Changing the Guard.


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Nushif
November 29, 2010, 11:54 AM
So, after long discussion with my wife, it has been decided that after we finish college we will be moving to Colorado for 14 months and attending a gunsmithing school.
At that point it is a distinct possibility that we may open a gunsmithing/gun-selling store.

Now, something that has me concerned about this is the attitude of the community, if you will.

My wife is 20... something? mid twentyish? and I am upper mid twenties, both of us have visible tattoos and neither of us are in the habit of "wearing our pants around our bellybutton." Which isn't to say we look like a real "thug" but we definitely don't match what the current generation of gun owner (I guess?) considers "professional looking."

We'd most likely open a store in a mildy rural (read: near a small city) and highly blue aligned area, since red areas don't like our political views.

My question here is, as to whether we even stand a chance with the current "average" gun owner in attracting business?

For a greeting they simply wouldn't get a "Good Morning, Sir" as I don't sir and I hate being sired. Rank works fine by me. This is just an example, but how much does one have to behave like the proverbial white conservative male to actually be successful in the gun community?
Other industries have started moving away from the pro forma trend, do you think the gun community will stop with this as well?

I, of course, don't intend this to be a mudslinging fest, but rather a discussion about two things:
1. How much does the gun community look to outward behavior as signs of professionally or respect and
2. Does a semi-hippie couple who loves shooting and has started to work around guns stand a chance?

Thank much, let's try to not get this thread locked. I know it contains a smattering of politics, ageism and the like but it'd be foolish in this case to not call an elephant an elephant. I would like a realistic answer here.

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G27RR
November 29, 2010, 12:00 PM
How do you greet them if you don't use sir? Serious question, since you don't know them, you can't use their name, so what do you use? Or do you not plan to greet them? Just curious.

While I don't personally care for tattoos, I don't hold them against anyone so long as they act professionally and treat others with respect.

CraigC
November 29, 2010, 12:06 PM
Your appearance is important but your attitude will have more bearing on your success than anything. I'm a 36yr old conservative white male but there are a lot of conservative white male gun shop owners and employees that rub me the wrong way. That is because they may know a lot about guns (usually not), they know nothing of dealing with the public. I learned a long time ago not to go to gun shops for answers on anything but pricing. So friendliness and willingness to help are more important than knowledge. In other words, leave your ego out of it.

Your politics won't be an issue unless you make it one.

geekWithA.45
November 29, 2010, 12:07 PM
but how much does one have to behave like the proverbial white conservative male to actually be successful in the gun community?

Oh, please.


Knock it the heck off.

Most of us are freakin' mutants.

If you can manage any recognizable version of friendly, courteous, attentive and nonhostile, you'll do fine.

Mags
November 29, 2010, 12:08 PM
Sorry pal I am sure you are a good guy and all but if you work in a store you greet customers as such. I also would not give my money to a "hippie". I would feel my money would fund a different agenda than my own. I am also in my mid twenties and believe a real man dresses as such and pulls his pants up and wears a belt, maybe even tucking in his shirt if the situation dictates. So for those reasons I would walk in and walk out, after not receiving a "hey how you doin?" from the slob "boy" with his pants around his ankles.

Sam1911
November 29, 2010, 12:10 PM
Depends on a couple of things, in my humble opinion.

1) How much of your work is going to be store-front, walk-up business -vs.- on-line trade? Obviously, if someone can't see you, they can't denigrate you for your appearance.

2) What kind of community will you be trying to establish yourself in? Goes back to the store-front trade question obviously, but there are some spots in the country where the gun culture is a little fresher, hipper, younger, etc. and some where it is very staid, sedate, and traditional.

3) What kind of work are you planning to do? Build competition "race" guns, 3-gun carbines & shotguns, black rifles? Build custom hunting rifles? Build traditional Pennsylvania long-rifles? Re-time and refinish Colt revolvers? Drop in light connectors in Glocks? Various types of work brings with it broadly different sets of clientèle.

4) (Most important!) You may not want to "Sir and Ma'am" folks much, but the professionalism of your demeanor can make or break you. Look, act, and speak like a slob, and few folks are going to want to entrust you with their herilooms and treasured posessions (that might blow up and kill them if you do something wrong!). Look sharp, organized, intelligent, treat folks with absolute honesty, and speak to them all politely, and most will be willing to overlook a little ink that's maybe not to their own taste.

5) You know you have a bit of a hurdle to overcome because of your choice of artistic expression. Don't let that be a chip on your shoulder. If your proud of who you are and confident in your own skills and worth, you can afford to be the nicest, most professional guy your customers have ever met.

Good luck!

preachnhunt
November 29, 2010, 12:10 PM
If you treat people with respect,run a good shop with decent prices ,and don't make an issue of looking different from the norm, I don' think you'll have much problem.

Nushif
November 29, 2010, 12:11 PM
How do you greet them if you don't use sir? Serious question, since you don't know them, you can't use their name, so what do you use? Or do you not plan to greet them? Just curious.

I mostly use a "Hey." or a "What's up?"
Sometimes I offer up a "How you doin'?" or very annoyingly cheery "Morning!" no matter the time of day. The "Morning!" is probably my most common when in uniform and dealing with my fellow peers.

Mags
November 29, 2010, 12:14 PM
don't make an issue of looking different from the norm, I don' think you'll have much problem.

^^^ This, alot of people who are "different" have this look at me I am going against the grain attitude.

minutemen1776
November 29, 2010, 12:14 PM
I don't think you have to portray yourselves as 1950s conservative stereotypes to make it in the gun business. To me, the principal things I look for are professionalism, courtesy, and competence. To look professional, you don't have to be totally clean-cut, so long as you don't come across as a complete slacker. For courtesy, that doesn't necessarily mean saying "sir," but it does mean you should greet customers politely and understand that your business depends on meeting customers' needs. Competence can stand for itself. Just give correct advice and do quality work, and that will provide a solid reputation for more business.

