Marty eJournal column pix

by Marty Hayes, J.D.

I have to admit, I am at a loss for a timely and energizing topic to write about this month. So, how about I give the “State of the Network” message a month early?

The condensed version is that the Network has never been stronger!

The detailed version is that we have $1.7 million in our Legal Defense Fund, with a healthy cash reserve for unexpected operating expenses. Despite this success, we continue to operate our business very conservatively, so as to not be over extended and put this cash reserve at risk. In fact, we operate on a cash basis. If we want or need something, we decide if we can afford it, and if we really do need it we make the purchase. We do not borrow any money ever, never have, and don’t expect to in the future.

We have only two Network members with cases that are active. One is very new, and we do not expect the other to be resolved any time soon. (There are reasons; obviously with the case ongoing, we won’t discuss it.) We have recently finished a couple of other cases, with one, a shooting, going to a grand jury which determined it was a justifiable homicide. We have finished up another where the member displayed a firearm in the face of threatened unlawful force. In that case, our member was never charged, and the statute of limitations has run out, so it is now officially over.

We are blessed with a membership that takes use of force in self-defense seriously. We are averaging only two to three member-involved self-defense incidents per year, despite the growing membership numbers. Our success largely hinges on the Network Affiliated Instructor program, where over 300 instructors continue to recommend membership in the Network to their students.

Since we’re discussing membership numbers, we are now over 17,000 members and continue to grow at a steady pace. Part of that success has to do with the Network’s phenomenal renewal rate of over 80%. This is unheard of in a membership organization, especially one which doesn’t do automatic renewal payment withdrawal. We looked into auto-renewal a few years, and unfortunately, the cost of implementing it for the $7.92 monthly charge on a credit card didn’t pencil out and we chose not to jack up dues to implement it. I am not saying we will never do this, but at the moment, it is not on the horizon.

One on-going frustration we face, and one you all could help out with, is that the Network keeps being erroneously called “self-defense insurance” and gets lumped in with the other companies who compete in this marketplace but have a traditional insurance component attached. This insurance component either insures the parent company against a member’s claim for financial assistance, or they are selling insurance policies. I NEVER wanted to get involved with the insurance concept, because insurance companies are regulated by 50 different insurance commissions. In fact, I know of three of these companies that have had to stop selling their product in at least one, if not in two or three different states. So, where you could help us out, is that if you see us referred as “self-defense insurance” on the Internet or described in person as insurance, please politely make the correction. We are a “member benefits program” not self-defense insurance.

Okay, that pretty much sums up my State of the Network message for this year. As I write things like this, I often wonder if people wonder why we share so many details of our business, details which could possibly benefit the competition. Here’s the reason: we have always run the Network like an association with a large membership, not as a private company. Try to get some of these kinds of details from some of the competition, such as details about membership growth, renewal rates, financial stability, etc. Probably won’t happen. But I believe our members, especially the multi-year members, deserve to know just how solvent we are, and if we are going to be around for a while. It is kind of like the old adage that if you tell no lies, you never have to worry about what you told someone. That is us in a nutshell.

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