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Chapter 1

Step by Step

This section will walk you through the entire manual...

This section will walk you through the entire manual in a step-by-step sequence to make it very easy for you to put all of the information to work for you very quickly.

We have put together in this manual all the information that you will need to build a successful car opening business. You may already have ideas of your own that you believe would be good for your car opening business but chances are that we have already been there and done that! We have over thirty-five years of experience in the car opening business and will try to make you aware of all the options available to you. We strongly suggest that you follow our recommendations first, and then experiment with other ideas after you become successful.

There are many small car opening businesses currently operating that are barely making enough money to pay their bills. These companies come and go every year. It is almost fun to look in the yellow pages each year just to see who is new and who is out of business. On the other side of the coin, there are some very successful car opening businesses out there, and some of them are even franchising their businesses nationwide. Why some very successful while others are failing? We have interviewed some of the companies that are barely surviving (which we consider failing). We have discovered that in each and every case the reason that they are failing (and the only reason they are failing) is that they do not have the information that you have in your hands right now!

Step 1.   Decide What You Are Going to Call Yourself
The very first thing that you need to do is to get into a position that will allow you to legally purchase and carry car opening tools. Car opening tools are not sold to just anyone and some cities have possession laws making them illegal unless you are in one of the accepted trades or businesses that are permitted to have them. You will need to meet the criteria that places you in an accepted trade or business.

We will do this by first deciding just what you want to be known as. We’re not talking about a business name, but more along the lines of what trade or type of business you are in. Since all you do is open cars, you could call yourself many different things. We strongly suggest that you call yourself a locksmith right from the start and here’s why. The locksmithing industry is very hard to get into if you’re not already a locksmith. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? Here’s what we mean. Have you ever heard this before?

“I’m sorry we cannot hire you because you do not have any experience.” It’s a catch-22; you cannot get a job without experience, and you cannot get experience without a job! An example of this would be: Call a company that sells car opening tools and say, “I’m not a locksmith but I would like to be one. Can I buy a set of your best car opening tools?” They will say, “No, I’m sorry; we can only sell those tools to locksmiths.”

So how are you going to be a locksmith if they will not sell you the tools? There are other types of businesses that are allowed to purchase these tools, although they are not as readily accepted into other areas like security and training. Some of them are:

Tow truck drivers        Repossessors        Car dealers    
Police                Firefighters        Locksmiths

Some suppliers do have a “We only sell to locksmiths” policy. So, to take the path of least resistance, we have written this manual with the assumption that you are going to become a locksmith.

This holds true for the other tools you will need such as lock picks, lock-picking books, and videos. All of these tools and information are considered by the locksmith industry to be secrets available only to the privileged few who call themselves locksmiths. You will, of course, be buying the majority of your tools and books from suppliers who service the locksmith industry. Therefore, you will need to call yourself a locksmith.

It is very difficult to get the tools you will need to run your car opening business if you are not a locksmith. More likely than not, once you get into the car opening business you are going to have so much fun that you are probably going to want to learn how to do more of this type of work. If you are not a locksmith we are back to the catch-22 again.

It will also be easier and cheaper to have your supplies delivered to you if you are a locksmith. According to the United States Postal Service, all locksmith devices mailed within the United States are not allowed to be mailed through the Postal Service unless addressed to one of the following:

Bona fide locksmith
Bona fide Repossessor
Lock manufacturer or dealer
Motor vehicle manufacturer or dealer

If you do not fall into one of the categories listed above, your supplies must be shipped via United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express. Unfortunately UPS is more expensive and takes longer to deliver than the United States Postal Service.

One of the easiest ways to legally order your tools and have these tools in your possession is to become a locksmith. So how do you become a locksmith? All you have to do is start your own locksmith business!