Frankly, many of the gun shops I go to are sorely lacking in one or more of these areas. If you provide all three with consistency, I expect you'll do well.

Nushif
November 29, 2010, 12:20 PM
1) How much of your work is going to be store-front, walk-up business -vs.- on-line trade? Obviously, if someone can't see you, they can't denigrate you for your appearance.

I'd be doing most, if not all the storefront work, since the wife is extremely shy. Actually, she has pills for meeting people excessively.

2) What kind of community will you be trying to establish yourself in? Goes back to the store-front trade question obviously, but there are some spots in the country where the gun culture is a little fresher, hipper, younger, etc. and some where it is very staid, sedate, and traditional.

The community we'd be aiming at is rather young and definitely more "fresh" if you can call it that. It's notorious for that, actually. We'd be looking at College Towns. Surrounded by more rural areas.

3) What kind of work are you planning to do? Build competition "race" guns, 3-gun carbines & shotguns, black rifles? Build custom hunting rifles? Build traditional Pennsylvania long-rifles? Re-time and refinish Colt revolvers? Drop in light connectors in Glocks? Various types of work brings with it broadly different sets of clientèle.

My wife loves Berettas. I don't see anything other than shotguns and handguns in her future. I love my handguns as well, so I don't see us going into the rifle business any more than basic repair work. Handguns, I don't know, I wouldn't be above a smalltime customizing business for Berettas and other less represented brands.

4) (Most important!) You may not want to "Sir and Ma'am" folks much, but the professionalism of your demeanor can make or break you. Look, act, and speak like a slob, and few folks are going to want to entrust you with their herilooms and treasured posessions. Look sharp, organized, intelligent, treat folks with absolute honesty, and speak to them all politely, and most will be willing to overlook a little ink that's maybe not to their own taste.

Well, I haven't gotten gripes about being professional, actually quite the contrary, people are usually quite surprised and willing to deal with me. I worked as a liaison mainly when I was still with he Air Force. And learned a lot of ... tact that doesn't have to involve the strict ritualistic "Yes/No, sir."

5) You know you have a bit of a hurdle to overcome because of your choice of artistic expression. Don't let that be a chip on your shoulder. If your proud of who you are and confident in your own skills and worth, you can afford to be the nicest, most professional guy your customers have ever met.

Well, we stopped frequenting places that wouldn't hire us. Since everyone at Starbucks has to cover their tats we no longer get overpriced coffee, but overall I think I could make a pretty decent handgun smith. Again, I have a history of not appearing unprofessional to the average guy, unless it usually is them who has a chip on their shoulder. The sad part is that well, there are folks out there like one of the above posters who believe the height of the proverbial pants on one's derriere makes a professional.

medalguy
November 29, 2010, 12:21 PM
I agree, a courteous attitude will go a long way. I live in northern New Mexico and we certainly have our share of "old hippies" and "artists" around here, and while I sure don't share their politics for the most part, I can overlook that if they are courteous and professional in their demeanor. The ones I have a problem with are the ones who take digs at my Palin bumper sticker.

Keep in mind, for new customers (all of yours will be), first impressions count. I would suggest you look professional (just pull your pants up a little) and act professional, and everything else should fall in place for you. Knowledge is probably what they will come in for. Just my .02.(used to be a nickel)

Cosmoline
November 29, 2010, 12:24 PM
Most of us are freakin' mutants.

LOL Yeah, that's the truth. Some of the stores are pretty "old boy," but they're not the ones looking for sales. Typically those are one-man operations that are just in putzing along until the owner's retirement. You don't want to be in that batch even if you agree with them politically. Rants about the Democrats doesn't make any money.

I'd suggest you follow the THR model. Keep political rants to a minimum. Focus on providing knowledge and needed products--particularly on the things the big box store that starts with "W" isn't carrying. You want your place friendly, but unlike a sleepy bait store you actually need to make sales--lots of them. So not having the inevitable batch of grumpy old men sitting around carping on Obama is actually a plus. Comfortable, but neutral.

Melding with the conservative gun culture is NOT going to be your big problem. You're going to have much bigger problems competing with the double threat of S-Mart and the internet. S-Mart will cut into your new gun and ammo sales, and the internet will cut into that plus sales of components. Plus there's the economic downturn in general along with the slow decline of hunting sports. When I was in Oregon last year two of the gun stores I visited were in the process of shutting up shop for lack of sales. You'll really need to think outside the box as they say to make it down there. So coming out of left field could be an advantage. You might want to retool to focus on the firearms people are actually using--concealed handguns. Offering a full service facility with testing range, training and CCW classes would be idea. I know of some outfits in the PNW that are doing this. There also seems to be a real need for gunsmithing and custom building capabilities. It goes without saying that you'll HAVE to be 100% on-line. One of the local shops that's survived around here has gotten through many lean months on internet sales.

One thing that always strikes me as odd is how just about all the gun stores ASSUME the shoppers know what the devil they're looking at. They'll have a stack of surplus rifles, for example, but zero explanation other than obscure names. A shop that offered not only a shelf of, for example, Yugoslavian M48's but a booklet explaining their historical significance, would be nice. You don't want to be the type of owner who dismisses those asking basic questions as a "looky loo." I've often wondered why more stores don't offer "starter packages" to new customers explaining a lot of the things we take for granted such as how to clean the firearm, basic stances plus some initial training.

You're also going to have troubles with the local planning commission, particularly in Oregon. I would suggest trying to use this to your advantage. The same ultra-strict zoning has created S-mart free zones in that state.

bigalexe
November 29, 2010, 12:35 PM
The problems I see you having with attracting customers are no different IMHO than trying to operate any other storefront. Remember that guns are essentially deadly and many people put as much effort into buying a gun as they do into buying a car, and there is just as much voodoo superstition about who and where you buy from.

