In 1976, Richard’s son and son-in-law—Rick Jay and Terry Reichert—joined the business, along with Richard’s wife Shirley. And in 1978, still growing, the company moved to the current location at 1106 Saint Louis St. Gunsmithing and safe work were discontinued in the 1980s, Diefendefer says, because it took too much time away from locks and keys. Rick and Terry refocused the business on core services, he says, which today include making keys for walk-in customers; installing, repairing or re-keying locks at residential and commercial buildings; and servicing automotive locks in their shop.
What Diefendefer and other fourth-gen family members contribute is digital and technical experience. They have worked to streamline billing practices and improve marketing and communication methods using social media and other online communication. Lock and key service is not something you need every day, Diefendefer says, so they must reach new clients where they are—online and on mobile.
Diefendefer feels fortunate that the third-gen owners are open to change. He says it helps to introduce new ideas in small, moderate ways. “Make small changes, not huge ones, and eventually it will mold to what your vision is,” he says.
It’s also important to research ideas. Gathering clear data about potential results will help make the case for change. He also suggests learning if an idea has already been tried and why it was or was not successful. He thinks it’s a mistake if new generations don’t respect the hard work of predecessors. Build on that experience, he says. “They’ve been there. They’ve done it and seen what works and doesn’t work.” That way, new generations can take an “already good, growing business and keep transitioning forward because [earlier generations] have provided you with a good base to start.”