Supplement Income
With Training

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No hard products to sell? Tap into intellectual resources like training
to develop relationships and open the door for future business.

The public seems to think gun shops are going through boom times, disregarding the fact many stores can get few guns, and less ammunition, to sell. A dealer can make up only so much lost business selling accessories to upgrade products already owned by the customers. What to do to make up revenue stream when hard product is not available for resale?

You can sell intellectual property instead of hard goods, for one thing — training.

In-House Instructors

You’ll find the least risk and cash outlay in using already on-staff personnel as your teaching cadre. You probably have one or more certified instructors in your employ already.

If not, you have options:
• You or a selected staff member can get trained and certified as an instructor through the NRA, which has been the largest source of certified firearms trainers in America for as long as any of us have been alive. Reach out to the NRA at (800) 672-3888, and they can give you a contact for the nearest instructor-trainer, known as an NRA Counselor.
• The same NRA phone number can get you a list of certified instructors in your area, though you probably know some already who are regular customers at your store. A lot of folks earn the teaching certificate but don’t teach because they’re instructors, not businessmen. If you take care of the advertising, setting up a classroom, etc., and just ask them to do the teaching, they might be delighted to take you up on it.

Training opens a new revenue stream and gives your business positive exposure to new customers.

• If you plan to offer advanced tactical training beyond basic firearms safety, etc., think about what many consider the platinum level for “civilian training” — Tom Givens’ Rangemaster Instructor course (rangemaster.com). Be warned, though, it is a demanding course and not every candidate passes the strict standards for graduation. That’s one reason it’s such a blue chip credential.

Note: For live-fire training, you’ll need a range. If you have one as part of your business establishment, you probably already have one or more instructors on board. If not, reach out to local gun clubs or fish and game clubs to see about renting their ranges. NRA instructors are eligible for instructor liability insurance through the organization, and for a small fee the underwriter can specifically list the host club as an insured party upon request.

Classroom Training

Some gun shops have classroom space, but a great many do not. No problem: You have lots of sources.

Hotel conference rooms can be expensive, but if your class draws a lot of out-of-towners, the hotel will usually offer attractive discounts to students who stay there, and may even comp a room for a guest instructor you import from elsewhere.

Local civic groups often rent meeting space. I’ve taught at Lions Clubs, VFW halls and similar venues. Costs are reasonable, and sometimes the host group will offer lunch for your students at cost-effective prices that add to the value of the training package you are selling.

Public safety facilities may be available, depending on local policy. I’ve taught armed-citizen classes in police training facilities and fire department classrooms. One caveat however, in those venues private citizens may not be allowed to carry guns, and a number of your potential students will take umbrage at this.

Local houses of worship may be another source of classroom space. This, of course, is subject to the will of church management. If the house of worship in question has its own volunteer security team, giving free classroom slots to one or more members of the team may “sweeten the deal.”

Outside Instructors

“Name” instructors tend to charge more, and you’ll be on the hook for their travel expenses as a rule, but they also tend to draw more students from a larger area. Even if the training is held at your own facility, you’ll want to have discount arrangements at one or more decent hotels for the out-of-town students.

Make the deal carefully. One “name” instructor, no longer in the business, used to call the host a week before the class to announce he had raised his rate, and if the new price wasn’t met, he wouldn’t come.

Most “name” instructors teach full time for a living, and may require a kill fee or some sort of guaranteed payment if the class fails to fill. You’re taking a gamble, but the positive side of the gamble could be several thousand dollars of profit to your business.

Never forget, it’s your and your staff’s knowledge that brings customers to you instead of some discount Monster Mart.

Some outside instructors will draw new students from your area to your place of business as regular customers thereafter. See my column “Defy Stereotypes to Embrace Diversity” in the June 2021 issue of Shooting Industry. There we talked about Tiffany Johnson and Aqil Qadir, Black instructors (citizenssafety.com) who have been hugely successful in bringing members of their ethnic community into the “gun culture.”

In a similar vein, if you want to increase your customer base, consider affiliating with one of the many “women and guns” groups: A Girl & A Gun or The Well-Armed Woman, for example. Google will get you to them, and thence to local chapters. Guest trainers are part and parcel of their mission.

Ancillary Costs

If you’re offering live-fire training, factor in the cost of targets, posters or tape, ample water for students (particularly on outdoor ranges) and cover from the sun during breaks. The latter may take the form of rental tents. Be sure to have decent toilet facilities. If this means porta potties, make sure the contract includes clean ones. Additionally, make sure there are adequate all-weather parking facilities. (I’ve seen a class cancelled or postponed when rain turned an unpaved parking lot into a hopeless mud wallow.)

For safety reasons, limit advanced tactical classes to students who can show prior basic training: It’s easy for a newbie to get dangerously over his head when performing complicated maneuvers with firearms.

Bottom line? Offering training opens a new revenue stream and gives your business positive exposure to new customers. Even when there’s no ammo to be had, you have much knowledge you can offer to clientele — old and new. Never forget, it’s your and your staff’s knowledge and even mentorship that brings customers to you instead of some discount Monster Mart with a gun department.

Dealers, other than training, what other events have you hosted to keep your store top-of-mind among your customer base?
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