Christmas and new year is always a strange time of the year for me.
I find it’s a time when I automatically reflect on my business and plan for the future. It seems to just happen that I go into this reflective state.
When I was a driving instructor studying for the Diploma in Driving Instruction (Dip.DI) I remember reading about something called hotel days. These were described to me as a day when the author went to a hotel, not to sleep but to spend the day with no mobile phone and just treat himself to a nice meal and spend time with just a pen and paper and plan the next steps of his business. I used this method for some years. It was I can say very successful.
When I talk about planning for the future, this doesn’t necessarily mean financially. It could be for health, growing a business or just becoming better at what you do.
I have deliberately not said a better driving instructor – because this applies to whatever your trade is. I would sit down and consider all these things and it was in doing this that eventually led to my Masters Degree and to me changing tact and building my own driving school.
This year I think this is more important than ever.
We are all sitting with the knowledge or fear that another lockdown might happen. What would this mean to your business? What did we learn from the last two that we can take away and be better prepared for another should it happen.
During the last lockdowns, I know people who built brand new businesses. Their own business facing ruin, they were able to use other skills and turn around the situation to grow completely different businesses.
I personally think how the government is handling the situation at the moment is correct. We cannot afford to shut down businesses again unless it is absolutely necessary.
There are not the funds in the government coffers to be able to spend on supporting businesses. I fear we will all be paying, in one form or another for the last two lockdowns for some time to come.
Currently the real problem seems to be not with the number of deaths, but the amount of people who are self-isolating from work. Hotels, hospitals and many businesses are reporting many off sick. In a report I saw recently, 54% of NHS staff were off with the COVID. Considering they should all be vaccinated; we can assume the effects of COVID will be mild and the majority will be back to work after the 7 day isolation period or soon after. The problem must therefore pass reasonably quickly. Even if the remaining 46% all caught COVID, it’s theoretically a short-term problem.
However, I digress. Do you sit down and allocate time to look at your business and where it is going? Every successful business has a plan, and this plan needs reviewing based on current climates. This is sometimes called a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and threats).
Look at your own strengths and be honest with yourself. You can do this because only you will ever be party you what you think. What are you good at? And are you not so good at?
The things you are not so good at, can you learn or can you sub-contract. What opportunities are there at the moment? If you’re a driving instructor, now is the time when there are thousands of pupils searching for driving lessons. You might not be able to cover their lessons, but what are you doing with all this traffic to your website, (if you have one).
Now could be a good time to cash in on all that traffic so you can turn this into an opportunity for later. Remember websites depend on traffic to boost them to a high position on Google.
What threats face you this year? We’ve already mentioned the dreaded ‘C’ word but if other schools are growing their business or improving in any way whatsoever, is this not a threat to your business. Somebody once said to me ‘to do nothing is to go backwards.’ This sounds odd but if all those around you are improving their lot, then you are effectively going backwards.
Last year as with every year I looked at my business during the lockdown and reflected. This brought about some major changes to my business and a diversity to that has proved very good.
I realised I was not building the sort of driving school I wanted. I was just taking instructors because it was income. I realised some of these instructors were not the right fit for what I was trying to achieve in my driving school so despite an income loss, I parted with these instructors.
A brave move indeed if I may say so myself with the lockdown climate we were in. However, as I reflected this year I realised how I now had a much better driving school. How I was immensely proud and happy with every driving instructor I have. I have a driving school to be proud of. True, I might have had a little more money if I carried on the way I was but I would not be so proud. The compromise is worth it to me.
Back in my early days, I always saw my weaknesses in my teaching. Why was it I could teach some students quickly and others took their time? What was the problem? Well of course it was my understanding and teaching skills. This is why I spent many years achieving qualified teacher status, a Masters Degree and so much more.
Back then I can tell you I never saw myself with a multi-car driving school. But this is where reflection takes you. SWOT analysis will change every year depending on the current business climate. The last two years has shown us that. Today all my CPD is around business and how important reflection and goal-setting is.
While I talk about goal-setting, this is something you already know. Most of you will have heard of the GROW model. It’s a simple way of structuring your driving lessons so you meet most of the criteria for a standards test or part three test without breaking a sweat.
- Way forward.
It forms the basis of my lesson planners that if you have not seen or read the reviews, help you structure driving lessons inline with the DVSA Standards for delivering driving lessons. You can structure your business like this too.
What Goals do you have for the coming year? Are these goals Realistic? What Options do you have to carry these goals out and then actively deciding the Way forward? Set achievable time scales to achieve these and use a treat system to reward yourself when you hit each target.
You never know, you might be sitting somewhere in a years’ time reflecting on what you plan in the coming days, feeling as proud as I am now. Now I have already written my plan and goals for this coming year. I have yet to break the news of these to my staff so won’t mention them now but, I sit here now thinking how I will feel in a years time with them all achieved. I know they will be achieved because, well, they’re achievable.
P.S. If you have not seen my lesson planners or read the reviews pop over to this link. You never know, this could be your first step to a new beginning.
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.