August 14, 2022
Behind The Firing Line: – 75 years of Excellence Isn’t Complicated
Green Top Sporting Goods and Range
Green Top Sporting Goods operates two facilities in the state of Virginia. Green Top Sporting Goods is the largest independent hunting, fishing and outdoor retailer on the east coast, and the range facility opened in 2019 as an extension of the Green Top brand.
Seventy-five years and going strong! It’s not often an operation can make that claim, yet in August of this year Green Top did just that. Just how does a facility succeed for so long? I had a chance to talk to Will Doss, General Manager, and Debra Smith, Training Services Manager of Green Top Shooting Range, to learn a little more about their enduring success.
In talking to the team, it becomes clear very quickly that the one aspect that permeates everything Green Top does is making every effort to make every customer feel like family. Every team member at Green Top takes to heart the same principles that founder Cecil Hopkins established 75 years ago. Let us hear a bit more about how the staff at Green Top takes this mission and converts it into success.
Hank: “What is the key to making your membership program work?”
Debra: “We focus on members having an amazing experience”
Hank: “What does that ‘amazing experience’ look like?”
Debra: “Things like giving them facility tours, monthly member-only specials, workshops, as well as focusing on making all members feel equally important. We do not give members range priority as it creates conflict which detracts from the family atmosphere.”
Hank: “Debra, your facility just recently was given the NSSF Five-star rating. What was the motivation for achieving that rating?”
Debra: “It is our staff that makes us Five-star. We want to do the right things for our customers and that translated to being a Five-star facility very naturally.”
In continuing the conversation with Will and Debra it became quickly apparent that they spend a lot of time and effort listening to their customer base so that they can evolve their business to suit the ever-changing expectations of customers. Let’s hear how the staff at Green Top executes on this daily.
Hank: “Will, what are some of the things you and your team do to support new shooters that come into your store?”
Will: “Firstly, we actively solicit feedback from all our customers, be they members or non-members. Their feedback and telling us how we can better engage with them are incredibly important. We read every single comment they give us from our in-house comment cards and on Social Media.”
Hank: “By reading all those comments, what are some of the success stories that have changed how you do business and how you engage with your customers?”
Will: “Things such as our one-on-one Range Safety Officer introduction sessions have really helped make new shooters more comfortable. We give new shooters a quick 10-20 minute lesson on safe gun handling and proper shooting form all focused on encouraging the new shooter in a positive way. We do this free of charge for any customer, and it has really helped our new shooters become regular customers.”
It is obvious that the team at Green Top is always looking to improve their facilities, but I wanted to take the opportunity to see where they feel the industry, as a whole, needs to be moving toward in the future. Their insights were ones that any facility can be taking action to move towards. Here is what Debra had to say.
Hank: “Debra, What are some things you feel the industry could be doing better to make our industry more approachable to more people?”
Debra: “I see two major areas that we can make significant improvements on. One is that we need to really examine how we treat women in the industry and start to view things from their perspective and cater to their needs. Patronizing women is something we need to stop doing and instead refocus our efforts on adjusting our culture to suit a woman’s way of engaging with our industry. Second, and this goes beyond just women, is that we need to focus on being constructive with customers within the very first moments they engage with us. It is far too common that we embarrass them or make them feel uncomfortable in our industry.”
Hank: “So Debra, how are you making these changes at Green Top?”
Debra “First and foremost we empower our staff to always make it right for the customer. By empowering our staff, it helps make the customer feel more comfortable.”
It is obvious that Green Top has been evolving and growing successfully for decades. They even have the largest Outdoors EXPO on the East Coast, which takes a huge amount of time, effort and solid relationships with vendors to pull off. But I wanted to end the conversation with Will and Debra by asking them one thing.
Hank: “Will and Deb, thank you for the time you have spent with me, but I wanted to ask you one last thing. What do you feel is the secret to Green Top’s longevity?”
Both Will and Deb contributed in a unified way:
“We are a family first and a business second. Everything we do is to celebrate our customers and staff at every opportunity. That more than anything else defines who we are.”
Based on personal visits to this facility as well as engaging with Will, Debra and other members of Green Top’s staff, they have clearly integrated this ethos into both of their operations. Taking some of these lessons learned over seven-plus decades of business to heart could very well improve the success of any business. Green Top’s record is proof of that!
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