– The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business award honors a company with at least a fifteen-year track
record that is passed from one generation to the next and strengthens the community. The 2011 award winner is A-1 Mobile Lock & Key, a family-owned company that specializes in professional locksmith services and meeting the security needs of commercial, residential and automotive customers in Skagit County and beyond. It services safes, installs doors, sets up master key systems, and can duplicate almost any type of key. It rekeys homes and offices, replaces lost automotive keys, supplies panic hardware, and installs card-based access control systems.
The family locksmith legacy began in 1989 when Robert Olson bought a one-man company operated from a home office and full-service locksmith van in Anacortes. Robert’s retirement in 2001 prompted the succession of the business from father to son, Andrew Olson.
In ten years since taking over the family business, Andrew and his wife Christina used many keys to growth and expansion. In 2004, the Olsons hired an employee and set up a second work van. The combination of charging fair prices, providing very responsive customer service, and getting jobs done right without cutting corners or taking shortcuts unlocked market share. A-1 Mobile Lock & Key became the “go-to” locksmith in Skagit County.
The Olsons bought competitor companies when the opportunities arose. In 2005, when the owner of Mount Vernon Locksmiths retired after 30 years in operation, Andrew and Christina purchased that company, added another employee and another van. Christina – with a baby strapped to her back– also jumped into company operations, running that small shop and dispatching calls. In 2007, they hired and trained two more locksmiths and had another baby. In 2008, the Olsons boosted their customer base by buying Sedro Woolley Lock & Key.
As the company expanded from one to seven employees, they modernized equipment and vehicles, updated technology, and made operational changes. The company shifted away from scheduling calls on paper to using new technology to efficiently schedule and dispatch calls to each locksmith’s Smartphone in real time. To open doors for more growth, they contracted with roadside assistance organizations and with building maintenance and security companies who handled big box retailers. They worked with property management companies to offer quick rekeying services to their tenants. They built relationships with engineers at hospitals, refineries, and manufacturing plants to be positioned to install security hardware when equipment upgrade cycles occurred.
“By 2009, A-1 Mobile Lock & Key had outgrown its space in Mount Vernon. An SBA 504 loan from the Bank of the Pacific and Evergreen Business Capital enabled the Olsons to purchase and remodel a more visible building on a busy boulevard. They added another employee and leased some space to a tenant. Their new shop has more space and better displays,” says Nancy Porzio, SBA Seattle District Director. Andrew and Christina Olson have never had to lay anyone off due to lack of work. Their company grew from a sole proprietor running a business from a home office and mobile van to a company with seven employees, four full-time locksmith vehicles, and a 2,000 square-foot shop. In ten years, their revenue has grown tenfold.
“The key to success was having the right combination of business acumen to unlock opportunities to not only carry on the family locksmith legacy but to open doors for growth on all fronts. A-1 Mobile Lock and Key is Seattle SBA’s 2011 Family-Owned Business of the Year. We look forward to recognizing their success at the Awards Gala on April 21st,” said Porzio.
An independent panel of judges selected the winner based on several criteria, including increased sales and profits, increased employment opportunities for family members, demonstrated potential necessary for long-term business success and economic growth, and voluntary efforts to strengthen family-owned businesses within the community.