– Special thanks and acknowledgements to Jeff Chastain of NotToday Firearms Training (Nottoday.us) for contributions to this article.
Competition in the Concealed Carry Instruction Arena
Within the concealed carry training community, there is a great deal of competition. Every instructor out there believes the program he/she teaches has great worth and they in turn have great wisdom to teach and that wisdom has an associated dollar value. There are hundreds of instructors in each region/state competing for the business of a finite number of students. This is a good thing.
Competition is a great motivating tool. It drives us to succeed beyond a minimum level of effort. Competition forces us to constantly improve. It encourages us to draw upon our strengths and to specialize in areas where we can differentiate ourselves from the rest of whatever group we are being compared.
Competition is a powerful, natural force which helps to creatively develop new and improved concepts and market techniques.
Competition among instructors can be difficult. Some instructors offer:
- lower course fees to attract more students
- more content to increase the value of their classes
- smaller class sizes that have more individual attention
- classes at non-traditional times which are more convenient to a target segment of the student population.
These are examples of positive ways to compete and attract students.
Unfortunately, there are always those who attempt to limit other instructors’ ability to compete. There are some who:
- Defame competing instructors in order to shift business away from their competitors.
- Regularly engage with legislators with the goal to create protectionist laws and regulations which limit the ability of others to compete.
These are examples of negative (I could even go as far as unethical) ways to compete and attract students.
Negative tactics threaten to eliminate sources of new ideas, availability of courses, value for students and improvements in the methods/concepts of instruction.
I am a free market capitalist at heart, and I enjoy making money teaching defensive firearms classes, and then spending that money on ammunition, guns and more importantly on training classes for my own personal development. But, I have a responsibility to my students to behave in a responsible and ethical fashion. As firearms instructors, we are role models into the world of defensive firearms training and the shooting sports to our students.
Competition, while valuable, should not be a dividing force.
The Community of Concealed Carry Instructors
The community concept should be important to all firearms instructors. Within the community, we have the ability to:
- help each other improve.
- learn from others experience.
- test our ideas within a group of individuals who are knowledgeable in the field we are hoping to influence.
- to borrow ideas and concepts, and to credit those concepts to whomever we learned them from or from whom they were originated.
No one has ever had their business harmed by crediting those who helped us get where we are. In fact, giving credit often adds to our credibility as instructors and demonstrates ethical behavior which helps to gain the trust and respect of our students.
Within the community, there are ranges of knowledge and skills. Some individuals have an exacting knowledge of the legalities surrounding concealed carry and defensive firearms usage. Some individuals are fantastic about breaking down the physics and bio-mechanics that help to develop great shooters. Other instructors may have great insights into public speaking, adult education and presentation. With such a wide ability of talents, it only makes sense to openly collaborate and learn from our peers in order for us all to benefit.
Competitiveness should never overcome the ability to recognize the positive contributions and ideas of another instructor.
If you have ever attended an instructor development course, or a new credential course filled with instructors who have already been teaching for a significant period of time, you will undoubtedly start to adopt new ideas and new teaching styles during the group critique phases of the course. You will see the benefits of how another instructor presents an idea, even if the content or concept is not new or unique, and you may adopt that idea or style. In turn, as you present or teach a concept, you will present ideas, concepts and teaching styles which may be adopted by other instructors.
When you recognize the value of a fellow instructors and show your respect for those instructors, and then take a step further and form professional relationships with those instructors you encourage comradery.
Comradery is the spirit of mutual respect and good fellowship. It is a necessary foundation of a community of like-minded individuals who have similar goals.
This does not mean that each instructor carves out a little portion of the market and then signs a non-compete contract. This means that while you have similar goals, you respect each other enough to compete in an ethical manner. In sports, this was called sportsmanship. In our firearms training community, this could be called professionalism.
The level of comradery to which you interact with your fellow instructors is up to each individual to decide. Some instructors share best practices with each other, some perform joint classes or share facilities, some form or join professional associations in which to collaborate. Without comradery in the firearms training community, there is no exchange of ideas, and without that exchange the only improvement we can do is in isolation and with our own creativity. Natural improvements and niche markets are created when positive competition and comradery take place within a community.
The Importance of Mentoring
There will always be some instructors who are just beginning their instruction journey and know they need to learn more and seek out others who have the knowledge. There will also always be seasoned and experienced instructors who have knowledge worth sharing. Within the community, it is admirable and responsible for the less experienced to respectfully ask for help and accept constructive advice and feedback. Likewise, it is admirable and responsible for the experienced instructors to give respectful answers and constructive criticism to those newer instructors. None of us were born with the innate knowledge of how to teach the perfect firearms class, we all had someone along the way who helped us to achieve our goal of becoming a competent instructor.
Mentoring Does not have to be Free
Many instructors will share basic information in a leisurely fashion, but at a certain point, compensation for their knowledge is not to be unexpected. Remember, their time is valuable. Skill building and instructor-development classes you pay for as a student is mentoring in exchange for monetary compensation. Volunteering to help an experienced instructor as an assistant/range safety officer is mentoring in exchange for labor (this used to be called apprenticing).
Buying lunch for a fellow instructor in exchange for conversation about a subject he/she has more experience with is still mentoring.
Reverse-mentoring is also highly prevalent within the concealed carry community. This is, where a less experienced practitioner inadvertently helps a more experienced teacher learn a new skill or questions an idea leading to an improved concept. It would be arrogant to say mentoring always goes in one direction. Instructors must be constant students. Seasoned instructors must be open to ideas, new concepts or techniques that new instructors bring about.
The Community’s Needs are not just Teaching
Very few instructors do this full time. Certainly, most instructors have a main job or career and concealed carry instruction is something done on the side. Many of us also have hobbies, interests and talents in addition to shooting. Our skills and identities are not solely built upon the teaching of defensive firearms skills.
While the primary focus of the instructor is to teach, there are many tasks and responsibilities a successful business must perform. Skills like maintaining a website, marketing and accounting, to name a few, are all useful outside of the moments of teaching the concealed carry class.
A professional instructor community serves as a way to connect people with skills outside of instruction. While each instructor is unlikely to be proficient in all aspects of building and maintaining a successful business, we all have skills which may be bartered, traded, or even sold to others in our community.
While each instructor is trying to become as successful as possible, it is important that the community strengthens everyone.