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I tell you what, I'm excited about this conversation with Wayne Winton. He's been a locksmith for several years, and he's also the founder of Locksmith Nation. I'm excited to have this conversation with him and dive into his history of how he became a locksmith. We'll talk about Locksmith Nation a little bit. It's a great conversation, I hope you enjoy.
PJ: Mr. Wayne Winton, thank you for coming on today.
Wayne: Hello, how are you today, PJ?
PJ: Good. Good. So, Wayne, I'm interested in how you just became interested in locksmithing. I'm under the impression that you did not grow up in the business as I did.
Wayne: No, I didn't grow up in the business. This trade is really like a hand-me-down kind of trade. It's usually first, second, the third generation, and so on. I landed here, and that's why I sometimes get to be the black sheep of the industry. I was Equipment Operator before this. I worked out in the oil field and ran bulldozers, heavy equipment, stuff like that, and towards the end of the big recession for 2008-2009, things just kind of ground to a halt, and this business had come up for sale. The original owner that started it, Tri-County locksmith service, wanted to retire, and so I landed into this saying, hey, my back hurts. I can't do that, that oilfield stuff forever. It chews up young backs and spits them out and wanted something a little more longevity-wise, and this was it. Hence, we took over the business and got 90 days of training, which is ludicrous in this industry if you think you're going to learn this in 90 days. Still, we got enough to get our feet wet and hit the ground running, and that's what's inspired me to do a lot of what I do today to help other people out to get started in the industry because we need skilled technicians in this industry for sure.
PJ: Absolutely. So to see if I can understand. So you were out working in the oil fields while operating equipment, and you were looking for something different. And then found like an ad for the business type of thing, or did you like hear about it? Are you looking at other industries, like, like, kind of fill me in on that, man?
Wayne: It was random. I was just one of those people that I'd never got laid off from any job ever. And then finally it came to be, and it was my time, and they just ran out of work for the construction industry. So I told them, hey, if you guys lay me off, I'm not coming back, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Saw this thing; it was on Craigslist, they are for sale, and we had to move. I had to move my whole family and everybody. I didn't have to move too far. It was about an hour and a half. I was in the Grand Junction area, Grand Junction, Colorado, and moved up to the Glenwood Springs area, which is kind of close to Aspen Central, Colorado, a high-end area and high-end clientele, and that's where the business and the van and everything were for sale. And I was like, hey, you know if we're going to do something different and do something that I can do when I'm 80, this is it, so put it all in and jumped in both feet, held my nose, and we sink or swim, and we decided to swim so I'm here.
PJ: Awesome. So when you bought the business, you had to move about an hour and a half to be in that service area that the business cover?
Wayne: Yep, I had to be fully committed all in, move, get rid of the house. Everything I came up here and did the 90 days training in a motel room, and then moved my family up here and just flourished, learned how to be a locksmith and a business owner and a marketer and in a very, very short period of time. It was very difficult, but I've just got that personality for, once I sink my teeth into something, there's nothing that's going to stop me.
PJ: Absolutely. Well, yeah. Hey, that's impressive. To take that leap of wanting to buy a locksmithing business and then traveling an hour and a half, get the 90-day training, which as we all know, is not much and then to move your family, I mean, that's quite the leap of faith, and the risk to take so I'm delighted that worked out for you.
Wayne: We put it all on black and came up, heads up, so you're ready and ready to go. Now I've got two technicians. I've got an office person, I've got myself, I've got three service trucks. One of them's, the big giant ambulance, it's just been really good, and things have been excellent and flourishing. Just look forward to expanding, getting better, and doing the social media marketing that we do. Putting together the training programs that we put together in the groups, helping other locksmiths was the main reason for the limited amount of knowledge and the limited amount of resources in that era of 2012. They didn't have the groups; they had maybe a clear star, you know, ALOA yet to join an association, get a magazine, that's where I got my education as read and buried my face in the articles, grabbed hold of any piece of information that I could, finally saved up enough money to go to a SAFTA convention for a week, which as you know, I mean, it just, it cost the average single business owner like $10,000 by the time you pay for classes, pay for food, hotel, flight, and then lose business for a week. If you make $1000 bucks a day, and you're gone for seven days, you just lost $7,000, so that's why my heart and soul are dedicated to helping other people out. That's why we started the groups. That's why we put out the videos. That's why we put together the training programs and try and help people.
