by Gila Hayes

As the Network approaches 14,000 members, we should probably stop calling it a small business. Everything in business is about scale. One entrepreneur’s “big” is another’s “tiny.” For example, a vendor writing and selling software for a specific purpose–let’s say databases for educational institutions–may serve thousands of clients, but that vendor is small measured against mammoth Microsoft or Oracle!

There are times when a smaller outfit can provide superior personal service, while in other situations, the bigger the business, the better the backing. The buyer needs to determine priorities based on what kind of service matters most under his or her own situation. For our members, being part of a smaller, more agile organization plays out after self defense when we quickly rally the troops, sending funding at the time it is needed and in the amounts needed to get the defense on the job, mitigating the aftermath of an already bad situation. I don’t think you could better define personal service than by the instances of guidance and feedback Network President Marty Hayes gives to members who call him asking, “What should I do now?”

Network members know who will work with their attorney to get the defense ball rolling. We sometimes share an amused chuckle at the reactions of new members or candidates for membership who call with questions and are dumbfounded when the call is transferred to Marty’s phone. The callers seem stunned and amazed that reaching our corporate president is so easy. Can Network competitors say the same? I know without a doubt that the leaders of the giant NRA will not do that for their newly recruited Carry Guard members. It would be a ridiculous thing to ask of such an enormous outfit.

The Network for years has encouraged members to simply telephone when they would like to get their renewals taken care of and many, many new members come into our ranks after phoning us with questions. Yes, Internet sales are convenient for all involved, but not everyone is comfortable making sizeable purchases without talking to a knowledgeable team member. I’m pretty sure that sometimes folks call just to see if a kind human being answers the phone. I cannot imagine not providing the security of hashing out details with a knowledgeable fellow armed citizen–not just call center employees reading from binders of answers to frequently asked questions. The principle of personal service has long guided our way of operating.

A friend recently related that he was talking with a fellow Network member who expressed concern about renewing his membership because he thought that the competition had become too stiff for the Network to survive. Yes, we take any competition seriously, as columns in recent editions of this journal show. We study what is being offered and evaluate our current membership benefits against competing products. For example, for several of the Network’s early years, we were not in a position to add a bail bond assistance facet to our suite of Network membership benefits.

As soon as our Legal Defense Fund grew strong enough to support it, we added the benefit of up to $25,000 to help members post bail, and in most jurisdictions that will buy a $250,000 bond. Before that expansion, we evaluated what else was available in the after-incident support market place to be sure Network standards remained the best value for the money. That’s just one example, but a good demonstration of how we weigh what members need after self defense and flesh out our suite of membership benefits while staying under budget. We’ve operated with zero debt since 2008, expanding benefits as Network resources grew.

Concern about whether the Network would survive competition from the monstrously large NRA is touching. Here’s the bottom line: comparison shopping is always good. Comparing the Network shows off our strengths—service and support from known and trusted folks, a gold-star Advisory Board, assistance at the time and in the amounts needed, and always a team of individuals dedicated to making sure members get their money’s worth for their Network dues. Since getting a new competitor in April, Network membership growth has been noteworthy. Our membership benefits are shining and armed citizens who have become interested in having support after self defense are responding. 

To read more of this month's journal, please click here.