Your business should do well if you: have a good, friendly, professional approach to all your clients; have a high pass rate; get clients through their driving test with few driving faults and in the shortest time possible; obtain most of your clients from recommendations; keep a full diary; keep good accounts of your financial activities; keep yourself and your car clean and tidy; are punctual for driving lessons; use good and effective training aids and keep good records of your clients’ progress; keep up to date with DSA news; know who is going to answer the telephone; and have the means to answer client’s calls or to reply to messages quickly.
Ideally, every ADI should have a room/office that is devoted to their driving business. If possible it should be well away from disturbances.
We are not going to list everything that your office should contain, but you will find below items we consider essential: Buy a good, fast printer for your PC, especially if you are printing your own brochures, logbooks, etc. Quite often manufacturers will almost give their printers away. The reason is that, once you have bought them, you will then have to buy the ink cartridges or toners from the manufacturer. Compare the prices of these items before you decide. Also consider buying recycled ink cartridges or toners but be warned that using them may negate your warranty. Keep your PC in good working order by using anti-virus software, antispyware software and a firewall. Keep your hard disk defragged and use the Windows tools to keep everything running smoothly. Back up important files on a regular basis. Make sure you have a lot of storage and worktop space. Have at least one filing cabinet to file documents in alphabetical order. Keep an old PC as a standby. Back up storage for your PC files. It is vital that you save your data regularly on to storage media other than your PC’s hard drive. Use a second disk drive, CD, DVD or storage key. An external hard drive plugged into a USB port is quite cheap, quick and very simple to use. Some experts recommend that, when not in use, any external hard drives should be unplugged to avoid virus attack. To make this task easier, consider investing in a powered USB hub with extension lead so the hard drive can be easily unplugged on the desktop. Keep a good stock of office supplies. Have good lighting.
Ideally, you will have someone at home to answer the telephone – but this may not always be possible. There are two alternatives. One is to have an answer phone, and the other is to have it routed to your mobile via a BT service. The problem with the answer phone is that you will not be able to speak directly with your caller. This may lead to lost opportunities. Any answer phone greeting message should be friendly, informative and as short as possible. If you have a website, ask them to access this in the message. Ask callers to leave their telephone number for you to return their call by the end of the day. The problem with having the call routed to your mobile is twofold. A client may resent the fact that you are dealing with business matters during their paid driving lesson. Secondly, there will be a conflict between listening to the caller on your hands-free mobile while driving and giving a driving lesson. Remember that it is illegal for an ADI supervising a driving lesson in progress to use a handheld telephone. Have a telephone number display box linked to your office/landline phone. This is plugged into your phone line and sits on your desk. Before the telephone is answered you can see the number of the caller, unless it is withheld. This displays incoming numbers with the time and date of the call, keeping these until deleted, until full (approximately 100 calls) or until the battery is exhausted. You could consider having a dedicated line solely for your business – both landline and mobile. If you do, you will know that, when a certain phone rings, you will answer it in the appropriate manner. Initial greetings are important. And remember to keep your office tidy! If you are going to purchase any peripherals (e.g. printers or hard drives), we suggest that you log on to Amazon.com. Use the customers’ reviews to find out what they thought of the items they have bought.
What level of income can you realistically expect to earn? Income for many self-employed professionals can be unpredictable. Being an ADI is no exception. Advertising selectively to save outgoing costs and receiving much of your work through recommendations, particularly by getting your clients through their test in good time and first time, could see you with a full diary – given time. Remember not to pitch your fees too low. It is then a question of maintaining a high pass rate and, by giving your clients 5–10 business cards to spread around on their first and last driving lesson, they will do your advertising for you. A 30-hour week should return a minimum £600 gross. Remember also to encourage two-hour driving lessons to reduce ‘dead time’ travelling to and from lessons. This is explored further a little later in this article.
Driving lesson fees vary widely across the country, so we cannot be specific on what you should charge. Our best advice is to investigate the range of driving lesson prices in your area and to pitch your fees initially in the middle of these until you become known and your good reputation spreads. You can then gradually increase your driving lesson fees. If you adopt a cut-throat approach to driving lesson fees and undercut your opposition, you should be aware that other ADIs might not be too friendly towards you. Undercutting their fees considerably will not encourage them to welcome you into their area or into their local association. Remember, you will be talking to them each time you meet at the test centres. Instructors do talk to each other and always about the new ADIs in their area. On the other hand, if times are desperate and you feel that this is the only way to get your toe in the door, then you may have to do it. Cancellations
You should anticipate that driving lesson cancellations can happen on a weekly basis. Unless you take on more clients than you require you will earn less than you predicted. Allow for this when taking on clients or when you set the parameters of your working day/week. To cover this problem, some ADIs take on about two or three more clients than they need. If you show your clients that you have a very busy diary, perhaps with driving lessons being booked three weeks ahead, they will be very reluctant to cancel a driving lesson. In the early days you can pad out your diary with ‘ghost’ clients, but make sure you remember who they are so you can erase them later on – you do not want the taxman to benefit at your expense.
You should realise that you will inevitably lose the occasional client to another driving school. The most common reasons are that the client can obtain cheaper driving lessons elsewhere, they think they are at test standard despite your advice or the chemistry between you isn’t right. You will both recognise this last problem and it should be acceptable, but rare. Do not worry about it too much because you will most likely receive clients from your competitors for the same reason.
Although by no means foolproof, we believe you can choose your clients to some degree by the price of your driving lessons. If you pitch your lesson fees low, do not be surprised if many of those who contact you are unemployed, employed part time or are on a low income. As a result you will receive more appointment cancellations. Callers will often base their choice on the instructor’s sales pitch. This will then lead to callers either booking a driving lesson there and then or stating they will ring you back – but they may not. Your ‘sales pitch’ should not be, or sound, over-bearing. Be friendly and listen to their questions, then answer them with points you wish to state. Your potential client will be assessing you over the course of the call, so the way you answer the telephone, what you say and how you say it are all important. Working unsociable hours
You will probably work beyond the 9–5 norm, particularly in the early stages of your career. It is essential that you put yourself in the position of your potential clients. Those who are employed or at home looking after the house and children may not be able to have driving lessons until the evening or at weekends.
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Note: This article was sent to us by: Dirk Lenz at 01162010
1. Time to consider taking an ADI training course
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