Dueling Venues

Dueling Venues  (3/12)

By: Frank Neumayer

 Anyone who’s been involved in the shooting sports, and has been a member of a gun club for any length of time, will certainly have heard the comment that one venue or another is “taking over the club”. This is definitely not a new statement or debate. I first encountered this issue many years ago when, as a club officer and director, several different disciplines were battling each other for some very limited resources. Anytime you have a new and popular sport emerge, coupled with a dynamic group of enthusiasts leading the effort, you’re going to have tension and unrest develop. Unless the situation is dealt with quickly and constructively, clubs or organizations have been known to implode.     


     As we all know, over the last few years, the popular and fastest growing shotgun sport in America has been Sporting Clays, and many of us have heard negative comments aimed at that venue. Not so fast! The root cause of these comments is not Sporting Clays, or any other venue for that matter. The real problem is that many gun clubs are simply not organized, structured, or managed properly to deal with the growth or needs of the venues they already have, let alone for those new ones they want to develop. It all boils down to having put in place a good organizational structure centered on planning, budgeting, and proper resource allocation, as well as having defined criteria based on sound principles. When these factors are applied properly, then each venue has equal standing, representation, and support.     


     When everyone is playing by the same rules, tension will give way to cooperation and resolution.   For continued growth and prosperity, every club needs to welcome and embrace new shooting venues. However, the key to success is in establishing solid operational plans with set goals, objectives, and parameters that each new or existing venue must adhere to, and operate within. This isn’t rocket science… it simply means applying fairness, and leveling the playing field for all the venues involved when competing for limited resources. Clubs need to equally promote and support all shooting venues regardless of the discipline, and decisions should “not” be made just on popularity or demand, but as the result of applying basic cost-benefit analysis, and adhering to some predetermined parameters.  


     Here’s one perspective. I like to look at a gun club as a small business organization with each venue being a separate business unit or cost center. The Officers and Board of Directors of the club manage and oversee all the clubs operations, with each venue being managed by a separate committee and chairman. From my experience, this idea works quite well. At one time, I was involved with a small shotgun club that had an equal contingent of rifle, pistol, and black powder shooters, coupled with a robust component sales business to the members as well as the public. We established separate committees for each venue or business unit. The directors outlined some basic governing criteria that each venue had to operate within, and each venue developed their own “Operational Plan” including a budget, based on that criteria. Tension and unrest soon gave way to cooperation and mutual respect.  


     Growth and expansion of any venue must be supported by a detailed business plan that will answer all the necessary and pertinent questions. Think of it as finding answers the questions of: Who; What; When; Where; Why; and How Much? Remember, all assumptions and projections must be based on reality and not just on the hopes, and desires of a few interested parties. In my opinion, any major proposal brought forward for review and approval, must address in detail, the following questions.


     One: Is there a great enough demand or need, from the membership or the public, to add a new venue or expand an existing one? The directors must look at this factor very carefully. They need to determine if the surge in demand or popularity is going to be a long-term or a short-lived situation. Once a decision is made to move forward, it can be very difficult, costly, and disruptive to stop a project.       


     Two: Will the venue generate enough income to support itself, and how will that be done? To answer this question the directors will need a detailed and realistic projection of proposed income. That projection needs to accurately account for the number of shooters currently using the venue, as well as an accurate forecast of the number of new shooters using the venue, both member and public alike.  


     Three: Will we have enough interested members to support the staffing requirements? What are the plans for sustaining as well as growing the venue to meet demands? Again, are we looking just at club member use, or are we opening the venue to the public? From my experience, this factor is one of the hardest to maintain or project. That’s why it’s imperative that extra effort be used to acquire realistic and accurate facts, figures, and data.  

     When a club is faced with dueling venues, it’s the officers and directors responsibility to inform and educate the membership that all venues are treated equally and with respect. That’s why a good organizational structure is so important. When resources are allocated out of the club’s general fund to support one venue over another, it must be based on sound and realistic plans and proposals. Simply put… if all the right questions “have not” been asked or answered, and then the project or proposal can’t go forward. Justification, balance, and fairness must always be the basis for allocating any and all competing club resources. As we continue to enjoy the shooting sports, be thankful that we have such a variety of clubs and venues to choose from, and that’s why shooter support is so critical.


     Next time you hear the comment that one venue or another is “taking over the club”, remember that every shooting venue has value and worth to the shooting community. The key to successfully addressing a comment like this is through education. The club leadership must show that the decisions for all venues are made through an analytical, fair, and balanced approach. That all the right questions “have” been asked, and properly answered before plans are put in motion. Also, anytime a member hears or sees something that doesn’t seem right… go to a board meeting or general meeting and express your concerns. Ask some of the questions I’ve mentioned here, and then be willing to help find the answers. Remember, the success or failure of your club is every member’s responsibility.   


     If you’d like more information visit my website at www.claybrakn.com , or if you have a specific question send me an email at claybrakn@msn.com and I’ll do my best to get it answered.   


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