PJ: Sure, yeah. So after the 90 days of the training, you probably got to meet a few of your main customers at the time, right? That kind of stuff.
PJ: Next thing you know, you're on your own now, like, were you able to call this gal or gentlemen for help at all or after that 90 days, was it kind of like a clean break?
Wayne: You know, he wanted to see his baby succeed. So he was available. He was going right into retirement, so I didn't want to tap into that resource overly, too much. But he was there, he was there and available by phone, to be able to do that kind of stuff, so yeah, I wasn't left entirely hanging but trusted me, there wasn't a lot of resources at that time, there was a lot of banging my head up against the side of the van trying to figure some stuff out. That would be pretty common knowledge, you know.
PJ: Sure. Which makes sense because I mean, at some point, like, you know, if you call him for too many small little things, he's going to start answering the phone less than less, right?
Wayne: Right, really be in a jam. Plus, I'm just one of those mechanical people, you know, if I take it apart, and I see how it works, I'll be able to put it back together. If one's broke, and there's another one on the building, I'll go to the one that's working apart. I'll see how it works. We'll make the other one work if we can, or we'll see what the problem is, and we'll go ahead and repair it from there.
PJ: Okay, excellent. So you had the 90-day training, you couldn't call him when you needed to, but you kind of like, it sounds like you dove into the literature. You attended some training or conventions, and then, for the most part, just self-taught with experience of what your customers needed after that.
Wayne: Yeah, you know, there's a lot of different things for different areas. If you're in Las Vegas, or you're in California, or you're in certain towns, you're going to have to deal with a lot of different hardware than, say here like Aspen, Colorado, for example. There's a ludicrous amount of some of the most complicated obnoxious hardware that you've ever imagined, multipoint hardware this stuff that comes from the UK, the hoppy multipoint how are you going to pull up on the handle and pull this and turn this and, the mortise body locks for giant doors. I mean, they build these houses, like they're castles, some of them have five, six-inch thick doors, 13-feet tall, just crazy, crazy stuff that you're, you're never going to go to Lowe's and find that which it's a blessing and a curse because it's excellent for the locksmith. After all, the homeowner will not be able to find any information on it. They're not going to be able to work on it, they're going to have to rely on a professional to do that absolutely, but then again, the resources that I'm going to have access to are going to be limited as well.
PJ: Sure. So you started doing that, is your locksmithing business a full-service business, or are there certain areas that you focus on more than others? Explain to me your kind of perspective on that.
Wayne: I don't do anything automotive. The original locksmith did quite a bit of automotive stuff, nothing with the fobs and programmers and stuff, but he did a lot with the older non-coded or chipped keys or anything like that, and I didn't like it. I didn't like taking apart the doors, and little plastic clips break and just all this little stuff. I didn't gravitate towards that. I gravitated towards the safe portion of the industry, and that's where I focused everything. There's another guy up here that does automotive stuff, so I kick it all over to him. He doesn't want to do any safe stuff. So he kicks it over to me. Works well, pleasant small mountain town atmosphere, where we can all kind of get along and help each other out. So I find the safe aspect more entertaining for me, and I just enjoy it more. I can work on a safe, for I just had one I'd work on for two days, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Put me in the car for five minutes, and I'm not happy.
PJ: Yeah. So yeah, I think it's kind of a like a good thing to kind of build a local network of different locksmithing businesses that at first glance might look like they're a competitor, per se. But once you start dialing in, you have your specialties, they have theirs, and you're able to kind of have a good business relationship. Have you found that pretty beneficial?
Wayne: Oh, absolutely. I couldn't imagine not having a support team around me. I use Jonathan Nolan with Reliance Security. He's back down in Grand Junction, and we make an excellent team. As far as electronic access goes, this guy is impressive; what he can do with computers, technology, wiring, all that fun stuff, building an entire system. We did a massive job; we went to go two car dealerships, 30 doors worth of electronic access in about two weeks. We pulled some 12-14 hour days, just him and me, the hustle-bustle, get it done. We knocked it out of the park on that one. And there's no way I could have done that by myself. Then, you know, my go-to stuff is I know how to mount hardware, we know how to cut in strikes, we know how to do the physical drilling, cutting, brute force type of things. Then he knows how to do a lot of the more delicate running wires, plugging the whole system in, firing it up, logging it onto a network, getting the server's going, and everything like that. And we make an excellent team, two completely separate businesses. We work together immaculately well, perfect. And then the other guy that I use, Brett with Flash Lock and Key, he does all the car stuff, so if I got a car, I send it over to him. And, you know, we all work together. We make sure as a team that the community gets serviced.