I think the question is this: Would you consider buying from this person an item your life depends on?

Maybe you should look not just at the gun crowd but at the public in general. How does the public perceive you and do they trust you?

Gordon
November 29, 2010, 12:44 PM
If you can drill a few holes straight and tap them quickly and inexpensively I don't care how the heck you look ~!

rfurtkamp
November 29, 2010, 12:51 PM
If your politics become known and they don't align with those of your customers, you'll be in a world of hurt in this business.

You can be wierd, have tattoos, look like hell, et cetera, but people will not spend money at places they perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be aligned with their "enemies" or enemies of gun owners.

kaferhaus
November 29, 2010, 01:06 PM
You only get one chance to make a first impression.

I wouldn't be blatantly showing off the tats or clothing myself in a way that wasn't fairly consistent with the surrounding community.

Saying "yes sir" and "no sir" when dealing with a customer or potential customer is not beneath anyone, it's a very simple form of showing some respect. I do it all day everyday and I'm over 60....

Most people with disposable income to buy "toys" on any kind of regular basis are going to be well over 30yrs old. Those people.... if you have any interest in being successful, are the customers you need to cultivate and convince that you're worth their time and money. Most of those people are not going to fit your "mold" as you've somewhat described it.

Gun-smithing school is not going to make you one..... I hope you realize that. It takes years of experience after the training to become really competent.

In a "blue" area.... you're not going to find the same percentage of folks who even like firearms much less folks that want to pay to have one customized.

It seems to me that you have "authority issues" which have led to the aversion you have to addressing people as sir or ma'am and perhaps to the personal appearance choices you've made.

Also, I assume you've got a couple hundred grand set aside to establish a initial inventory for this gun shop, another 50 grand for operating capital and maybe 20 grand for equipment and fixtures? And your market research has shown you that the competition in this area is ripe for a new enterprise?

With local shops going under all over the country, the attitude you seem to have and the geographic area you've chosen.... it ain't lookin too good for you.

would I buy from you? I dunno. Maybe.... but you'd have to act like you wanted my business and have some manner of a professional appearance. Body art is for your enjoyment.

The fact is most people are not put off by a tat or two, but when you start getting into the sleeves, necks etc. Most people just don't want to be around you.

Again it's the first impression.... you could be a great guy that I'd like to be buds with...

Most of the time you will never get past that first impression.

SSN Vet
November 29, 2010, 01:20 PM
but how much does one have to behave like the proverbial white conservative male to actually be successful in the gun community?

Well, if your customers stereo type you as much as you have just stereo typed the "gun community" (whatever that is), I'd say you don't stand a chance in hell.

Sounds like you've got a huge chip on your shoulder to me....

One common sentiment you'll find on all the "gun store" threads is that customers, who are considering parting with their hard earned dollars, don't like to be disrespected.

If you can't treat people with courtesy, respect and an open mind, then I'd suggest running your business on line.

788Ham
November 29, 2010, 01:22 PM
I live about 25 miles West of Denver, the big box stores around here deserve what they get, nothing from me! There used to be two of the biggest sporting goods stores in the Rocky Mtn. West, they sold off to a conglomerate, they've been sold twice since then, get the picture? In the city I live in, there isn't a gunsmith anywhere around, 20 miles North of here, my buddy told me of one, a very good one too, although I'd like one closer, he does superb work, yes, I'll go back. The owner is very professional, used to be ahead of security for a Western Gov., know his stuff, very polite. I am almost 62, I have tattoos also, was raised by strict parents and also served in the Navy '67- '71, so being polite and using Sir and Ma'am doesn't bother me, I expect to be treated politely, and I extend that politeness without reservations.

My needing gun work is rare, but if I need help, I expect the shop to let me know how long its going to be, how much, and will it be done right the first time! The price needs to be fair also, this I feel is why a couple of fishing stores that were here in town are gone, they gouged the Hell out of everyone who stepped inside, if you weren't wanting to spend $575.00 for one of their fancy fishing poles, "There's the door!" I'm certainly not suggesting any free service when I come in, but trying to make your store's monthly rent off of one customer won't fly either. There is a town 10 miles further West of me, Boulder, I'd not even try to get set up there! They are a totally different breed, guns and gun-smithing wouldn't go very far with that crowd!

Good luck with your endeavor!

oldbanjo
November 29, 2010, 01:23 PM
I think if you look like you are in the Hell's Angel's it would hurt your business. My nearest neighbor's Daughter and her boyfriend are covered with Tattoo's, their 17 years old, the girls mother is a Cop. I have one Tattoo, I'm Retired not job looking but I do think all those Tattoo's will affect the quality of job's that those two Kids will get.

cleardiddion
November 29, 2010, 01:55 PM
If you're looking to do business in Boulder, y'know the whole 'hip' scene and all that it may be a bit difficult.

As far as I know there's one gun shop in that town and it's very much geared towards the older or more conservative patrons. It suites me just fine but not so much for others.

From what I've observed about gun culture in that town, the more conservative folks there are on the look out for ccw items or hunting/traditional long arms.
The CU kids? as far as I'm concerned a great number of them have bought into the 'guns are evil' camp and all that jazz. Not the most friendly crowd that I've ever met.

There's a few other options around the area like Niwot and Longmont. With regards to Longmont, it's a relatively good place (Magpul and Lefthand/Oskar Blues! Whoo) but you'll have some competition. If you could find a niche in between the big box stuff like Wally World and all the pawn shops I'm sure you could get a relatively healthy dose of business.
Just my 2 cents.

2000Yards
November 29, 2010, 02:08 PM
As others have said, your success will depend on much more than your appearance. A sound business plan is essential - and that comes from understanding the fundamentals of business as well as, and perhaps better, than you do your trade.

