I get a lot of email, Facebook messages and forum comments from people asking when there’s going to be a Combat Focus® Shooting course in their area. I usually tell them to check the calendar at the www.icetraining.us website to see where we’re going to be. You’d be surprised how many people go to the effort of finding me on the Internet, but don’t use a search engine to see if they can answer their own question. If it turns out that we’re not planning on being in their area in the near future, I suggest that they host a course.
Hosting a course can be a great way to get the training you’re looking for, usually for free, without having to pay for a night in a hotel, take a long drive or worry about traveling with guns and ammo. Almost every national-level instructor I know will travel to a group of students under the right circumstances, and most of us actually don’t have dedicated facilities anyway … so we need hosts! While I can’t speak for all professional traveling instructors, I can offer some general guidelines to get you moving in the right direction to host a course in your area.
1: Get Online
If you’re reading this article, you have internet access … use It. With your search engine of choice, find the instructor’s web page and see if they have information posted regarding the process of hosting a course at your local range. There might be an important piece of information there that can make or break your bid to bring your most highly anticipated instructor to your home town. There may be specifications for range facilities, limitations on the number of students (min or max), restrictions on the times of year or the types of classes that can be run. Suffice to say, if the instructor in question has a simple set of rules, they are probably available online, at their website or in a discussion forum somewhere.
2: Contact the Instructor
Contact the instructor (for the purposes of this article, insert “company” where I have instructor if there isn’t a person in particular whom you’re interested in hosting) and let them know about your interest. If you already have a specific venue or time of year in mind, tell them that. If you already have a group of people committed and ready to place deposits or pay in full, include that also. Basically, anything you think might be enticing or important to the instructor should be in your initial email. Otherwise, you’ll spend more time writing another email later. Chances are that if you want an instructor to come to you, so do other people. If you’re more organized and seem like you have things moving in the right direction, you might get the nod for a valuable piece of “good weather weekend” territory on the calendar.
3: Follow the Instructor’s Guidelines
Follow the guidance that the instructor gives you. If you are told that the only time of year available is October through December and that won’t work for you, a polite “Sorry, we can’t do business” is always appreciated. Asking to be put on a contact list in case things change is never a bad idea, but at the end of the day, if the instructor’s requirements and your ability to meet them don’t mesh, it won’t work out. If there are timelines, other people in the instructor’s company whom you need to deal with, requirements for written documentation or agreements … whatever their business model calls for, just follow along or accept when it won’t work. If you think you have a legitimately unique situation that bears consideration, explain it professionally and thoroughly to the instructor, and he might be able to accommodate you. But keep in mind that if the instructor is running 30 or 40 courses per year, having to make 30 different sets of arrangements in regard to finances, deadlines, ranges, targets and all the other variables will be close to impossible.
4: Be Clear About Expectations
Make sure there is a clear understanding about how the money will flow, how registrations will be handled, how expenses (range, instructor travel, targets, etc) are being covered and whose responsibility they are, and the specifics of the requirements that were discussed in step three above. Be very clear and be upfront if you don’t think you can meet your obligations as host. This step includes liaising with the actual range facility and/or classroom. If you control the venue yourself, this step is easy and obvious, but if you’re working as a go-between for a visiting instructor at a local range, be sure they understand what their responsibilities are and what they’re getting out of the deal. They should also know exactly what type of training is going to be conducted and have specifically approved the activities ahead of time. While you may not need a written contract or formal agreement, having one summary email that lists the responsibilities of all the involved parties is a good idea.
5: Help With Marketing
Once the date is set, help market the course. If it fills up, you’ll be a hero to the instructor and the people who attend the training and know that you helped. If the class just meets the minimum number of students, of course any professional instructor will put on a great course, but will also likely have at least a fleeting thought about another class with a different host that had a waiting list at the same time a previous year in some other place. A full class is a great experience for everyone involved. Most successful instructors have a very good idea of what the optimal number of students for their programs is and will be honest about how many people they can handle.
6: Assist With Class Logistics
Be prepared to assist with logistics during the class. In exchange for a share in the revenue and/or your training slot(s), you should expect to do a little work during the class helping the instructor and other visitors find restaurants, lodging and supplies. You should know ahead of time where to recommend for lunch (many hosts of my courses prepare a handout that includes a list of places close to the range and some basic directions), dinner and items like ammunition or a new holster, should they be necessary. Your major responsibilities, such as preparing target stands, should have been spelled out in step four. The little things that naturally fall under “hospitality” should go without saying … but based on my past experiences, I’m mentioning them anyway.
Following these six steps should lead to a successful hosting experience. Hosting a class can be very rewarding and can result in more training and even a little bonus revenue stream from time to time. The firearms training world is a relatively small community. If you get a reputation as a great host, you might be referred to other instructors or even have instructors contact you directly. I know a lot of guys who have been able to attend a course or two a year from some of the top instructors in the world simply by taking the steps to establish good relationships and act as a good host. Some even have enough proceeds to pay for their ammunition for the course and follow-up practice!