Pursuing Profitable Partnerships

You can’t be everything to every customer — but you might be able to partner with other businesses to meet more of their needs.

Pursuing Profitable Partnerships

An obstacle for nearly all hunting retail focused businesses is limits. Limits can reduce the efforts to serve customers — and create challenges to be more profitable. Along with limited floor and storage space, many hunting retail centers also face limited time and resources to serve customers and grow in scope. When you can help customers meet their needs and wants, they are far more likely to return to your business in the future which means more register rings — for you.

As a business, there are simply limits on what you can do and what you can offer. So what is one way to overcome limits? Partnerships.

There are very few businesses where it’s one-stop-shopping for everything offered by retailers — and needed by customers — in the hunting world. Partnering could help you meet your needs and those of your customers. Note that this information is not about taking on a business partner as a co-owner of your business, but it’s more about establishing working relationships that help you keep your customer base happy.

Partner Up

“We have several businesses that we have great working relationships with for things we don’t/can’t do,” says Noemi Skok, co-owner of the Gun Shack in San Antonio, Texas. “Gun Shack takes great pride in the fact that we strive to maintain positive and mutually beneficial relationships with several local small businesses. We feel that there’s plenty to go around for everyone, and we can’t be experts at everything. We are happy to send a customer to someone with more expertise in a certain area. This leaves the customer happy, creates goodwill with both the business and the customer, and hopefully results in more business for us in the long run.” Working with partners can help you grow your business because customers’ needs are met.

The list of partnerships created and developed over the years by Lance and Noemi Skok reads like a directory of necessary services and specialties in the hunting industry. These partnerships and benefits include:

  1. Gunsmithing services with Jeff Lozano, owner of Jeff’s Gun Shop. He has machinery that the Gun Shack doesn’t have and also has many years of experience repairing old rifles. Gunsmithing services is a frequent request by Gun Shack customers.
  2. Gun range requests by customers at the Gun Shack are sent to the nearby Bandera Gun Club. J.M. Clements, the owner does an excellent service, and he’s friendly and reasonably priced. His outdoor gun range helps Gun Shack customers be better prepared for the upcoming hunting season.
  3. Taxidermist requests by Gun Shack customers are sent to Jennifer Webster, the owner at J&J Taxidermy. Yes, she has a female-owned taxidermy business and Noemi Skok is super proud of this partnership!
  4. Training requests by Gun Shack customers are sent to Tim Reedy, the Chief Instructor & Rangemaster with nearby TDR Training. He offers classes plus private lessons. Tim is an exceptional and passionate instructor, and Gun Shack receives nothing but terrific feedback from our customers on him. 
  5. In accessories, Gun Shack has a well-developed partnership and refers customers to Nick, Gangi, the owner of On Your Own 6 Designs. Nick makes custom pistol and magazine holsters to meet demands, and the Gun Shack also carries his products in their retail store, along with sending people his way for anything the retailer doesn’t have in stock.


Outsourcing the Necessities

It’s a fact: the hunting industry offers so much gear, rifles, optics, clothing, packs, knives and a wide array of accessories, plus more, that the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show spans more than 700,000 square feet — roughly the size of 12 football fields. That’s a lot of potential products and goods to sell to customers, but warehouse and floor space create limits and barriers for all hunting retailers. Too much stuff, too little space and time.

If you don’t have the space, manpower or knowledge to handle multiple customer requests on the same topic, try establishing partnerships with other local or regional businesses. These partnerships could include another business or shop that provides firearms repair, setting up hunts with an outfitter in your area, and working with a rental center that offers hunting related gear or other services that you do not stock but your customers frequently ask about. The key to great partnerships is often finding and working with those businesses that are a good fit with your business, can be trusted, and are willing to work together. Not to be overlooked in the partnership arena are local travel planners, local tourism offices, hunting dog trainers, and many others. Partnerships to pursue should be guided by numerous customer requests and your ability to find a right fit.

It is important to remember you put your reputation — and that of your business — on the line when recommending and working with these outside-the-doors services. There are many things that you and partners need to work together on to build strong business partnerships. If they send customers back to your front door, offer to create displays or show their wares in your store, or help with advertising, promotions or events, you are off to a great working partnership. Only time can reveal if it’s a match in the business world.

“We have a gunsmithing partnership with Dick Williams’ Gun Shop in Saginaw,” reports Jeff Poet, owner of Jay’s Sporting Goods with stores in Clair and Gaylord, Michigan. “We send customers to him for services beyond the normal things we do, such as mounting optics, slings and other add-ons. We have always outsourced our gunsmithing, and it’s partnerships we’ve used for nearly 50 years now.”

There are many ways to pass along information to your customers that you have business partners who provide additional services. “Williams provided us with a flyer that has a map to their location, includes their hours that they are open, and lists some of the services they offer,” continued Poet. “We hand that to our customers, but we also sometimes accept firearms and pass those to Williams’ for work.” Jay’s Sporting Goods also once leased space inside their retail center to a taxidermist who met customers and secured business on-site. That partnership lasted more than 15 years.

Good partnerships are also two-way streets for many businesses. “We know that since we are a leading hunting goods source in the region and we have items other places don’t, Williams often says ‘go up and see Jay’s.’ He sends them up to us and hands them one of our business cards that we provided,” says Poet.

Working together to promote products and services that do not overlap in businesses seems to be one key to a good partnership relationship. Both businesses can also keep their customers happy.


Guidelines for Partnerships

Establishing a working partnership with another business takes understanding, trust, and sometimes a contract. You will have to determine how much or how little you wish to work with another business and partner.

A first step is to asses if that person or business shares the same commitment to customer service and values in quality and workmanship. The services they perform and products they deliver to your customers reflect back on you because you sent the customer there. It’s important to also choose a partner who complements the goods and services you already offer. Any overlap in goods or services could become an issue in the days and years ahead. You often have to develop these partnerships over time.

If the partnership involves any exchange of money, information, client intel or other exchanges that could harm your business or customer base in the years ahead, consider writing a contract. This relationship would also involve a level of trust and honesty. You must decide how strong you want to partnership to be and how the partnership improves your business. Many partnerships become profitable two-way streets because all partners took the time to understand the other business, the other customers, and the other services in the beginning.

Your imagination and your current business limits can help guide you in establishing productive and profitable partnerships. The rule to remember is that whether or not any money changes hands, if you send a customer there, it’s viewed by the customer as an extension of your business. Future sales to that customer could be based on their experience with your partner company. If that partner makes your customer happy, there are strong indicators your customer will return to your register because you solved a problem for them or helped them purchase something they wanted and you did not have or stock.

Partnerships can lead to more profits on various levels and at a wide range of times. Pursue them.



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