February 28, 2018
Your Range and Training — The Integrated Approach
I’ve seen just about every variation of training program integration you can imagine. I usually teach on about 40 to 50 ranges a year and visit a handful more for my own recreational shooting, practice, video shoots or other industry events. I’ve kept up that pace for about a decade. Prior to that, I traveled less but I consulted with many ranges and operated a facility in Colorado during the mid-2000s that earned Five-Star status from the National Association of Shooting Ranges and was awarded Range of the Year in 2007.
With all that time on the range and consulting with ranges, I definitely have some thoughts about which approaches work best for different types of facilities and for achieving different goals. When the NSSF asked me to share some of my tips with its Member ranges, I was honored. So this is the first in a series of articles we have planned for you, and I’m starting out with the most important tip I can offer: Don’t isolate your training program from the rest of your range business!
Training programs must be a part of your range’s business and operational plan — and I’m not just talking about the revenue stream and scheduling details. Training programs that are integrated mean they support and are supported by other aspects of the business: retail, membership, non-member shooters and your advertising. If your range staff provides all the training at your facility, much of this integration probably happens already, but if you simply rent your bays and classrooms to outside instructors, you may not be hitting on any of these areas. Let’s take a look at how, especially if you fall into the second category, you can make your training program as identifiable with your good reputation as are your retail facility and your knowledgeable staff.
Advertise Your Training Opportunities
This one seems like a no-brainer, but I am constantly surprised at how many ranges don’t integrate training opportunities into their social media, signage or other local advertising in radio, local magazines, etc. Why? Because many ranges look at training provided by outside instructors as a 100-percent positive revenue stream. They don’t pay the instructor, the classroom and range are already there, and they collect most of the fees from those attending the classes. However, by taking some of that revenue and putting it towards the advertising (even if only in the man hours it takes to promote through social media to your established audience), you will be helping to increase participation in these training classes and, therefore, revenue. In other words, helping an instructor be successful means they are more likely to rent again and that your range gains more happy customers.
Involve Your Retail Staff
I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve worked at or with world-class retail/range combination facilities and witnessed students struggling in classes with guns or gear that they had purchased right there at the facility. When that happens, there’s a disconnect between your staff and your training programs — and both the customer and your profits will suffer.
Your firearms training staff, including visiting instructors, should work with your retail staff to educate them about the type of gear they should be recommending for various classes. Further, facility owners and management must provide the time — and motivation — for their retail staff to both participate in and heed the information being offered, because once those training customers are on the range with the instructor, they are going to be told the truth about their gear and given practical recommendations.
It is a great disservice to your customers to reverse this relationship. Customers bringing gear to a class, gear they’ve just purchased from your store, who are told their gear is either less than ideal or inappropriate for the class at hand will not only fail to succeed in the class itself, they’ll walk away feeling your staff sold them whatever they thought they could get them to buy. Retail interests should primarily support education and training, not the other way around. Sell the people what they need.
Include Training with Your Memberships
Integrating education and training classes into your membership programs can create an interest in future training that can add to member satisfaction, revenue and member recruitment. Remember that education can be delivered in many ways. For instance, while we most often think of firearms training as live-fire on the range, distance education via streaming video, downloads and even online testing for certificates can be a great way to provide no- or low-cost training to members in a variety of areas that don’t require or even benefit much from live-fire sessions.
Beware of Exclusivity
Be careful about limiting the training experiences your facility offers. Even if you have a staff of excellent educators on your team, there will be subject areas that your customers would benefit from and be interested in that lie outside their expertise. Hosting a nationally recognized trainer or other training schools shouldn’t been seen as a competition to your in-house instructors, rather they should complement what you offer and enable you to create fresh promotions and bring in new clients. My own company has the privilege of providing instructor development training and program consultation to a number of ranges, but I always support bringing in quality instructors from outside our umbrella to enhance the education and entertainment of my regular clientele.
Of course, you can’t just let anyone provide instruction on your range. I’ll address hiring and approving instructors in a future article.
Keep in mind that some instruction, particularly in the area of armed self-defense, can be very demanding and deadly serious. Not everyone will like or even enjoy some of what they experience in a training course that addresses the use of lethal force when needed, no matter how skilled the instructor. Be prepared for the occasional unsatisfied customer who simply got in over their head or didn’t fully realize what they were getting into and perhaps offer them a class, even on the house, that would better suit their current ability level and prepare them for future success in such an advanced setting.
You may also be interested in:Hiring Firearms Range Instructors: In-House or Contract?
About the Author
Rob Pincus is a professional trainer, author and consultant. He and his staff at I.C.E. Training Company provide services to military, law enforcement, private security and students interested in self-defense. His background in law enforcement and executive protection lead him to develop his Combat Focus® Shooting program of defensive firearms training methodology.