If you're new to both running a business and the craft of gunsmithing, do you have enough money set aside to sufficiently capitalize the business AND cover losses you will incur until you learn what it takes to be a good business owner and a good smith? Don't give up on your dream - but do understand that a year of gunsmithing may not prepare you to be a gunsmith anymore than an MBA prepares one to run a business (it doesn't, not by a long shot) or a law degree prepares one to actually be a lawyer (again, it doesn't).

Try to make as few assumptions as possible - find people who have done what you want to do, as closely as possible, and try to learn from them. Think about alternative ways of gettting the experience that you need (several people I know started part-time businesses while holding a full-time job that supported them - the couple of years they had a steady income allowed them the room to learn and grow, i.e. make mistakes, in their part-time business that, had they depended on it would have sunk them, financially speaking).

Understand that you may have to compromise if you want to succeed.

Finally, and I can't emphasize this enough - you will be pursuing two entirely different careers - running a business and being a smith. Don't for a second think that the first is merely an extension of the second. Being a business owner can be rewarding, enriching and fullfilling - depending on scale it can be incredibly complicated, frustrating, and if you don't receive the proper tax and legal counsel, trouble. Anyway, you're starting off right by asking those questions. Keep asking and keep learning. Good luck and continue using this board, it's an incredible resource.

2KYDS

Mike J
November 29, 2010, 02:21 PM
If you are competent & polite I would think you can do okay. When I was growing up most people with tattoos were ex military, bikers, convicts or had gang affiliation. Nowadays tattoos have crossed over into mainstream culture & are much more accepted than they once were. Most people can overlook a persons appearance if they provide a needed service.

I don't understand why saying sir is a big deal one way or the other but being raised in the South saying Sir & Ma'am was taught to me as using good manners & being polite. The main thing is whatever term you use to address customers that you be respectful & polite & do good work at a reasonable price. I would also suggest you find someone with more knowledge than I have to help you work out a business plan.

MutinousDoug
November 29, 2010, 02:49 PM
I don't think gun buyers will be swayed one way or another by your appearance; They're coming in to look at your stock and prices.
People who need work done on their guns may have a problem with your credentials as a 'smith. Your diploma from Colo School of Trades is not going to convince someone like me to hand over any of my guns for repair or customizing. The guy that built my Bullseye gun is a one time Colorado State champion PSAC shooter with quite a following for his race guns. The guy that bedded my garand and rebarreled my NRA High Power gun is a Distinguished High Power shooter who went Distinguished shooting the Garand he built against an awful lot of AR shooters. These guys have credibility in the shooting community. They didn't just go to school and then hang out a shingle; they apprenticed for years before opening their own shop and built up reputations for knowing how to build and shoot the guns they work on. Much of their clientele is LEO and the few military who are permitted to carry their own personal weapons. Neither of these guys makes more than a modest living doing this work. (Although neither operates a retail sales operation, they are gunsmith/machinists, not gun salesmen)
If you can afford to cater only to those who don't insist on these high (?) standards, you'll do fine (after you finish paying for your retail stock, safes, machines, tooling and gauges?)

Dr.Rob
November 29, 2010, 03:07 PM
Colorado School of Trades has a great reputation.

Boulder is a very complex place.. a transient student population surrounded by a rural one. You likely wouldn't do much 'student' business. There are a lot of high tech workers in the surrounding towns slowly replacing the traditional 'rural' workers.


Fort Collins has that small town feel without being "Mayberry." There are a lot of hunter friendly businesses, and the locals aren't scared by the sight of open carry or tattoos.

You've got a long way to go between finishing school and setting up shop. There's a lot to consider between the two.

PS I have some friends in Phoenix AZ that complain about 'not being treated seriously' as a customer because they are not c'ard carrying Republicans'. Tides like these ebb and flow. Pretty soon one day the Lollapalooza generation will turn into the 'settling down' generation and a tattoos are as common on fashion models and doctors as they are on blue collar folks.

But if you're talking ear gauging, facial tattoos and facial jewelry you have to expect some degree of reluctance to be hired outside of a tattoo shop/piercing gallery. People just are not used to it yet.

Best to keep a 'portfolio' of work.. before and after customization pics, show off what you do well and really love doing. For all I know Doug Turnbull might have a shop full of dread locked, sleeved precision artisans, but keeps a more clean cut look at the front desk. You'll note while they have modern links to facebook and twitter they still look like a 'standard' smith shop--pics of guys in flannel shirts working. But they show off the work, and the work is what sells.

http://www.turnbullrestoration.com/store.asp?pid=20022&catid=19872

I realize that's a far cry from the average strip mall gunsmith that might spend most of his time replacing parts from a numrich catalog or hot bluing finish worn weapons... but you have to set some kind of goal for where you want to be.

Welcome to Colorado, hope you enjoy it!

MutinousDoug
November 29, 2010, 03:35 PM
I agree with Dr Rob's statement that Colo School of Trades has a great reputation. In fact the guy that built my High Power gun is an alumnus.
My point, which the good Dr made more succinctly than I was able to, is that CSoT is a great place to start a gunsmithing career and an important credential but insufficient in and of itself. HTH
Doug

MistWolf
November 29, 2010, 03:48 PM
Nushif said- The sad part is that well, there are folks out there like one of the above posters who believe the height of the proverbial pants on one's derriere makes a professional.

The sad part is the majority of the folks who wear their pants below their butts are involved in criminal activity. Dressing that way will tend to attract that kind of customer base. Yo, homey! Can you gold plate my Hi-Point Niney?" Having that kind of customer base will drive away the legit guys. Unfair? Welcome to real world.

As for my personal opinion, I think a 30 caliber battle rifle equipped with a 20 round magazine and a self loading 45 caliber handgun are the perfect fashion statements. Unfortunately, my employer (customer) and those who hire our services (customer) feel they are very inappropriate for work. They also require that I wear personal protection- which are total fashion disasters- while on the job. However, to collect a regular paycheck, I abide by what the customer wants.

