8 Steps to Starting a Firearms Training Business - Part 3
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Thanks for coming back! We are on step 3 of 8 to starting your own firearms training business. I hope you have taken away some usable content from the last couple of posts. Now, we will be discussing "Finding a Training Site".
As per every post, here are all the 8 steps we will be discussing in the series:
1) Getting Certified as an Instructor
2) Administrative Set Up
3) Finding a Training Site
4) Buying Equipment/Creating Your Curriculum
5) Payment Policies/Collection
6) Advertising Your Classes
7) Testing and Training Your Curriculum
8) Conducting the Class
Finding a Training Site
Depending on your geographic location, finding a training site could be difficult. For instance, my training business is located in California. If you don't know, California is not the friendliest state for gun owners. Additionally, urban areas with the most people (and the most money) such as cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County are very limited when it comes to shooting ranges. Because it is very difficult to find affordable property (plus the enormous amount of start-up costs and restrictive city regulations for shooting ranges in California) there are not many popping up. So, we are basically limited to the ones that are already here and have been able to stay open in this difficult area and political climate. Don't get me wrong, there are ranges that get built every now and again, but renting a range as an outside vendor will always be tough in California (and other large urban cities) because there are inevitably more trainers and training companies than there are available ranges to rent.
It might be a little easier to get range rental time in your area, but there will always be some types of obstacles that you will need to overcome. One of the obstacles that you might run into at the front end comes from the smaller type of shooting ranges with limited space (think indoor range). These smaller ranges make most of their money on individual lane users/renters. They will also have instructors that already work for them, so they will also undoubtedly offer training courses for their customers. And a lot of the time, the classes will normally be beginner and intermediate type of shooting classes. With that said, the range may not be amenable to renting space to you if your classes mirror the type of courses they already offer. It is a simple game of monopoly.
Another obstacle that I have been confronted with is range rental pricing at the smaller outfits. If you can find a larger range (with multiple shooting bays for rent), I would suggest that you look at them first before trying to rent space at the smaller facilities (unless you can somehow get a discount). If you try to set up at the smaller range, you may run into a cost/profit-loss issue. My personal experience has been that the smaller ranges charge an enormous amount for facility use versus the larger shooting ranges. Prices I have actually paid or received quotes varied from $70 - $250 per hour at the smaller outfits. If you do the math, you would have to charge your students exorbitant prices for a simple 4-hour training course. In contrast, the larger ranges I have worked with varied from $300 - $500 per day. Even at the highest price of $500 per day, the larger range facility charge translates into $62.5 per hour. Of course, I know I am referencing California prices (which are extremely high compared to other states), but I just want you to keep in mind that you will probably be able to offer more fair prices for your students and still turn a profit by renting from the bigger establishments.
There will no doubt be some obstacles to finding a usable range for your business, but to minimize the frustrations, let’s recap three main things to consider when looking for a usable range.
- Location – I have found that if you can get range time in a highly populated urban area (most likely an indoor range), you have better chances of potential customers running across your business and offered classes. Especially, if the range gets a lot of foot traffic in their business and they are supportive of your classes by advertising in store, online and through their e-mail/social media distribution channels. Additionally, using an urban shooting range increases your reach if you decide to partner with discount companies like Groupon (I will have more positives and negatives on using Groupon in a future post). Plus, the law of large numbers is in play here.
- Range Size (number of lanes in the rental bay) – If you are using a small range with minimal shooting lanes, this will limit the number of students you can teach at one time. You have to consider this because smaller classes equal less profit. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule; such as a business focus that centers on small student counts, one-on-one training classes, and/or high-end clientele. If that is the case, then it may work for you. However, you may still run into price point problems in the beginning when listing the price of your courses. When starting out as an unknown trainer, charging high prices may work against you. But I do understand the thinking if you want to focus on the high-end or personal experience marketing aspect. For me, I actually had a shooter a few years ago that was an exception to this rule. This guy flew from out of state and trained with us for 5 consecutive days (private one-on-one sessions) and then flew back. He spent a lot of money for the whole trip and it blew me away that he would want to do that. I have another shooter that wants to do the same thing. But again, for the most part, those are the exceptions, not the rule.
- Availability – Range rental availability is key in establishing a consistent presence at the range. This helps you put down “roots” at a specific location and creates a “home range” for your business and becomes your base of operations. Location consistency will also assist in marketing, especially in the beginning, because most of your business will come from word of mouth and active marketing campaigns (which are normally bolstered by regionalization to help build a community/fan base in a specific area). The additional plus is that if you garner support from the range and they help you market your courses to their customers; you should be able to build a decent base of customers quickly. Think about it. The best way to motivate someone to make a purchase is to have another person or organization they already trust give a positive recommendation or review of your business. It truly does help build your clientele.
Okay, thanks for reading. We will see you next time. Until then, #GunUpStayReady
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