Thomas Cook was a constant presence on our high street when I was a kid. There was nothing to suggest that it would ever change prior to the surprising news of its collapse last month. It left 9,000 people out of work, and 150,000 holidaymakers facing travel chaos or missing out on their vacation altogether. Big numbers, perhaps unfathomable in our tiny worlds, and it’s easy to get on with your day without giving it a second thought if you’re not directly affected. But perhaps we should all take some time to consider the heart-breaking and bleak realities for those directly involved in the affair. But I also want to find positives from this stark lesson, in particular how failing to adapt to the changing tides of consumer demand can have a devastating effect on any business – no matter how big or small – and the need to take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen to you.

Donning Shades

In the fullness of time, we’ll learn more about the cause of Thomas Cook’s demise, but the consensus points to a failure to understand the changing marketplace. Therein lies the rub. We all find romance in hankering back to a bygone era of how things were done and worked, but remove the rose tinted spectacles and the reality is very different, and our success is linked to reality, not fantasy. By all accounts, Thomas Cook failed to recognise reality and adapt to it, and a stalwart institution on High Street is no more. I’ve written articles before about the need for driving instructors to acknowledge ‘change’ and adapt their own methods to ride the wave.

Yet, as sure as the sun rises in the East, Facebook is awash with people almost boasting about their decision to stick with the ‘tried and tested’ old methods such as pen & paper; “It’s cheap” they say, “It’ll never let me down” they say. They insinuate that modern technology is bad, when their entire lives are surrounded and exist by it, making their actions easier, safer and quicker. The reality of course, is that it’s not technology that’s bad, but usually ignorance closed-mindedness and an individual’s unwillingness to learn and change. It is bad for them in the long-term, and bad for our industry in the eyes of others who scoff at how ‘backward’ it is. So, I ask you to name one other industry that remains so reliant on pen & paper to deliver its service? How would you feel if your accountant used an abacus to calculate your taxes instead of a computer?

Booking On-line

Faffing around with a scribble-infested paper diary, with pages falling out onto the wet ground, is hardly a professional image when 17-year-olds barely touch paper and are seeking modern, technology-based solutions in every aspect of their life. It’s well known that our industry is slow at adapting to change, and quick to dismiss innovation. It can be infuriating for those who work hard to encourage others to put aside their scepticism and embrace something new, especially when the help to do so is readily available. It’s just too easy to sit back in your comfort zone, something the company directors at Thomas Cook are probably being accused of right now by thousands of employees, holidaymakers and connected business support services, and I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. When businesses fail, everyone else is to blame of course. “We did all we could” is the popular refrain, but rarely true. Did you ask for help, guidance and advice before things became irreconcilable? If you were offered it, did you take it onboard and utilise it? Fearing what you don’t understand is failure to take the opportunity to understand and grow – the past has gone, the future is coming and to navigate it successfully, you need to look down the road and utilise the tools that will help you drive through to your intended destination.

Everyone needs to be running their business using the right technology where and when it matters for yourselves and your customers, whether that is bookkeeping, SatNavs and DashCams or social media and diary management. As Nic Fasci has been explaining in Intelligent Instructor’s ‘Techtician’ series, even your cars are technologically evolving machines that you need to keep abreast of to ensure effective control; understand and utilise it, or you will be failing your pupils, yourselves and road safety to boot. Branding yourself a ‘technophobe’ is a lazy excuse – you just don’t want to learn. Ironic given that you spend all day helping others to embrace life-changing skills.

Sun, Sea and…

Take a look at your own business and ask yourself the question Thomas Cook bosses clearly didn’t: Is my service appropriate for my target market today? The world continues to evolve, and we have to do the same if we want to attract business. There is plenty of help on hand to guide you through the modern technological landscape but, as the saying: ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’.

MyDriveTime is the must-have driving instructor app that helps you manage your diary, students and money, so you spend less time on admin and more time teaching.