Easy

MikeNice
November 29, 2010, 03:53 PM
I mostly use a "Hey." or a "What's up?"
Sometimes I offer up a "How you doin'?"

It all depends on how you deliver these lines. There is a LGS I refuse to go to. They have two guys that use those greetings. Every time they say it like they're half dead or going through the motions.

I don't want you to do jumping jacks or back flips when you greet me. I just don't want to feel like an anoyance.

Being enthusiastic and polite will get you pretty far.

DasFriek
November 29, 2010, 03:54 PM
Have you tried wearing your pants around your waist where they belong?
As a gun shop owner most will carry a concealed weapon, With you pants half down reaching for your ankles will surely slow your draw down.
Do they even make AR15 print boxers?

Ok im out of jokes, But seriously i think once you start investing money and i mean lots of money into your business i think you will wake up and make ANY change necessary to make it work and profitable.

I rarely call anyone sir or miss or anything like that, I prefer "Hi, How are you?"

Nushif
November 29, 2010, 04:32 PM
Alright, two things that need to be addressed here are the word proverbial and a bit of clarification is needed.

Usage of this word means that the user, in this case, myself is indeed *not* stereotyping, but rather pointing out a stereotype. Thus this whole <expletive>-storm that's taken off is rather unfounded. From personal experience I am quite aware that the "whole gun community" (if such a thing exists)is not uniform in their opinions. I am asking for a consensus here.

Secondly, as to well, in this case my mode of dress when I say I don't wear my pants around my bellybutton I mean just that. I rest them on my hip bones to be exact, not at the "natural waist" I think it is called, where business standard puts it. This means actually I draw slightly faster than at my natural waist because the gun hangs lower, I find.

Listen guys... All I am saying here is that we do not get taken seriously at all when we walk into a gunstore that hasn't heard about us, we get regularly ignored or treated like dirt at gunshows, even*after* we buy a gun of theirs and one relatively old guy even did a stolen gun check (that of course came back clean) after I told him I just grew tired of my Glock 26.

My wife has the unfortnate circumstance of being similar myself and being female on top of this.

From what I am getting right now I really shouldn't bother because:

a) Until I've gained at least twelve championships and worked on five million guns nobody would entrust a new smith with a gun and
b) Unless I look old enough to be my own dad, I don't stand a chance.

Now, I know this isn't necessarily the case, but from what I gather these two factors are a very important thing in this diaspora we call "gun community."

Mags
November 29, 2010, 04:49 PM
Nushif, I am certain from your actions on this board it seems like you are a stand up guy so please don't take these comments as personal attacks but generalizations.

I often notice people who are "different" love to shove it down your face how different they are. Maybe covering up tattoos while conducting business isn't a bad idea. being a young man myself I find it hard sometimes to conduct business with the old guys at the gun shop/show.

I just started tucking my shirts in this year as in my mind a professional normally tucks their shirt in. I invested in tuckable ccw holsters and a nice ccw belt for shirt tucking. I figured we all need to grow up sometime and big whoop if I have to tuck my shirt to not look like a slob while I represent the RKBA community at an event or gun show.

Again no offense and I don't personally know you but from your posts in this thread it seems you are not all that serious about acting like a big boy and be taken seriously.

I can't believe I need to do this but here is an example of my idea dress for RKBA events. ( the drop leg is just for comps)

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y24/hossdelgado/MePoliceWeek2010-1.jpg

I actually think I would look more professional with some solid color bdu pants, but oh well.

kaferhaus
November 29, 2010, 04:55 PM
Listen guys... All I am saying here is that we do not get taken seriously at all when we walk into a gunstore that hasn't heard about us, we get regularly ignored or treated like dirt at gunshows, even*after* we buy a gun of theirs and one relatively old guy even did a stolen gun check (that of course came back clean) after I told him I just grew tired of my Glock 26.

Ok, you look "out of place" with your appearance, you obviously have a chip on your shoulder and seem to have authority issues... Add to that you're young.

No matter who you really are, people are people... and until you prove otherwise, many folks are going to be of the opinion that "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and acts like a duck..... it's a duck"

That is a obstacle that you and she placed in your own paths. Not one someone else has put before you. Only you can overcome that and I think a major adjustment in attitude would probably be required.

The old adage "kill them with kindness" works.... usually takes a little while but it does work. you should expect what happened at the gun show.... and suck it up with a smile and a "thank you very much" instead of a sneer or sour comment. That will work on people over time and they'll then realize that you're a "okay guy".

If you continue to carry a chip around on your shoulder you and she both are going to end up some very miserable folks. I'd hate to see that happen to anyone.

How YOU deal with people is going to determine you and your girls future in life. NOT how they deal with you. You go out of your way to be polite, courteous and respectful to everyone you meet and those attitudes towards you will change little by little.

Once you decide to move, plan on staying there a long time. Otherwise you'll be "earning" acceptance all over again everywhere you move.

MikeNice
November 29, 2010, 05:08 PM
Nushif,

Be respectful, be enthusiastic, and get involved in the local gun community. That will take you a long way.

I usually choose my stores based on how enthusiastic, respectful, and curteous the people are. It is a huge bonus if they are smart enough to give good advice without being pedantic. If a person would do those things, and try not to flaunt their non-conformity, I would shop in their store.
(What I mena by not flaunting your non conformity is, don't let it define who you are. Some people wear it naturally and it becomes invisible. Others are obviously doing it to prove a point, or fit a style, and it becomes a distraction.)

Getting involved in the local gun scene and doing some competitions will help your busisness. It is a form of marketing. People will get to know your name, and hopefully respect your work. It helps build a clientel even if you aren't winning.

I would recomend you work at somebody else's shop first. It will help you understand the complexities of running your own business. It will also help you build a reputation that can mean more business down the road.

