I am going to introduce you to two amazing tools that never wear out, cost almost nothing and really work for you.
Tool 1. The Schwab System
Charles Michael Schwab [1862-1939] was an American industrialist who started out in life with a menial job in the steel company owned by Andrew Carnegie [the man who endowed so many of our libraries]. Those were the days of giants such as JP Morgan, Thomas Edison, and John D Rockefeller. By the age of 35 Schwab became President of the company and later left to run Bethlehem Steel which company he built into the second largest steel business in the world. He saw the potential in the H-beam, now called the I-beam, as an essential in skyscraper construction. He was a soccer enthusiast and for many years his company professional soccer team won most of the American championships. He is one of heroes in Dale Carnegie’s famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” – still worth a read today.
All that apart he is one of my heroes for his invention of the Schwab System. Tools – One A6 refill pad [notebook], one pen or pencil. Every morning as he ate breakfast Charles would tear off the top sheet of his notebook and write on it the 5 most important things he had to do that day. That done he would consider them and on the next sheet, still in the pad, he would write those down in order of priority. Once at work he would tackle those in that strict order and would not deal with any other matters whilst those tasks remained incomplete. That night he would write any uncompleted tasks at the head of the next sheet on the pad, ready for the next morning’s breakfast.
Schwab explained that in this way he always made sure that his time was prioritised. All of his executives were taught the same routine and if he dropped in on them he would ask to see their schedules.
Tool No.2 – The Riley System
Adrian Charles Riley [ACE Riley] [1920-1985] was my brother-in-law and sometime business partner. He had been a war-time flying ace, a success in the motor retail trade, a failure at running a petrol and service station, a successful farmer and an enterprising but somewhat unorthodox businessman. He is the inventor of the Riley System. Tools – one A4 hardbacked, ruled notebook, one pen or pencil.
Every task that is to be performed, every message that comes in that requires action, every order, every job that is booked, is written out simply and in longhand on a page. It is then ruled underneath so that each item is clearly separate. Now watch the magic! As each task is complete you make a centre horizontal line through it – down the page. At a glance you can see what is left incomplete. Eventually the line down the centre of the page is continuous so all tasks have been done. Looking back from the current day you can see how far back incomplete tasks are and when they came into the system. The book is used until it is full up and it is time to spend another fiver. Keep the books – they are a goldmine of reference on many occasions.
Start your two notebooks now.
Almost nobody comes into the locksmith trade with an accounting qualification or an MBA. We are mostly technicians and not accountants. The technical side is a serious study and new information comes in continuously – every day is a new learning experience. One lesson that is hard to learn is which jobs are profitable and which aren’t.
Some types of job that are unprofitable:
- Friends and family – can’t spend too much time on their lock problems.
- Jobs where you have worked hard to give the cheapest quote. Allow your competitors to get all of the bad work.
- Jobs where one or more other locksmiths have “had a go”. If there was a chance of sorting it that is long gone as they mangled everything.
- Jobs where payment is far distant – that “good” customer who gives you lots of work and only pays when Easter is in June.
- Jobs that are very far away so that you do only one job that day instead of 5 or 6 much closer.
That was all very slick and perhaps a bit jokey but the need to make a profit comes before all else in business – No Profit, No Business. Since there will always be a fair few guys [or dolls] around offering to do work for what you might see as pocket money you need to get out of their way, out of their range and find a specialty that allows you to charge a proper price for a proper job.
µSafe specialists are always in demand and are well out of the range of Johnny-with-a drill- and- a screwdriver. Not the easiest work to get into at the heavy end but offering to install light home safes and fireproofs and their repair is a worthwhile specialty. Work your way up.
µAccess Control. A very fine and ever-expanding specialty where you can get good technical training and back-up from the manufacturers. A lot of businesses, hospitals, care homes, educational institutions are obliged to become ever more security conscious. Advantage – the tools you need are cheap and easy to replace. It is know-how you will carry with you.
µAuto locksmithing. Very technical but always an assured market – millions of cars out there – hundreds of thousands of lost and broken keys, damaged locks. This is a zone of the industry that has the most dynamic advances in technology – there is a tool to do practically anything to do with a car lock. This will involve more investment in equipment but you are far out of the range of the part-timer with a few cheap tools. Some pretty good training available from manufacturers, distributors alike.
With any of those – a word of warning. Research very carefully whose equipment you will buy to instal, whose tools you will use. Don’t make assumptions that the dearest will always be the best or that the cheapest is the best buy. Neither may be true. The Internet is there for such research and you should use it. Take time on that – don’t leap into the first “bargain offer”. Remember the old saying “Buy Cheap, Buy twice” and another “if it seems too good to be true it isn’t true”. If you are buying second-hand equipment make sure that the seller owns it outright and that it is not on some form of finance. Don’t just do something because a mate says so – it is your money and livelihood that is at stake.
I could go on for thousands of words – I have learned a lot the hard way. I can tell you something very true – make sure very job leaves the customer satisfied. In the long run your most important tool will be your reputation.