You are probably thinking that this is going to be frustrating and complicated, but it’s not. We are going to walk you through the five easy steps to starting your own locksmith business right now! You have already completed the first step just by deciding to become a locksmith. Many people have misconceptions about the locksmith industry and these misconceptions help keep the industry’s image clean and give your customers a sense of trust in you. These are some of the questions that people ask us about becoming a locksmith:

Do you have to be bonded?
Do you have to be insured?
Do you have to be certified?
Do you have to go to school to learn this?
Are your fingerprints on file at the police department?
Do you have to get a security clearance to do this work?
Do you have to take a lie detector test to be a locksmith?
Do you have to go through an extensive background check?
Do you have to have a spotless police record to be a locksmith?

The honest answer to all of these questions is no. If you were to ask us these questions on the street or over the phone we would answer yes to all of them and so would every other locksmith that we know! This discourages people with police records from wanting to become locksmiths because they don’t think they will pass these rigorous standards that they believe exist. It also builds an image of honor and trust in the industry.

The truth is that, at this time, the locksmith industry is virtually unregulated. This means there are very few cities or states that require any kind of licenses, permits, or have any other requirements to be met. This is a free market economy and anyone who wishes to become a locksmith can be one by simply hanging out a shingle. (Hanging out a shingle is a slang term for starting a business.)

This is how you start the business. First, decide what you are going to call yourself (we are going to be locksmiths).

Step 2.  See if a License, Permit or any Local Regulation Required
The next thing you need to do is to check on whether or not the state you live in requires a license or permit to do the type of work you will be doing. Simply call information and ask for the phone number of the state attorney general’s office. When someone answers tell them you are requesting information on the rules and regulations of operating a locksmith business in your state. Most of the time, you will get a recording requesting your name, phone number, and nature of your call. Someone will return your call, be patient; sometimes it takes a couple of days for a representative to get back to you. If a license or permit is required, you will be notified. You will receive a rules and regulations information package and you will be given the information you need to apply for any license or permit. You will also need to check with the city you live in to see if a license or permit is required to perform locksmith work in that city. This is done by calling your local district attorney’s office and requesting their assistance.

We are not talking about a business license or permit here. Right now we are checking to see if a license or permit is required to perform the type of work you will be doing. Any business that you start may require that you have a business license. When you call about rules and regulations you will be told at that time if one is required. If no one mentions it, ask! There is nothing to worry about, everyone who applies for a business license gets one; you cannot be turned down.

Step 3.  Choose a Name for Your Business
Now it’s time to choose a name for your business! Please take our advice on this subject. This, in and of itself, can be an asset or a liability to your company. Assets are good for you, liabilities are not. We have seen many companies that we believe could have been successful, but they had such silly names that people were simply afraid to call them for service.

Choose your company name carefully and seriously. You are going to be a mobile service business and the first and possibly the only impression your customers will have of your business will be your company name. People who are locked out of their vehicles are not looking for a shop to go to. They are locked out of their cars and are looking for someone to come to them. They will begin to form an opinion of your company simply from the name you’ve chosen. This can affect the number of calls you get. Your business name can make you sound like a large corporation or a small mom-and-pop operation. Your customers will never know the difference as long as you perform your service in a professional manner!

We can tell you what makes a name work, it is familiarity. People tend to choose service providers because they feel like they have either heard of or seen them before. People are looking for something they can relate to and be comfortable with.

Everyone seems to be afraid of looking foolish by making the wrong decision. An excellent example of this: Imagine this scene, we are working on one of fifteen storefront doors. We mean fifteen doors side-by-side at a large superstore. Ninety-five percent of the people coming into and going out of the store will use the door that we are working on! Now, are they doing this just to disturb our work and make our job take ten times as long? No! They do this because they can see that we are working on one door and they know that it is not locked. How foolish would they look if someone saw them try to open one of the other doors and find it was locked?

We are trying to explain to you what we call a common obstacle to business success. A large part of your public acceptance in the service industry comes from the impression or image that a customer perceives from your business name.

This is one reason people will refer your company to others. If they know someone to recommend, they won’t look foolish when someone says, “Do you know someone I can call to open my car?” If they have heard your name and remember it they will refer you whether they know anything about your company or not! It is for this reason that referrals are so powerful. When someone recommends a company to us, we assume that company is good or our helper would not have referred them to us. This reduces the risk of “choosing the wrong door.” The referral may even be made by a stranger. We still assume the company is reputable or the stranger would not suggest we use their services.