There is a lot more to it than throwing up a shingle and buying inventory. I would recommend taking at least a few classes about small business operations. You should also expect to turn in eighty or ninety hours a week minimum.

Joe Demko
November 29, 2010, 05:19 PM
Being properly capitalized and having a sound knowledge of running a business are going to have a lot more to do with your success, or lack of it, than body art. The world is full of former gun shop owners who found, to their sadness, that they couldn't make a go of it by running a catalog store...and that was true even before there was an internet. You have to have desirable stuff on the shelves and ready to sell on the spot.
Also, I have to tell you that your attitude is such here at THR that you'd have to have a really fantastic stock of guns and at some remarkable prices for me to consider buying anything from you. You seem to be more about making some kind of personal statement than about running a successful business.

KBintheSLC
November 29, 2010, 05:23 PM
...err

smallbore
November 29, 2010, 06:30 PM
Good luck.

monet61
November 29, 2010, 07:28 PM
With all respect; I think this is a silly post.
"Poor me, I'm different, so the mean old public won't like me".
Geez Dude, know your business, treat people fairly.
Get over it.
Again, with all respect...

Sam1911
November 29, 2010, 08:07 PM
Three more points:

1) No one is coming to your shop to see your tattoos. Your tattoos aren't your product/service, the guns are. Don't ask for or allow your body art to be an issue at all -- 90% of your clientele is going to ignore it, or at least overlook it if you have a service and/or products that people want and you treat people as a business owner and salesman should. The other 10% were lost to you the moment you put the needle in your skin, so there's no point to worrying about them now.

2) You are entering a service industry -- even if most of your profits come from sales, brick-and-mortar stores run on service these days. If you don't feel like a humble servant of anyone and everyone who enters your door, doing whatever it takes to get them to give you their money -- you'd better learn to act like you do. :) Life in small business is TOUGH. After not much time at all trying to keep the lights on, you'll find that all the individualist, "I-gotta-be-me," "I did it MYYYYYY way!" stuff is a vague memory, lost in a flurry of "Yes, sir," and "No, ma'am," and "I'm sorry, sir," and "I'll stay late to fix your problem," and "what else can I do to make you a happy customer?" -- and so very on, and so very forth.

3) In the face of a zillion competitors on-line, and probably a dozen in any region of the "real" world, the biggest product/service you're selling is YOU. Trust in your skills. Faith in your recommendations. Approval of your artistic eye as a 'smith. And appreciation of your sales manner. ANYTHING that makes YOU less saleable, needs to be minimized. Whether or not your body art makes you less saleable depends a bit on what & how far out of the local "mainstream" it may be, and a lot on how self-consciously you deal with it.

Erik M
November 29, 2010, 08:34 PM
I've seen biker/tattoo types running gun stores, ex-military/cop, southern family mom & pop operations and one that tries to emulate the big box stores (and by result has the worst employee knowledge base and service). In my area of the mid-south I've came across a lot of minorities and political beliefs but I can not say that a persons ancestry or voting habits ever influenced me spending money in their store. Discreet, intelligent, and friendly customer service is all that mattered.

oldbear
November 29, 2010, 08:48 PM
Simple, you want to be treated like a professional look and act like one. Pull your pants up, tuck in your shirt, take a shower daily, unless you have a beard shave daily. Same goes for your wife. Believe me the words sir and madam will work wonders for you.

CoastieShep
November 29, 2010, 08:49 PM
I'm only in my early thirties. I don't care how you look, or how you're dressed when I come into your store. But if I'm greeted with a "hey buddy or hey pal" and I don't know you, you just lost my business. The only people I'm doing business with that gets to call me anything but sir (or Mr. or anything else along those lines) is someone at least in their 70's. I'm not saying this because I have some sort of complex, but because I treat customers with the same respect.
So my opinion, if you want to do good business, raise your standards, get over your "i'm not really a sir kinda guy" and maybe even pull your pants up a little.

InkEd
November 29, 2010, 08:51 PM
Look. Here's the deal. I am HEAVILY tattoo (hence the name) and you're asking a dumb question. You already know how most people react to tattoos. The majority do not care for them. You knew (or should have known) that people would be judgemental about your appearance. Invest in some longsleeve shirts and pants, if you want to be successful in the mainstream. I wear suit to work everyday. If you want to be a professional then you must dress professionally.

Not to be a cynic but your business plans are vague and I think you need to gain somemore experience in the sales and business world. College is great (I was a marketing major) but if you think you're fully prepared to make it in the real world, your kidding yourself.

Take some gunsmith classes and try to work at a store for awhile. You need to learn the operations of a small business. I wish you good luck. Too many people with tattoos are afraid/can't make it in the professional business world. Usually, it's because they're too hard-headed about expressing themselves. If you got your tattoos for the right reasons (because YOU wanted them) then it should be a big deal to cover them up a work. You know they are there, you know who you are, it's just that simple.

Lastly, 14 months isn't that long a time to establish a business. Best wishes.

InkEd
November 29, 2010, 08:58 PM
There is nothing wrong with saying "buddy or friend" instead of "sir," it's more casual. It feels more "welcoming." Proper manners are important! Your vernacular are a little less. The tone of your voice and most of all the sincerity in your greeting is what matters most. A good first impression is crucial. Look decent and be courteous.

Corporal K
November 29, 2010, 09:07 PM
All right, I'm going to be the hard-case:

We'd most likely open a store in a mildy rural (read: near a small city) and highly blue aligned area, since red areas don't like our political views.
My question here is, as to whether we even stand a chance with the current "average" gun owner in attracting business?

I've lived in Colorado for a long time in conservative areas and liberal ones. You don't stand a chance.

