The latest in our ‘Interview With a Locksmith‘ series is MLA Member Mete Hilme from ‘Mr Locks Locksmiths’ in Cardiff.
So if you are already in the industry, an outsider looking in or looking to become a locksmith, hopefully, some of our member’s answers will provide an insight into the industry and maybe answer some questions you have had about locksmithing in general.
Company Name: Mr Locks Locksmiths
Location: Based in Cardiff, covering much of South Wales
Years Trading: 12 Years Mr Locks (18 years total)
1. So tell us a little bit of a back story about yourself, when did you become a Locksmith and how long have been a Locksmith?
Hi, I’m Mete from Mr Locks in Cardiff.
I started life as an engineer working in the aluminum industry for the Norcros Group based in Essex, and over a number of years progressed into Technical Management while being sponsored on a management development programme, which culminated in achieving an MBA.
Within a few months, I had brought the franchise and embarked on my new and very different life experience as a locksmith
– Mete Hilme, Mr.Locks Locksmiths
I was later offered an opportunity to relocate and work in Cardiff for the Norsk Hydro Aluminium Group in a Commercial Technical Management Role. Several Years later my now wife showed me an advert featuring a Dyno Locks Franchise which was for sale in the Cardiff and South Wales area.
Within a few months, I had brought the franchise and embarked on my new and very different life experience as a locksmith. That was back in 1995, which means I have been in the industry for 18 years to date.
2. How did you originally get into Locksmithing and Why?
Buying the Dyno Locks Franchise was a complete change of direction for me. It was very much an impulsive and unplanned leap into the industry.
After a short Induction programme, I jumped in with both feet and got stuck in. It would be fair to say that the few years that followed were a huge learning curve.
However, my engineering and business management background was crucially important to my continued success. I soon became one of the top performing UK Dyno Locks franchisees and was appointed a Dyno field trainer. I later went on to sell the business in 2001.
After a short time running a training company, I then formed Mr Locks Locksmiths in 2002, which I have built into a successful business. I very much enjoy what I do, and have never looked back.
As with most things in life, if you plan and prepare well in advance, and work hard, it is possible to build a successful and enjoyable business.
– Mete Hilme, Mr.Locks Locksmiths
3. What advice do you have for people wanting to become a locksmith?
As with any industry, locksmithing is competitive, and there are lots that you will need to learn. You will need to learn a lot technically at the start, and as you develop you will need to continue learning to keep up with developments in the industry.
You should also not underestimate the importance of commercial skills such as Sales, marketing, your telephone manner and accounting, not to mention the continuous developments in Information technology and the internet. However, as with most things in life, if you plan and prepare well in advance, and work hard, it is possible to build a successful and enjoyable business.
4. How has being a member of MLA helped you as a locksmith?
The MLA is recognised as the authoritative body for UK Locksmithing, so being a member means you have achieved or are striving to achieve the highest standards, and are mixing with good company.
Personally, I find the opportunity to network with other members and pick each other’s brains when required, can save me a lot of time and energy. I can also vouch for the quality of the training available, and particularly enjoy the social interaction with other members at regional meetings and EXPO events.
I was asked to open an explosive safe many years ago, it was located at a quarry on the side of a mountain
– Mete Hilme, Mr.Locks Locksmiths
5. How has business been since the recession hit?
Clearly, most businesses and ourselves have been affected by their customers have less money to spend. I have found that potential customers that do need our service are now more demanding and want to ensure that they are getting the best value for money. This does sometimes mean that we have to quote very competitively and that we will not always get the job.
However, I feel confident that if we continue to offer the highest standards and service to both existing and new customers, we will be fine.
6. Are there any funny stories from your time in the industry that stick out?
Not sure about funny, but a few which I can remember are:
# I was asked to open an explosive safe many years ago, it was located at a quarry on the side of a mountain, as I started drilling the five inches thick hardened steel door I noticed it was getting very hot !! It was only at this point that the site manager told me what was inside the safe !! After a frank exchange of views, I put on my protective hard hat and continued with the job. Needless to say, another satisfied customer and I’m still here to tell the tale …..
# I was called to a lock-out on a wooden door on a Saturday evening in the centre of Cardiff. When I arrived, to my surprise the door in question was the front entrance door to one of Cardiff’s largest nightclubs. Just to add to the experience, I would say at least 100 well behaved sober young people with impeccable manners were quietly waiting outside !!! This is what I hoped for anyway …. I also hoped it would be a simple yale lock that would pick open in seconds.
No such luck, 2 chubb detainer locks needed opening, and the queue of model citizens treated me to choruses of interesting local songs including why are we waiting and many others I really couldn’t repeat…. As an MLA Approved locksmith I have been highly trained to keep my composure and perform in situations such as this, which luckily I did, half an hour later the job was done and I was on my way home, just another day in the life of a locksmith……
7. What are your plans for the future?
I very much enjoy the versatility of running my own small business, although its hard work, I am able to plan and schedule my day around the social lives of my two great kids, this keeps me very busy.
In addition, I presently coach a kids football team which is great fun, and I’m a huge Badminton enthusiast, playing in the Cardiff League and David Lloyd box league.
Never seems to be enough hours in the day !! But finding time to keep up with the latest developments in the Locksmith industry and trying to stay ahead in the constant improvements in technology and the internet is a worthy and continuing challenge.
This will be the main focus for me and the business as we seek to adapt to developments in technology which will affect all of our lives and businesses in the future.
READ MORE LOCKSMITH INTERVIEWS: for more Interviews with MLA approved Locksmiths, please see our every interview with a locksmith so far page