PJ: Okay, that's great. That's great. What is the like county size that you're in as far as that area?
Wayne: It's pretty tiny. As the coverage is Aspen, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Rifle, and then we're expanding out. As I say, we'll go to Grand Junction, Grand Junction guy, and I'll come up here. I'll go. I mean, I'll go as far as wherever the checkbook is. That's what I think. How far do you go? How big is your checkbook, you know?
Wayne: I've been over to Denver to do stuff. We are doing the safe opening and moving. We can open some of the most secure containers on the planet for jewelry stores and stuff. And, you can kind of count on one or two hands, how many people can do that in the state so we'll travel to do that stuff, but we charge for it.
PJ: Very cool. Very cool. So you know, you have your locksmithing business, and that's Tri-County, right?
PJ: And then, years ago, you started this formerly little Facebook group called Locksmith Nation?
PJ: And, you know, I'm inquisitive about when you did this, like, what was the initial intent? How did you think it was going to go?
Wayne: Wow, that is... I never wanted to start a group. I'll be 100% honest; the whole backstory on that goes to a previous group before that. And this was again, probably right in that zone about four or five years ago, when I would be looking for a lot of this information, and then once I documented a lot of my information, I wanted to present that and help other people out. So we found this active platform. It's elementary to upload a video, and it's effortless to post a video or a picture or something. It's straightforward, and it's instant gratification. It's an instant connection, you get a notification on your phone, and you know, I mean, you post something on there, and you got what's this key blank, what's this lock, you have five answers in under a minute, it is insane how fast and how powerful this program is. So I was part of a group called Locksmith Friends. That was the original kind of big Facebook group, and they're still out there. And they're still going but what happened was is it almost kind of got too big, too fast, and there was a little turmoil in that group. And I was one of the administrators of that group. So I was trying to help, assist, contribute, put all this information out there. And through that turmoil, it became a little bit of drama, if you will, and it became a little bit too much for the original person who started it, so they began to shut down the page. To not have to deal with that. So when they started to do that, I got blocked out of it, and now I've got all this stuff that I just contributed months and years of videos and pictures and posts and information, and I could no longer access it. So, I'm never one of those people that's going to raise their hand and say, 'Hey, there's a problem. You should do something about it.' I'm going to say; I'm going to raise my hand and say, 'There's a problem, I'm going to do something about it.' And so, what we did is I started another group to allow the people that were in that previous group to communicate still and still help each other out because that was declining. They were removing people from the group as it was shutting down, and that's really how it got started. I had no intention of starting my group, it was just forced upon me, and then I just had that leadership style. So we took it by the reigns, and I think we set it up now to where that can never happen again; I set Locksmith Nation up to where it's all voter-based. There's a panel of admins. It's not just me. I'm just one of the many people there, I believe we have 14 admins now, and my voice is just one of everybody else's. So I could walk away today and the foundation and everything we set up for that. It's designed to run on its own, and I feel 100% confident that I could walk away right now and it would run and flourish on its own.
PJ: Very cool. Very cool. I remember a man; I don't know if it was three or so years ago, we started to get like customers. We were talking to we're being like, they kept referencing Locksmith Nation, and they're like, Hey, someone posted this, we want to buy it, can you get it? And we're all like, No, we don't know what you're talking about.
Wayne: What is it?
PJ: Yeah. And so that was kind of how I first found out about it was just customers who are interacting in it and what type of total membership does it have around right now?
Wayne: Right now, we're about 2300 people, 2300 people in total. But it's the activity that is insane. I think at the very, very peak when that group was in full force, and I'm not saying that it declined. I guess I'm saying that there's a lot of different groups now. And I highly encourage everybody, be a part of all those groups, and then see which one works for you the best, and that's where you should contribute your time. I never say that one or the other. One's better than the other. I highly encourage people to go check out Locksmith Friends. I highly encourage people to check all of them out. But at the peak, I think we had 29,000 comments, posts, gifts, reactions in 30 days, so that's almost 1000 a day.
PJ: That's a lot.
Wayne: That's insane.
PJ: Absolutely. And yeah, I mean, I think, you know, in the day and age that we live in. Connecting online to be able to have a support group, for the people, who are starting, they're in a more of a remote area, to be able to have a group of people to connect with, you do the same type of work as you do is so important.
Wayne: It is. It was me ten years ago.
