A day in the life of a Locksmith – 10 Year Anniversary
This summer will mark 10 years since I became a locksmith and started up my own business. In fact, I went ‘live’ the day after England lost to Germany 4-1 in the 2010 World Cup – it’s more famous for the Frank Lampard disallowed goal, but I digress. The last 10 years has been a rollercoaster, I get asked all the time, ‘How do you get to be a locksmith?’ So here goes…
It all started in 2008, if you can remember it was at the time of the Banking Crisis and recession so it wasn’t a good time to be thinking about leaving a well-paid job and starting your own business, but that is what I was planning to do! The thing is I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I wanted to be a man in a van! I liked the idea of low overheads, no staff, nice simple business. Also financially I couldn’t afford a shop/office etc. I wanted to be a white van man!!
At the time I was working in sales, selling hardware products, actual locks, handles, etc. I was up in the northeast visiting a customer who had had a locksmith come out to fix a problem with a door. My initial thought was that I didn’t know being a locksmith was a business, I’d never seen one before! I was fascinated by what this guy was doing! My customer, who knew of my plan, even suggested I look into it.
Because I knew nothing about running a business as a locksmith, I looked into joining a national locksmith business. Once finances were in place I joined one in the Summer of 2010. The main advantage of joining a franchise is that they know the do’s and don’ts, have the structure in place to start receiving jobs straight away and also have the backup support. In 2018 I made the decision to go independent.
Once I’d completed the training and the van was ready, I was prepared for the next venture in my life. The day I went ‘live’ I woke up at 0400 in a panic, ‘What have you done?’, so I went for a run to clear my head. One of the advantages of joining a franchise is that the business is ready from day one. I was one of the lucky ones, a job came up on the first day. I know a couple of franchisees who had to wait weeks until their first job. Instead of panicking about starting a business, I was panicking about my first job!
The great thing about my first job was it was pretty simple, just a simple euro lock change on an apartment door. What they don’t tell you at training, is that everyone will ask questions and will all watch to see what you’re doing, thinking you have some type of gadget that James Bond has been given by Q branch. You’ll be amazed at how many customers ring me with the line, ‘I have a simple job for you’ or ‘I’ve been on YouTube’.
The thing I love most about being a locksmith is the unpredictability of a job or even the day; I generally regard myself as a problem solver, my customers have an issue with the door/window and I have to open it and/or have to make it so it locks. You can normally establish the problem by the initial phone call or because of smartphones: photographs help a lot. Not all of my jobs are emergencies and generally speaking, every day, I have jobs scheduled. You can start the day with one job booked in and then all of sudden the phone rings with jobs and you don’t stop all day. Or, you can be sat at home waiting for the phone to ring; I have even been known on occasion to check that the phone works!! Otherwise, I’m tidying my van, practicing some skills, or catching up on some admin.
The other aspect of being a locksmith is you need to be able to run your own business, there’s no point being the best locksmith in the world if you haven’t got any customers! I have quite a simple business, all I need is transport, phone, tools, some locks and I’m ready to go! As I mentioned earlier I knew I wanted to run my own business, however, to go from being an employee to self-employed is a big step and it’s not for everyone. I take pride in myself that I’m good with the financial side of the business and I use the motto, ‘Turnover is vanity and profit is sanity’. I never understand the candidates on ‘The Apprentice’ who brag about turnover of this and that but have no idea about the profit! Many times I have walked away from jobs because they are not viable.
A few people say to me, ‘It must be great to be your own boss, you can take time off whenever you want’, yes that is true but if I don’t work I don’t get paid and like everyone, I still have bills to pay. I do have time off and make myself unavailable for emergencies but they are very rare, I’m usually always at the other end of the phone. The nature of being a locksmith is that you can get called out day and night, there have been many meals and night’s sleep that have been ruined by a call out!
Please don’t get your violins out and feel sorry for me, I really do love my job. Here’s to the next 10 years, thank you for reading.