It is important to choose a name for your company that people can relate to. Personal names work very well such as: “YOUR first or last NAME” then CAR OPENING SERVICE.

If your name is the same as someone they know, they assume they know you also (not actually, but the familiarity is there). It also feels more personal. Some people prefer to deal with an individual; others prefer to deal with a company.

It really does not matter whether you choose a personal name or a company name. However, if you choose a company name, please do not try to come up with something no one has ever heard of you can use another company’s name, if you like, if they are not incorporated, and if they are not in your town. Check out how many companies have the same name but are not owned by the same person. There are many because familiar names are reassuring.

The only problem with choosing a name that is already out there is that the first person to incorporate their business with that name owns that name for the entire state. As soon as one person owns a name they can make everyone else with the same name stop using it (if they want to). Choosing a name that people are already familiar with will put you way ahead of the competition. It doesn’t have to be an exact copy of a name; something that sounds like something else will do.
If people hear your company name and think, “Oh yes, I’ve heard of your company,” you’ve got a winner!

Step 4. Register Your Trade Name/Tax Licenses
Now that you have chosen a name for your business the next thing to do is to make sure that no one else in your town is using that business name. We’ll refer to the name you’ve chosen as your “Trade Name” which will also be known as your “DBA.” This is short for “Doing Business As” and is the proper terminology for the name you’ve chosen to do business under. The way you find out if the name you’ve chosen is available for you to use or if it is already being used by someone else, is to have a trade name search done. A trade name search is done at no charge and while you wait at the Department of Revenue in your town. If the trade name search comes up clear and no one else is using that name in your trade classification (you see, if someone else is using that name but not in your trade classification, you can still use it), then you can register your trade name. Examples of “same name, different classification” are:

Big Boy Lawn Service        Big Boy TV Repair
Big Boy Tire Center            Big Boy Records
Big Boys Car Opening Service    Big Boy Etc., Etc., Etc.

Once you find a name that you can use, you will need to register your trade name with the Department of Revenue so that no one else can use it. You can register your trade name at the same office and normally with the same person who has done your search for you. It’s just a matter of filling out a form and paying a small fee. Your Trade Name Registration confirmation letter from the Department of Revenue will arrive by mail in about two weeks. You will need to take this letter with you when you open your business checking account. You will have to open a business checking account in order to be able to deposit checks or money orders that are made out to your company name.

You are providing a service (considered labor), and while you are at the Department of Revenue you need to check to see if your city or state requires you to charge taxes on labor. If it does, you will also need to apply for a tax license. Actually you may need two of these, one for the city and one for the state. You can get the state license at the Department of Revenue while you are there. You’ll have to go downtown to the city offices to get the city tax license.

We suggest that you go ahead and get both of these tax licenses anyway (city and state). If you decide you want to sell products at some time in the future (and by the way, you can sell products that have nothing to do with the business you are in), with these licenses you will be able to do so. Also, when you buy your products for resale, you will not have to pay taxes on them yourself.

Step 5.  Business Cards, Envelopes & Stationery
The next thing you need to do is get some business cards printed. This will be the most important tool in your possession. You will need to become a professional business card dispensing machine!

STOP HERE! Before you get your business cards printed you need to read the next three sections:
1.  Read Section 2 on Advertising for tips and tricks on how to design your business cards. Remember, this is your most important tool and we have suggestions that will make this tool very powerful!
2.   Read Section 3 on Communications because you will need to choose a phone number to print on your cards. Knowing how you want to handle your incoming calls should be decided at this time.
3.   Read Section 4 on Insurance to decide if you wish to be bonded and insured and if this is something you would like to advertise on your cards.

At the same time you are having your cards printed you should have envelopes printed with your business name and address in the return address area. You will also need a letterhead with your business name and address printed at the top of the page. A letterhead is simply a blank 8.5“ x 11” sheet of paper with your business name and address printed on it. You will use it to write letters to suppliers and customers. Many companies will not open an account for you if you do not write your request for credit on your company letterhead.