Wayne: And that's what I'm doing it for. And that's why I set it up the way that we did. I want it to live past me, I want it to live past anything that we do, and it's 100% free too, never going to charge membership fees. It's for the people, the people voted, and the admins. We vote on the rules. There's no one person in charge. It's just a group and a community where everybody has a voice, everybody can be heard, and that's just the way we like it. It's a rock-solid community, and there's more information on that page that somebody could learn in 10 or 20 years. There are lifetimes and generations of information on that page.
PJ: Absolutely. Yeah. And definitely, it's impressive and respectful for you to open that up to decentralize it the way you have essentially. So that's, that's awesome.
Wayne: And it is a vetted page. I do want to put that out there. You do have to go through and answer some questions. If you're in a licensed state, you're going to have to do your licensing, which is why we have so many admins. I have two dedicated admin over there; that's all they do. They'll go on like Texas's page or whoever's license page, and they'll verify they have an active license. Now and then, maybe somebody gets in there that shouldn't, but everybody's volunteering their time, and I think that's what many people don't realize. I support all the associations, all the ALOA, and local associations. Those are all great, but those people have jobs and get paid to do that. None of our admin team is paid anything.
Wayne: It's all-volunteer. It's all member-based, and I think that's the beauty of it. And I think that's why it works so well is because everybody works together and it's not hey, my paychecks bigger than yours or you know, it's all contributions for what we can do for the love of the game.
PJ: Absolutely, very fantastic. So I'm kind of interested, so that's Wayne, the locksmith, and founder of Locksmith Nation. I'm inquisitive; what does Wayne Winton do for fun?
Wayne: For fun, go check out my YouTube channel. We just did some cool videos. We took out some pumpkins, shot them up with the AR15, did some AR pumpkin carving, shot it some safes, opened them up, bloom open with the shotgun and some slugs, which is one of my passions is going out and going in shooting, respecting the environment. In contrast, we do so, teaching gun safety, that kind of stuff to anybody that wants to join us or go out and do that kind of stuff and being respectful of both the firearms and the land around it and everything we do, but also go and have fun while we do it. The other thing is I got a little rock crawler buggy, so we'll get out. We'll go do some rock crawling moabs pretty close. So we'll get out there, do some four wheel, tear it up, have fun out there, and see this beautiful state. That's pretty much it. Go see the beauty.
PJ: Absolutely. So, you know, I'm kind of curious, like what is it Aspen, Colorado, and it isn't enjoyable. But when I think of Aspen, Colorado, I think of skiing and the movie from when I was watching as a kid, Dumb and Dumber.
PJ: You know,
Wayne: That park where they shot the lake and the fire scene every day.
PJ: Very cool. I mean, do you ski?
Wayne: I don't. No, I don't ski or do a whole bunch of stuff. Those are the only two hobbies that I have. Other than that, we serve as the ski resorts. I've had to ride the ski lift for 45 minutes to go service a safe with a backpack freezing, and I hope that I didn't forget one screwdriver back at the truck, so I have 45 minute ride down and then back up, but now it's just enjoying the beauty and the outdoors and the Jeep trails. There's a lot of stuff that people don't see, like the old mining roads, the old mining towns, mining ruins, things like that. That catches my eye.
PJ: Good stuff. Wayne, thank you so much for coming on and hanging out and chatting. I do appreciate it.
Wayne: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Anybody that wants to check out Locksmith Nation, pull up your phone, go to Facebook, check out groups, type in Locksmith Nation, you'll have to answer a couple of questions, submit some paperwork, and we'll have our admin team. Go ahead and check you out, and if you can, come on in. The water's fine. It's fun.
PJ: Good stuff. Yes. Yeah, of course, I'm a member of it, and I've seen, been a part of it. I'm not as active as I should be on social media, but I've participated in a few conversations.
Wayne: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we appreciate those contributions. We want good quality content. We want friendly interactions, and we want to help people. That's what it's all about.
PJ: Good stuff, Wayne. Thank you very much, and I appreciate it, and I guess we'll talk soon.
Wayne: Perfect. Thank you for having me. Thanks, everybody. We'll see you later.
That was a great conversation with Wayne Winton, and I appreciate him coming on and chatting for a little bit. I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments of our YouTube video and make sure you include the hashtag #LockBoss to automatically get entered in to win one of five free prizes that we give away every week on Tuesday during YouTube live. Thank you, and we'll see you next time.