I started my career in the U.S. Secret Service in 1989 and worked for 25 years before becoming an entrepreneur. I was initially assigned to the White House and after several transfers, ended up in the training division a few years prior to retirement. I was one of those people, scratching my chin, wondering what I was going to do after retiring from such an exciting, think on your feet, and fast paced career. What could possibly top this?
In the U.S. Secret Service I protected Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. I never realized how much my role in the U.S. Secret Service would prepare me to become a successful entrepreneur. PLANNING is key. When a President takes a trip, anywhere, there’s what is called “advance work” that is conducted prior to the trip. The Secret Service will send an Advance Team to scout every route and literally every step the President will take, down to his bathroom breaks. Everything is surveyed and researched then resurveyed and researched again prior to the President starting his journey.
The same “advance work” referenced above applies to starting a business. After making the decision to start my own business it was time to come up with a plan. Let the due diligence begin!
One of the biggest enjoyments in my career came when I was assigned to the training division. I LOVE to instruct and teach others. After contemplating this fact, adding in safety and tactical knowledge, I determined that a gun range and training facility would make a great second career.
First, I ordered a market and demographic report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation that would help me decide where I wanted to open my business. Texas was the obvious answer for this type of venture because of their strong support of the 2nd Amendment and being one of the best states in the nation to operate a business.
I visited many gun ranges to get a feel for what was out there and did intense market research. I concluded the typical gun range market was not providing a good customer experience. Time to take a different approach. How would I differentiate my business from the status quo in the industry? I identified two areas that were lacking in the gun ranges I visited: 1. A unique experience, and 2. Friendly customer service.
All of the gun ranges I visited had the same feel and the experience of checking in, shooting, and leaving. The staff were terse in demeanor and ruled with an “iron fist”. There is a high degree of safety compliance involved so I understood, somewhat, the terseness, but there is a way to be firm yet polite.
In 2015 I opened Saddle River Range in Conroe, Texas that offers private memberships to cater to a high-end clientele, a gun range open to the public for those who just want to practice, archery, training classes, retail, a café in case you get hungry, and most importantly, a friendly and competent staff at your disposal for your unique experience.
To sum it all up, when opening a business three things are critical, 1. Planning, planning, planning, 2. Differentiation and 3. Great customer service.
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