Don’t spend a lot of time trying to lay out designs for your cards, envelopes, and letterhead. Just go right down to a print shop and tell them what you want according to the guidelines we’ve given you. They have all kinds of ready-made artwork that you can use and will sit down with you and help you design these things. If you try to do it yourself you’re going to knock yourself out, and before long you won’t know if you like what you’ve come up with or not! The people at the print shop can show you how things will look on a computer before you agree to have it done. The whole process can take less than an hour!

If you have completed the first five steps, by the power vested in your state with the issuance of tax licenses and trade name registration (and operating licenses or permits if required), you are now officially a locksmith. The documents you now possess are considered proof thereof.

NOTE: Your cards, envelopes, and letterhead are sometimes all the proof required by suppliers and are normally only necessary with your first order. It is not necessary, nor is it recommended, that you tell anyone that you have no experience at all. A good answer when someone asks you how long you have been doing this is, “Oh, for a while now.”

Now that you have become a locksmith you can order your tools and begin your training. In the section on tools we have explained the differences between three of the best tool companies on the market and the training methods used by these three tool manufacturers. You should have already read the sections on Advertising, Communications, and Insurance. Don’t confuse advertising with getting business; you should not have read the section on Getting Business yet. Now let’s read the section on Tools and order our tools!

Step 6.  Order Tools, Books and Videos
At this point you should have ordered your tools. Thoroughly examine and study your tools and any books, tapes, or videos that you have ordered. After you have studied these you will need some hands-on experience and practice.

For information on how to get this: Read the section on Training and Education.

Step 7. Develop Your Skills and Practice
There are a few more things we need to do before we get our first paying customer! The next two things we need to do are to learn about the paperwork that we will need to run this business and how to charge and collect our fees. The section on Paperwork will show which kinds of invoices to use and other forms associated with this business. The section on Money Matters discusses how to charge for your services and the different methods of payment you may wish to accept.

Step 8.  Develop a Customer Base
Let’s make sure we look the part by reading the section on Appearances. If you have your invoices printed you are ready for customers. Wait, ¬remember, if you are going to have checks made out to anything other than your personal name you will have to have a business checking account open in your business name to cash those checks.

We need to be prepared for any problems that we might encounter so let’s read the section on Problems and then go right into the section on Getting Business. Now we can start handing out those business cards and building our business!

Step 9. Have Fun and Make Money
This has just been too easy. The next section to read win be Telephone Skills and this is very important. Practice your telephone skills and always ask yourself after every phone call that ended without a sale, “How could I have spoken to that customer differently that would have made them decide to use my service?” This will take some time. Have your friends call you pretending to be customers. This will help you feel more self-assured when you begin talking with real customers.

The remaining sections of the manual can be read at your leisure. Your business should be up and running by this time. The section on The Law is general information. If you received a rules and regulation package from your city or state, it will have more specific laws that relate to your area.

The sections on Trade Associations and Schools are for continuing your education. We recommend that you join one of the associations we have listed, or join a local group in your town. There is a chart in the schools section that shows you which schools are home studies or correspondence courses. If you think you might want to take one of these courses you need to contact the school now and ask them to send you information. By contacting them now, you will begin getting coupons that will eventually add up to $350 off one of the courses.
We have also included a list of Suppliers to give you many sources to order your tools and supplies from. Sometimes just finding these contacts is the hardest part of starting a business.

We have given you enough information in this manual not only to get you established in the car opening business, but also to launch you into becoming a full-fledged locksmith should you choose to do so.

Step 10.  Talk to a Bookkeeper or an Accountant
As soon as you start earning and collecting money, you will need to seek out professional help to keep you from getting into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. A competent bookkeeper or accountant should be found. These professionals should know the rules of business and can answer any paperwork-related questions you may have about your business.

This business is very simple, the rules are also simple, but you need to know what the rules are for your city and state. The IRS says, “Ignorance is no excuse.”

WARNING: The IRS will not let you off the hook just because you were not aware of the rules!

Drop us a note when you are successful. These are the best letters we get. Work smart, make lots of money, and we continue to wish you good luck!