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Editorial: Lancaster County business shows how to grow

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In real estate, the mantra is “location, location, location.” If you're competing to sell products, “service” should be your byword today. And that means knowing your customers so well you can anticipate their needs.

Fewer industries have been subjected to the uncertainty of changing public perception, coupled with potential government regulation, than the firearms industry. As if those issues weren't challenging enough, the demographic ground in the gun world has been shifting dramatically.

Hunting, traditionally a mainstay, male activity of gun ownership, only recently began to reverse its steady decline. Over the past decade, the main reasons gun owners give for having guns has shifted, from hunting to personal protection. At the same time, recreational interests have moved from the great outdoors to more-controlled environments.

That may explain why women are claiming an increasing share of the gun-buying market — with the number of women participating in target shooting doubling since 2001. They say they find the sport empowering, stress-relieving and good for developing concentration.

One midstate couple, understanding all this, seized the opportunity to grow a business and transform it. Dave and Tara Dunn took over Trop Gun Shop in Lancaster County in 2011 and, since then, doubled its physical size, expanded its operations in multiple directions, opened an online sales channel — and added an espresso bar, club and gym.

Looking at who their growth customers would be — novices and women — they set out to support an attractive lifestyle rather than be content to just sell products and send customers on their way. In the process, the Dunns doubled their workforce, no mean feat in today's economy, and 2013 revenues were up 500 percent over 2011.

The Dunns' strategy has take-aways for all businesses.

The first is to look ahead. Trop Gun Shop's transformation didn't happen overnight. It required vision, a plan and hard work.

The second is to forge ahead. Whether your industry is facing regulation, competition from new business models, public relations challenges or the inevitable changes in customer habits, it can be too easy to adopt a victim mentality and pull back. The Dunns didn't.

Finally, how can you turn a one-time purchase into a lifelong relationship? Not every business can provide camaraderie, training and a sense of personal accomplishment to its customers. Sometimes a widget is just a widget. But all can offer that extra-special something.

All businesses encounter obstacles to success. The winners face them down with forethought and energy.

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