The positive atmosphere from ADIs at the recent ADINJC Conference was palpable. The Intelligent Intsructor sponsored drinks evening probably helped, but the buzz in the air really was noticeable; more so than in any of the previous four years I’ve attended. For ADIs and traders, work is plentiful, diaries full and money is there to be made, resulting in smiles all round. Certainly no bad thing, but perhaps it’s an opportune time to add an air of caution!In the early 20th Century, Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said: “Resting on your laurels, is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow. You doze off and die in your sleep.” Fortunately for us, there isn’t a lot of snow to wade through in the UK (famous last words!), but the statement reminds us of a danger for all businesses. I don’t want to be a killjoy, pouring cold water over your success and current financial security, but that success can prove short-lived if you’re not careful. By all means, enjoy
the moment, but be mindful that the driver training industry, like most others, ebbs and flows.

When demand for learning to drive is high, instructors have full diaries and schools across the land are clamouring to train up new ADIs to deal with the abundance of new customers. But, as the number of qualified instructors on the register grows, supply meets demand, then exceeds it. Eventually, there is an excess of ADIs on the road, supply outstrips demand, lesson prices fall and ADIs begin finding it difficult to fill their diaries. Ultimately, the less successful instructors decide to quit. Supply then drops, eventually below demand, and the whole cycle begins again. So, what can we do to protect ourselves against this fluctuation, as well as the various unpredictable effects of the greater general economic environment that we live and work in?

The Harvest

It’s easy to become complacent about the way we behave when it doesn’t take much effort to win business. I learnt how damaging this can be from personal experience. We need to avoid this tendency to take our foot off the gas (excuse the pun), and make sure that our standards don’t slip. It never hurts to review every part of your business to check that you’re maintaining quality – you, your car, your customer service, your professional development and your marketing efforts. If you’re being honest with yourself, is there anything you used to put more effort into that is falling by the wayside? If there is, let’s get back to doing it right. Smart dress, shiny car, attentive, courteous customer service and keep up the promotion of your business. It’s much easier to keep gently monitoring and improving, than to get left behind and trying to catch
up again.

Sowing the Seeds

The current demand makes it easier to win business, and you might think there’s no need to keep your website updated, or your Google Adwords running; work is just flowing in. You might not feel that asking your students for testimonials is worthwhile either, but this is exactly the time to be doing all those things and more, to ensure your name is first in people’s minds when they are looking for driving lessons.  Remember that it’s better to turn people away – or sell the lead to other instructors – than to not be contacted in the first place. When times get tough, you’ll need to rely on the upfront legwork you did when you were busy, and will want to be the first instructor people call. And if you’ve helped out others, they are far more likely to help you out if the going does get tougher.

Nurturing

Just because there’s a stream of new business knocking at your door, make sure you maximise the value from your existing and old clients. Go that bit further to ensure they continue learning after they’ve passed their test with motorway lessons, night time driving and other advanced skills, or perhaps providing regular updates on driving improvements they could undertake, or information they can utilise behind the wheel. It leads to a better reputation for you, more referrals, great marketing potential and even safer drivers on the road.

Crop Cycles

With all this business coming in, perhaps it’s time you considered bringing someone else on board? Or alternatively, speak with other instructors you respect about creating a consortium/cooperative that can pool resources, share costs and help protect each other when the tide changes. Work together, and together you’ll work.

Farming the Future

You know the saying “The rich just keep getting richer”? There’s a good reason for that; when clever people make money, they don’t sit back and spend it all, but rather they invest in their futures and continue to work hard, making their money work for them. The more they make, the easier it is to make more. They never stop, and neither should you. As an aside, I want to finish by asking you all not to answer calls while you’re on a lesson. Too many do, and that’s just from my personal experience of calling them. It’s scary, illegal and very worrying, putting you, your student and other road users at risk. It can cost you 6 points, £200 and ultimately your business. And that also means one less reader of my articles!