So, it’s that time of the year again and Christmas is coming. This is the time of year that people reflect and certainly a good time for businesses to reflect. Reading recently on Facebook about people who have attended a conference run by a friend of mine Marc Ford and his excellent advice on preparing business plans. This advice is so true and every business needs some form of plan. Speaking with Lloyd’s bank some years ago, they were telling me how 95% of business without a plan, fail. Now I hear many Driving Instructors say ‘I don’t have a plan and I haven’t failed’. As individual Driving Instructors, you probably do have a plan. Life is simple, recommends come and you operate in a largely cash basis. Many single operators work like this and it works well right up until the point it doesn’t. Then crash, the pupils stop coming, the car breaks down or some other situation that was not planned for. The story is so familiar to us who have been in the profession for a long time. ADI’s who have been in business for 20 years suddenly find themselves without pupils and cannot work out what happened. It is of course easy to blame the big schools, recession or the DVSA but if there was no plan in place the blame lies quite clearly.
Ask yourself now, what would you do IF your pupil supply dried up tomorrow? What if you fell ill? Could you still manage the bills? What If the DVSA (not that they could) raise the driving age to 18? There is no business plan that can cover every eventuality but many plans have a catch all quality about them. The backup plan could cover other unforeseen situations.
Are you looking to expand? What is your plan for this? I have seen so many trainee driving instructors who joined a franchise to set up their pupil base with the plan to leave and become the next BSM. Franchises are aware of this and some will keep you just hungry enough to need to keep with them for work. Then comes your own fears………Will I have enough work? What happens if?………and you stay in your franchise looking for the right time to leave. This is where the business plan comes in and you look at all the options. Known as a SWOT analysis, this looks at the strengths and weakness, the opportunities and the threats to your business and the best time to do this is now.
If you are looking to expand your plan will probably show you that you will need help. I set up 1st 4 Driving LTD into what it is now to provide just that. It started with the websites for a couple of girls who were being let down by their franchise. In those days, I was still training ADI’s and was director of training for a medium sized driving school. I knew I could help. I helped them set up a business plan, prices, website and enlisted the help of a call answering service for them. Then came another school, this time to guys who had suffered the same fate from a franchise. Today we have many schools and everything is done in a monthly payments so no large sums up front to fork out. Each month one payment probably less than a franchise fee but all the services under one roof. It makes me chuckle to see others offering a fraction of our services and claiming to be the first but hey ho that’s life.
So many of our associates like the fact that I myself (Who might know a thing or two about this industry) is at the end of the phone. We all here have a can-do attitude and look towards making all our associates unique. On our higher package, we genuinely only take on one school per area so we ourselves are not in competition with ourselves when optimising your website. We try to keep all our work as much as possible in-house too. Several years ago, we took our call answering in-house to get the level of service we wanted for our associates. This has enable to offer things like the recently introduced license checking service. On booking a lesson pupils are asked a few simple questions with their permission that enable your office staff to check their licences for you with the DVLA online licence checking service. This information is copied and passed on to you so you know everything is ok. Along with taking payments at booking if you want so to reduce any no shows not paid for.
If there is anything missing from our service that clients want, we try to accommodate it and currently we have been working on campaigns for our schools to take on additional instructors. We have literally been sifting through 100’s of applications for the schools.
Planning does not need to be difficult, you can do it on your own or there are people out there who can help along with ourselves I recommend Marc Ford whose business acumen will lead you onto the path of success and there are others too but chose wisely