Welcome back! This is part 2 of an 8-part series on starting a firearms training business. In part 1, we spoke about getting an instructor certification with the NRA, Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), or a weapons manufacture like the Sig Sauer Academy. Now, in this post, we will be focusing on the Administrative Set Up. This section gets a little bit involved so bear with me as I list the main points. Again, this is not an exhaustive list of things you might have to do to get your gun training business off the ground. Also, I am not an attorney, so please seek out legal advice from a business law attorney when starting your business to ensure you have done everything correctly and legally. Nevertheless, this post will give you a good food-for-thought foundation on the topic.
Once more, here are all the 8 steps we will discuss 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
Administrative Set Up
There are multiple facets to setting up your firearms training business. I am going to highlight the most foundational items.
First, you will need a business name. There are pros and cons to naming your business after yourself versus choosing a company name. Forbes has an article entitled "When to name your company after yourself" that gives some reasons on both sides of this point. The article mainly addresses the matter through the lens of personal philosophy and marketing. Nonetheless, it does give some good insight on the topic. But if you want more information on using your name as it pertains to the legal and structural aspects of your business, then read on because that is the next point.
Second, you will need to figure out how to structure your business. This is a very important step in the business process. This step determines how your business will be run, its liabilities, and its responsibilities under the law. To this end, NOLO.com is a consumer driven DIY site that provides a lot of free legal information so you can do your own research on different legal topics. I am not recommending any of their products, just giving you a place to do your own research online. And again, since I am not an attorney, I will direct you to them so that you can dig through all the available material to determine which business structure is best for you. Depending on the flexibility, internal structure, and liabilities that you want the business to take on directly (or indirectly), you will have to consider the following types: Sole Proprietorship, Legal Liability Company (LLC), Corporation, Partnership, etc. It is a lot of information to process when you are starting your research, so take it slow and check NOLO’s Business Formation page to give you an overview of the different choices.
Third, it is a good idea to open a business bank account. Although you may not be legally bound to keep personal money separate from business money (depending on your structure and legal requirements), it is still a good practice to keep the funds separate. When I was first starting out, my accountant instructed me to have a separate checking account with a debit card for all my business transactions. He also told me that having a debit/credit card was the easiest way to track expenses for tax time. This was due to the itemized statements you can get from your bank/credit card company at the end of the year. This method of tracking expenses works for me. I only have to print out yearly itemized statements (some banks will have items categorized for you as well) which helps me to keep things manageable.
Fourth, it is time to purchase insurance. Insurance is especially necessary in the firearms business. You never know what can happen on the range. Especially when there is major potential for tragedy if things are not conducted as they should be. But I don’t want you to think of insurance as a prevention item. It is a safety net. No matter how you cut it, insurance is a necessary safety net in the firearms industry as well as in this sue-happy society. The preventative measures you take is the real way to limit your exposure. Then, God willing, you never have to use your insurance. So, place a lot of emphasis on ensuring all necessary safety measures are in place, implemented, and adhered to. The measures I am referring to are administrative safety measures (such as having every student sign a liability waiver) and operational safety measures (like layers of safety protocols embedded into your training curriculum for every course). We will discuss these safety measures more in a future post.
Okay, back to insurance. There are a few companies that offer firearms training insurance. I really mean a “few.” If you do an online search for insurance, you will find a ton of companies; however, most of them do not offer firearms industry insurance. It is considered a “high risk” industry and most companies just don’t offer it. And if they do, a lot of them charge an “arm and a leg” for the coverage. And you also have to look very closely at the terms and conditions listed in their policies. While doing the research, I found that some of them (especially brokers) had no idea about the industry and just found me a policy that didn’t really cover me the way it should. I remember one broker found me a policy that was geared for a large security company and wanted me to consider it. He obviously did not understand my training company’s needs, my goals, or even my industry. Additionally, the cost difference in some of these policies are incredibly extreme. For example, I previously had an insurance policy that cost me multiple thousands per year. The positive of this policy was that it included any and all my instructors who taught under my company, Armitage Tactical Group. This was a great thing for me at that time because I had approximately 25 instructors teaching under the Armitage Tactical Group umbrella. However, I began to funnel my product offerings down to focus the company’s time and energy into a niche market which also significantly lowered my instructor cadre. So, it didn’t make sense to continue paying thousands per year. After doing some more research, I decided to go with a company that works directly with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Not only was it more affordable (hundreds versus thousands), it was clear that they really know the firearm industry and the needs (and proper coverage) of gun enthusiasts and firearms trainers. At the time, they even offered insurance coverage for retired law enforcement officers (catering to retired LE that carry concealed). Not sure that is an option anymore, however.
Anyway, I would suggest that you begin doing your own online research into insurance companies that will provide the coverage you need for your firearms training business. Here is a link to one that will get you started on finding the information you need. It is called Instructor Plus.
Well that’s it for this edition!!! I look forward for your return on the next post “Finding a Training Site”. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask me questions or list comments on this post.Until next time, stay safe. - Clint #GunUpStayReady