Ok I am going to wade into this slightly. As DesertT1 noted I have enough business training and experience that I am not coming in totally from left field on this. That training and experience did have me abort after sticking my toe in the water in paintball. On a small scale the cost to reward ratio was not enough for me to feel like investing the amount of time it would require.
Step one: the national figures are interesting and businesses should be at least passingly familiar with them. However a successful business is built in a manner that will allow it to weather downturns while making profit during upticks. IE: "My business failed because of a downturn in the industry" is likely a culmination of other factors. It is easy in small business to get lost in these numbers and seek outside causes for their concerns. Its an interesting thing to do but unless you have some means of control and influence over these outside causes it will not help you run a successful business. Unless you are operating on a national scale your influence on these is likely minimal at best. Concentrate on what you can do and what you have control over rather than what you cannot and do not.
Step two: This step takes some getting used to. Unless you are providing a necessity of daily life and have virtually no competition (or you and all the competition is operating at peak capacity) you are selling an experience
and not a product. People don't buy BMWs because they need to get from point A to point B they buy them for the driving experience, the boost to ego, or any number of factors that have little to do with getting from point A to point B. BMW is not "a really good mode of transportation" it is "the ultimate driving machine". People do not go to watch a professional sports event for the pleasure of buying an $8 beer (or a $5 soda at the movies) they go for the experience of the game. People do not pay $60 a plate at a fine dining restaurant for nourishment. Paintball fields are selling an experience not a product
Step 3 - Learn from "lady's night". While some groups are large enough that they can provide all the atmosphere they need in order to enjoy the game these cannot be your target audience (see step 4). When I go to a paintball field I go alone. Without other players it can be no fun. Your staff and facility has an "optimal number". This is the number where your staff is not overstressed and is able to effiectively do their job (see step 5). You should have some idea what this number is and it varies wildly depending on staff and facilities. If you do not have an idea figure out what it is. This can be done from a pure business sense or from looking around. Do you have a lot of people waiting for games and growing board? You are over the number. Do you have players feeling rushed to get back on the field because you need them to play - you are under the number. From a business side you figure this number by figuring profit - however you must be certain that figuring by profit alone does not cause you to overshoot the number and create bored players or a bad experience. You likely make more per player by having 100 players than you would having 10 due to the economics of scale. However at some point this balance tips. Because players are sitting around rather than playing you start to see a decrease in profits per player. The point where you see the most profit per player (while providing an atmosphere that brings people back) is your optimal number. You do not need to be able to figure it exactly (chances are you do not have a large enough sample size to be exact) but you should have some clue what it is. This optimal number is important to your field. It helps provide the atmosphere as well as the profit. If you have to give away entrance or rentals to get there get there.
Step 4: Know your target audience and do not screw this up
. You know that group of ten guys that comes every week, demands better prices, and appears to an outsider to be most of your business? Calculate it out. Between the interest free loans that tend to get floated (and often defaulted on I would guess), the reduced prices, and various other concerns do they actually provide a value to the field. And how much pull do they have? Those ten guys, if annoyed at the field, will likely go somewhere else. In a group that provides its own atmosphere you are simply providing facilities. They can probably find some farm land, pool together some money, not have near the overhead of your field and play on their own. Be careful how much you build your business around them.
Step 5: Make sure your "sponsored" players and your refs understand their place in regards to open play. Your profits are not balanced on these sponsored players and attempting to do so is dangerous. They can however provide some of the atmosphere so vital to reaching optimal numbers. Make certain that they know their role in assuring that the people who play a few times a year, the parent and child out for their first try, and the players who are not sponsored or discounted have an enjoyable experience and want to come back. I am amazed how many fields do not get this. Do you really think that a team simply wearing your name and competing in some tournaments (often far away from your location) is really so valuable to your business that it is all they need to do? These sponsored players must not use open play as a chance to practice and make life miserable for other players. Use them as a real assett to the business - its the whol idea behind the sponsorship.
Step 6: Do not be afraid to make a profit
. I have absolutely no idea why so many people are afraid to make a profit on what they sell. You are offering the best experience - not the lowest price. Those seeking the lowest price can undercut you by entirely cutting you out and your suppliers have done you no favors in protecting a wholesale / retail price structure. This is disposable income and most people spending disposable income, while they will not entirely ignore price, will buy a better experience for a higher price (generally speaking). There are several models in paintball - from a business stand point the low to moderate volume at a high to moderate price in regards to paint seems to be more effective than the high volume / low price. Obviously the high volume / high profit (IAO when it was around) was an interesting model but chances are you do not have the established base to pull it off. Maybe if you build an atmosphere and the experience over time you will. Do you bring your own steak into a restaurant? No. I'm not certain on the theory behind bring your own paint. If you must reduce prices to some players to create the atmosphere make sure they know that you expect in regards to atmosphere.
Step 7: Why are you in business? Theoretically the answer to this question is to make the most amount of money possible with the least amount of work and risk. While this is a good theory its not why most people are in business. Most people who are actually in business will give life satisfaction type answers (autonomy, they love what they do, etc). The key thing I need to tell you is why you are not in business. You did not go into business to make the least amount of money possible with the most amount of work and incredible risk
. Somehow I see a lot of field owners who seem to have accepted this concept though. The vast majority of small business owners will tell you if you consider the hours they work and the amount of stress they are under that they could make more doing another job - often that other job would be working at McDonalds.
Step 8: Please - before you put any substantial amount of time and money into this venture take a business class.
The vast majority of businesses are not profitable in the first year. Going by memory the vague numbers often used argue most show zero profit for 2-3 years and take seven years to recoup the initial investment. Your accountant will love you for having some understanding before you go into this venture. You may find that you save yourself a vast amount of stress and risk by simply knowing what you are getting into or having some idea.
. Even doing everything perfectly owning a small business means a lot of sleepless nights. It means going home and trying to remember if you locked the front door when you left. It means, in paintball, worrying if little Johnny's parents are going to be calling you because he had a tooth knocked loose when he lifted his mask in the middle of the game despite being told twenty-seven times not to. Worse it means that one of your players who has had no consideration of the amount of time and effort you have put in is going to convince his parents to give him money to open a field rather than going to college. The good news on that one is when he figures out how little money he makes and time he puts in you may be able to buy all the neat new equipment he bought for a fraction of the new price.