Starting a Self Defense Training Company

Interview with Entrepreneur Stephen Cliffe

As the founder of Imminent Threat Defense Systems LLC, Stephen Cliffe is addressing a fundamental need in our society. There are bad people out there, and folks need to learn how to protect themselves.

Self-protection, self defense, personal security training...whatever you call it, there's a market for it.

Stephen Cliffe knows that people don't want to be defenseless against criminals, and that's the genesis of his company, which teaches people how to fight back and win.

His firm is based in Ransomville, NY with a satellite office in Utica NY. We interviewed him via email on his company, what they do, and what is working well for them in terms of expanding the business.

Stephen, tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

At Imminent Threat Defense Systems LLC, we teach military grade combatives to various markets under trademarked curriculums.

We have specific curriculum incorporating our C.R.A.S.H. System (Combative Reaction-induction Assault Survival Hybrid) aimed at defeating criminal violence in the market settings we target.

We have specific material for safe school training that we are looking to offer to enhance the current emergency violence training that is out there and reduce or eliminate to the greatest extent possible, the death rates we see in school shootings.

When did you start the business?

We started in September 2006. We are just now seeking the funding to take this into the market place in a big way as the first two years were spent on curriculum design and infrastructure build out.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

Immediately prior to this I was a teacher. Prior to that, I ran a business for many years as a specialist in providing personal protection both in North America and overseas.

Where did you get the startup money?

For startup capital, I used my coaching stipends and part of my teaching salary.

Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?

The market verticals we are focusing on do not currently have any competitors in the space other than non-focused martial arts style instruction venues and random reaction models (models that "hope" you can get the intruder to react instead of scientifically eliciting a prescribed response). Our educational pedagogy and the material we teach render martial arts non-competitive because we have a higher rate of recall, shorter training requirement (hours rather than days), time and cost effective nature that focuses on specifically proven physiological liabilities that eliminate intent, size and skill disparity issues.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

Far too much time behind the desk and not out teaching. The day to day machinations are a pain. That makes teaching it more special as you get to savor the passion of teaching again.

I've also been surprised at the resistance people have regarding self-protection. The "It couldn't happen to me" mindset is so ingrained it is crazy. People have asked for ways to stop a criminal attack without hurting the attacker, and many fear that they may "really" hurt the person trying to kill them. Re-educating their mindset is really our first job and once that is accomplished their desire and commitment to learn follow suit.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

I wish I had started the funding process earlier so we could have had a concerted sales force that was available as we finished the curriculum development. The hardest part is getting out of the office or training room to follow up the sales opportunities.

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

We engaged a firm, AMP2 and they have been instrumental in getting us into electronic media, social networking, business networking and blogging. Also we have phenomenal success rates, 90+% close rates, with those we get to sample a demonstration.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Don't wait to get sales focus started and delegate. I assumed too many hats starting this thing and had I delegated some of the responsibility earlier, the downtime to bring people up to speed and take over would have been avoided. It would have increased flow significantly.

That's great advice and a lesson that many entrepreneurs learn far too late. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business.

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