Need a locksmith or a business lesson?

Meet Joseph Schneider, an enterprising young chap who I met while waiting to board a plane to Las Vegas. Joseph is currently working as a locksmith, and will soon be starting his own locksmith company called Auto Lock Doctor. In case you were wondering… yes, he is going to wear a lab coat!


But this post isn’t an ad or testimonial for ALD, because quite honestly I have never used their service. (At the time of writing, the business wasn’t even open yet.) This also isn’t about the topsy turvy world of the locksmith biz, where Joseph has almost been shot at and once had to refuse service to a 300 lb drunk guy. Instead, this is about a young entrepreneur who didn’t like the way his company was running, so he took matters into his own hands by starting his own business.

When I asked him what he would do differently in his own company, the first word out of his mouth was “professionalism”.

“Our image is everything. The first thing a client sees is our vehicles, they have to look good. Our technicians have to look good, too, not all disheveled and messy.”  (Joseph hesitated getting his picture taken because he had worked the overnight shift and came straight to the airport.)

He continued, “We also have to get our name and face out there. I know a lot of people in the car business, and have built relationships with people who need our services. I’ve gotten involved with some organizations and associations that many companies in this business would never consider partnering with, which is why they are going out of business.”

My natural next question was, why wouldn’t they partner with some of these organizations?

Joseph’s frank and honest answer? “Because they are run by old guys who don’t or won’t listen to new ideas.”

(If you read my last post about generations, you will know that I can’t really blame Joseph for this outlook. And, if you are one of these “old guys”, you just got a clue about engaging the younger generation – listen to their ideas.)

So, Joseph is an entrepreneur with a vision and a business plan. He’s also young, only 23 years old. For those who think the “kids today” have no get-up-and-go, let Joseph be a shining example of how wrong that is.

To give you a little more perspective on Joseph’s outlook and how he might run his business, I want to share the story he told me about how he got his first locksmith job.

Joseph’s Dad was a mechanic, and Joseph himself had worked on a lot of cars in his day. He went with a buddy to see about getting a job at a local locksmith, but was turned away because he was too young. (He was 22 at the time, and this company did not hire anyone under 25). While there, he saw them refuse to help someone who locked the keys in the trunk of a Mercedes. The company didn’t have the capacity to deal with Mercedes, so they didn’t think they could help. Joseph saw this as lost business, and said, “I’ll bet you $50 and a job that I can get that trunk open in less than 2 minutes, without triggering “lock down mode”. (As it implies, lock down mode renders the vehicle completely inoperable and costs $1400 at the Mercedes dealership to fix.) He told them that if it did go into lock down mode, he would pay the $1400. They had nothing to lose.

Joseph got to work. He knew that by removing and replacing some fuses in the right order that it would reset the security system and he could pop the trunk.

Less than 2 minutes later, the trunk was open and Joseph had a job offer.

To me the lessons from Joseph’s story are almost endless.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • If you don’t like your situation, change it. You have the power.
  • Don’t be so stuck in your ways that you can’t listen to new ideas. Not only will your business suffer, but so will your relationships with others.
  • Appearance counts. Professionalism counts. Getting yourself out there counts.
  • People want an opportunity to prove themselves. Don’t allow hidden talents to stay hidden.
  • Take a risk. What’s the worst that can happen?

What else do you take away from this?

Thanks for reading.


About the author: Matt has personally locked his keys in his car while it was running. Oops.

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