Open a tattoo shop or a dispensary.

danprkr
November 29, 2010, 09:10 PM
Quality work will sell, but first you have to get them in the door, and to trust you with their firearms. I would suggest some marketing and salesmanship classes thrown in with the gunsmithing stuff. Heck, they may help your wife's shyness some. And sales IS a skill that CAN be learned. So don't knock it. Good luck either way.

bikerdoc
November 29, 2010, 09:24 PM
Do good work and give great, friendly, honest, customer service.

hso
November 29, 2010, 09:46 PM
how much does one have to behave like the proverbial white conservative male to actually be successful

Wow, I'm not sure exactly what that actually means. Around here the biggest gun shop owner has guys working for him with shaved heads, pierced eyebrows and stretched lobes as well as button down guys. I've been in shops with several middle aged guys working there that looked like they stepped out of a Norman Rockwell illustration and I've been in shops with folks that would be characterized as "button down", "cowboy", "biker", "hippy" and "alt". Just depends upon the community. Perhaps a college town in a moderately conservative state is a better fit so a broader more varied cross section of people are more familiar.

Being courteous to customers is a requirement for any retailer. No one who doesn't want to be bothered being courteous can succeed, but what form that courtesy takes varies from place to place. "Hello Sir", "How Y'uns Doin?", or just "Howdy", "Mornin/Afternoon" could be equally courteous depending upon the community.

How you look will matter a lot less than how you behave towards your customers, but you already know that your appearance is an issue generally. InkEd has given you some excellent advice about minimizing negative reactions to your appearance. You'll need to let people get to know you before they'll accept every aspect of your appearance.

Remember that each and every one of your customers is providing money they worked hard to earn and you should expect to work equally hard to earn it from them.

Graduates of gunsmithing schools will be told that graduation is just the beginning of their education. A few years working under a well recognized gunsmith doing an apprenticeship is expected. If they're good they'll get to be recognized locally. Opening your own shop means needing enough capital to survive the first 3 years with little coming in. It means having enough capital to purchase enough equipment and inventory. Under-capitalized businesses do not survive very well.

You should plan on working at a shop to learn the business. If possible, you should work into managing a shop before trying to open your own and you should make certain that you can secure the capital to make a realistic business plan work.

jeepguy
November 29, 2010, 09:53 PM
my first recomendation would be start small. maybe get a c&r license buy and sell at gun shows. much lower overhead you can work during the week to pay your bills and do the gunsmithing/selling on off hours. unless your lucky enough to get hired on by a existing gunsmith shop. buying & selling could be a fun hobby and bring in some extra cash. working on some c&r guns, guns you take in on trade, & maybe some good deals you find at the show on guns that are not working properly might gain you some good experience. i would also recommend talking to some gunsmiths who have been in business for a while, you could probably gleen alot of information from them.
now for the other stuff, i personally don't like it when i walk in a store for the first time and someone says hey budddy, or hey dude they are not my frind becuse they don't even know me. it is different when im in a store where they do know me, then it doesn't seem fake or shallow. if i think someone is not professional i might buy a new firearm from them or any new item, but i would not buy a used firearm or ask them to work on my firearms. if for the sake of their own business, they can't man up, dress up & act like a professional then why should i trust them to work on my firearms? you are not just selling a service your selling yourself. becuse your asking your costomers for their trust. best of luck to you and your wife.

Hatterasguy
November 29, 2010, 10:04 PM
First you have to separate running a business from your personal life. Since I'm in my mid 20's and own a real estate development company I might be able to offer some pointers to you.

1. Decide what kind of gun store you are going to be. IE geared towards hunting, milsurps, general, modern tactical, etc.

2. You are working dress and act like it. Tattoo's are a negative in the work place, sorry that's just the way it is. Cover them up, wear a collared shirt, wear jeans. Everyone in your store should be in "uniform" to a point. Simple polo/T shirts with your stores name and logo on it would work fine. Also piercings have to go as well as any crazy hair styles. Your their to make money and run a company, not make a statement. You need to look like and dress to the demographic your going to do business with. Ie I drive a Silverado and wear Carhartt shirts because the guys that work for me drive Silverado's and wear Carhartt's. Showing up in a Mercedes dressed in a Italian suite with gelled hair would be totally inappropriate. However when I was selling real estate such attire was standard fair.

3. Study your market, I'm not even sure how to do this for a firearms store. Maybe find an area with a shortage of stores.

4. Front a profitable niche and exploit the heck out of it.

5. Keep politics out of business unless it makes you money. Your customers don't care what you believe in, if you talk about it you might offend them and lose sales. Most gun store owners are very poor in this regard and tend to express far right wing views, assuming their clientele cares and agrees with them which is not always the case.

6. You are running a business, you are not their to put on a show and make a statement. Your statement is made by how you treat your clients and how much money you make.

Japman
November 29, 2010, 10:19 PM
Nushif said- The sad part is that well, there are folks out there like one of the above posters who believe the height of the proverbial pants on one's derriere makes a professional.

The sad part is the majority of the folks who wear their pants below their butts are involved in criminal activity. Dressing that way will tend to attract that kind of customer base. Yo, homey! Can you gold plate my Hi-Point Niney?" Having that kind of customer base will drive away the legit guys. Unfair? Welcome to real world.

Give me a break. Wearing your pants below our waist = " probably involved in criminal activity?" That is quite a stretch.

TrakHack
November 29, 2010, 10:29 PM
Make your tattoos less memorable than the depth of knowledge you possess and the level of service you provide. You want to be remembered as that really good gunsmith with fantastic service who has tattoos rather than the tattooed guy who thinks he's a gunsmith.

orionengnr
November 29, 2010, 10:51 PM
You have been offered a lot of good advice here. What you do with it is entirely up to you.

You are the one who made an issue of tats, politics, and pants position, and you did it right off the bat. I had some good advice once upon a time... "Choose carefully the mountain you wish to die on." I wasn't smart enough to heed it at the time, and have had the opportunity to reflect upon that numerous times in my life.

