website River City lock and key dot-com, and you can also reach me on Facebook, River City, locksmith, awesome.
Well, hey thanks again for coming on and thank everyone for taking the time and listen to this. We'll. See you next time you