Just my opinion, but it seems to me as if you have an attitude...and trust me, that will always come shinin' through. Yeah, I know of what I speak :)

And others will notice, just as (if you care to admit it) was your intent all along.

Being a young, angry non-conformist worked spectacularly for James Dean and a few others (and nearly all of them were/are in the music industry).

Anywhere else, especially retail? I'm hard pressed to offer one example...maybe you'll be the first. If I were a betting man, I'd bet otherwise.

Please think long and hard before you commit your family and your future to what is (at your present trajectory) a steep uphill climb.

If you have the basic (gunsmithing/salesmanship/people) skills, then long sleeve shirts are cheap, and a modicum of humility/courtesy are not an unreasonable price to pay for success. For evidence, check some of the best-regarded names in the business. They are also some of the most humble, low-key guys you will ever want to meet.

Seriously, I wish you the best of luck. Don't let your ego trip up your common sense. Been there, done that. :)

Freedom_fighter_in_IL
November 30, 2010, 02:20 AM
Having run my own business for 30+ years I can honestly say that you have already been given some great advise.

As to the tat's- I would have to agree with the general public here and say cover them up at least to some degree.
As to the "Hip Huggers" Come on man those are for WOMEN. I, as a male, have absolutely NO interest in seeing your abdomen nor would any other "straight" male looking to spend money in a store of any kind.
As to your comment of being young so you don't stand a chance- WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD! We all went through it (At least those of us that mommy and daddy didn't start us off). Old saying You have to crawl before you can walk You, like most young fellas, seem to think you will be ready to run after you finish school. That just "aint" so young man. You try to run in a small business you will trip and smash your face!

Sir and ma'am- Son I say yes ma'am to my DAUGHTERS! Politeness goes VERY far in the business world and I greet all customers with hello sir or ma'am. Even those I have known for years, know their kids names, been to their house for dinner or they to mine, hunt with them what ever! It is ingrained into my vocabulary.

Long story short (I know, too late), as others have said, knock that damn BLOCK off your shoulder if you want to go into business for yourself because with it there it will do NOTHING but weigh you down and you will surely fail. I know, conformity sucks, but again Welcome to the real world Succeeding in life requires at least a modicum of conformity in a society based on capitalism. It is just the nature of the beast. You eather learn that or go hungry. Those are your choices.

Good luck

Baba Louie
November 30, 2010, 11:46 AM
Hippies with guns! Gotta love CO!

Keep it simple, keep it real. Don't worry about anything except quality. Service is KING! Your word is everything.

Build your own gun(s). Get into local competitions. Win, place or show. Be there. With tools to help fix others guns as need be.

Hunt. Know what your hunting crowd needs and have it ready.

Machine shop experience. Get some. Set up your own small shop.

Do transfers and eshop.

Teach Hunter Safety & CCW classes.

Promote kids and safe firearm practice.

If you're staying in CO, buy a snowplow to make some extra money and help out neighbors.

Stay small but with Quality always as your guide, motto and mantra.

Niche... Build one or two high end 1911s and/or AR-15s, maybe a Garand or M1A. Maybe build the perfect "Bear" or "Tomcat" gun for walks in the mountains, a perfect Elk gun.

Associate with Quality people. CO is full of them. (and losers as well, but we won't go there)

And don't forget hiking, fly fishing, skiing/snowboarding, off-roading and photography.

I envy you two your youth and your dream. JFDI

InkEd
November 30, 2010, 12:25 PM
I forgot to mention in my previous posts that the STYLE AND PLACEMENT of your tattoos will make a big difference in people's reaction. I hope you haven't done your neck, face, head or hands. (If you have you WILL want to wear cover-up when working with th general public.)

(OT: You say you wear your pants on your hips. I hope it's not because you're wearing tight jeans like an emo kid. If it is.... stop it. Nobody wants to see your bulge. It's "European" as in, dudes that wear Capri pants, no socks with dress shoes and carry man-purses.)

I am curious how much you have in body coverage? A tattoo on your forearm isn't a "big deal" nowadays.

If you have a bunch of bright colored flash and trendy stuff you see on TV, most people will shrug it off. They may even want to talk about those TV shows. (sigh)

Poorly executed tattoos are bad. Period. They hurt the art form, make the owner look stupid and further negative stereotypes.

Lastly, if somebody does question you about your tattoos be polite. Remember we choose to make ourselves different. They will say, "that's cool! How long did that take? How much did it cost? I've been wanting to get (fill in the blank). I have this one (shows small piece
usually flash) and it hurt. That's awesome!" End of conversation. Just be nice to them.

Personally, I think the average is 1 out of every 12(ish) people under the age of 35, in the US has a tattoo. The "shock value" is diminished greatly, even in just the last 5 years. Better artwork, positive media, military and a "higher caliber" of people getting tattoos has helped greatly.

Tim the student
November 30, 2010, 12:38 PM
Dress at least semi-professionally (like in a polo), be knowledgeable, be courteous, be honest, don't call me "dude" unless you know me, and you will likely have my business. At least, I won't walk out of the door as soon as I walk in.

MistWolf
December 5, 2010, 01:20 AM
Japman said-"Give me a break. Wearing your pants below our waist = " probably involved in criminal activity?" That is quite a stretch."

I said "Below your butt"

When Nushif talked about not wearing your pants up around the belly button, I thought he was exaggerating. It had me thinking he was talking about wearing his pants low enough to expose his butt. A significant portion of guys wearing pants that low are gangsters. In a later post, Nushif clarified what he meant.

Wearing pants on the hips doesn't bother me at all as that's where mine always settle even with a belt and I find it comfortable- and no, my pants aren't "plum smugglers" either!

Sam1911
December 5, 2010, 09:53 AM
Enough fashion. I think the OP got the info he was looking for. Or got the info he needed.

Nushif, if you want this to continue, send me a PM.

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