Many driving school franchises have been set up by people who, well quite frankly have never been driving instructors.
Whilst the business side of being a driving instructor might seem universal, some don’t appreciate the uniqueness of the market. Pupils who don’t want driving lessons but must have them to get what they do want, freedom to drive. Many franchises are set up with the sole interests of the franchiser believing they offer what franchisees, driving instructors, want.
This is one of the reasons recently my own school moved away from the franchising model in favour of ‘Associates‘ and ‘Partners‘. I know we are so different and offer a vastly different service, but do you need any help at all, franchise, associate or whatever?
We have recently passed through a major disaster for all businesses. Who would have thought a year ago that we would all be stuck at home for 3 months, scared to go out? Who could have predicted that today we would be delivering driving lessons, wearing face masks and wiping down the car with almost OCD tendencies?
“I don’t need a franchise, I’ve got Facey (Facebook)”
Probably what most instructors think of when they think about any franchise is pupils. But you can get these off Facebook, can’t you?
You don’t actually need to pay someone to get you pupils. Just one of the marketing methods we use is Facebook. From posts, blogs and even paid marketing, Facebook is a great source of pupils.
But what if Facebook one day decides to change the rules – or for that matter stick to them? Under Facebook rules, you are not allowed to advertise business services without paying. Now, I know for years this has happened, but what if Facebook started to enforce it. Would they?
Historically Facebook have built their business by doing just that. During the early years of Facebook, there was no paid-for marketing, then when there was a market, WHAM – in came the paid advertising. Yes, we use Facebook at our driving school, but we use many other methods too.
If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, it would be a small blip for us and our Associates and Partners. Even Facebook requires quite a lot of work to get it running efficiently. You could spend your evenings and spare time making your own test-pass blogs, articles and posts on Facebook saving you any expense of a franchise. After all how long does it take, 5 minutes each evening?
You know how to do it correctly, of course. Just whack up a picture yes, saying so-and-so passed. Yes?
There is a way to get Facebook to work for you and the Facebook post itself is only a tiny part of the job. Keyword linking is the other way as well as keyword tagging photos directly linking them to the keyword rich-page of your website. Hey, all that free traffic, yum yum. OK, I’m speaking another language here for some, but you can always learn how to do this. I did it, so it can’t be difficult can it?
You don’t need a franchise – you can learn yourself, in YOUR spare time.
“I can get a website from cheapwebsitesdotcom for £200 – or free”
Ah the website, yes, I’ve seen them and I’ve seen some brilliant looking website for free, £50 and even £500.
I’ve seen them when scrolling to page 10 of Google.
The problem is, it’s not about how the website looks that gets it to page 1, (or in our case mostly position 1). There is so much more to it than that. You don’t need a franchise to do this either.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be learnt or paid for separately. No doubt you have been approached by one or two companies offering to get your website to position 1 for a few quid. This is how the big boys do it. Either in-house teams, (yes, a team) or they pay a company, outsource it to be done. Any idea how much they pay for this? Many thousands a month I would expect (and we still beat them to position 1 most of the time!!).
But honestly, it’s not difficult, you can learn it. I did and originally I did all my own SEO for my websites. That was until it became too much of a full-time job and I decided to employ someone full time. I trained up someone and it’s paid dividends. Over the last year, we have seen our website go from 200 visitors a month to approaching 2,500 a month. It’s not complicated, but just requires constant attention.
Keep your eyes on the keywords, the hits and keep the blogs, posts, and back-links up. Get rid of the dodgy suspect low-quality links and for good god avoid the reciprocal links (I ‘ll put a link to your website and you do one to mine!). It is simple to learn and you can do it in the evenings or in your spare time after you’ve finished your driving lessons – oh as well as Facebook.
“I don’t need a franchise, I send all my pupils to voicemail”
Well I hope that’s true and you’re not one of the many instructors using the phone on driving lessons.
I’ve heard it said “I gotta answer my phone it might be a new pupil.” Again, you don’t need a franchise for this do you? Tell me, how many times do you call a pupil back and they don’t answer? If they do answer, they’ve probably already gone elsewhere. True, if they’ve been recommended, they’ll probably still be there.
Then you get the time waster:
“How much are your driving lessons mate?
“£xx an hour”
“Oh cheers bye”
There’s nothing we can do with about 75% of the calls we take in the office. They come from people outside the area we cover who want automatic where we don’t have automatic. They ask for a female instructor or one that speaks Urdu. Or it’s a sales call trying to sell us SEO or a website. All those phone calls taken while we could have been doing something else.
Of course, you can do this yourself. You don’t need a degree or to pay someone to do this for you. You have plenty of time after you’ve finished learning Facebook and about SEO for your website. Hey, that’s what Sundays are for aren’t they?
I knew someone who saved up all his enquiries during the week, all the voicemails and emails and called them all on a Sunday. Oh, surprise they were all gone.
You need to set up a screening for calls too. You don’t want to spend ages talking to the wrong people and you do want to spend time talking to the right people. We rarely give a pupil the lesson price over the phone until after they’ve actually booked their driving lesson. We have a system that we very quickly make friends with them on the phone, while at the same time trying to screen if they are the right customer for our driving school. It means that if a pupil is bookable then 95% of the time, they will be booked in. We never lose them on price. This is something you too can learn and implement, and you can even do this when on holiday too, your family won’t mind – after all it’s your business isn’t it!
“I don’t need live chat on my website”
This is true, after all, you have Facebook. But do you know we get many chats a day and how many bookings come from the online chat?
Since COVID, we have seen a marked move away from phone calls to online and live chats. I’m sure people think they will catch it over the phone, but we used to do 70% calls and 30% online and everything else, now this has reversed. This could be a permanent change and for us, it’s not a problem as we have all bases covered. The problem with live chat is that it needs monitoring all the time – or at least during opening hours. It is a definite favourite of the mums and dads too, and often grandma.
“Pupils don’t need all that other rubbish!”
At my driving school, 1st 4 Driving we do a whole lot of services for our instructors. Remember, I said I was a driving instructor and I thought of all the things I didn’t want to do myself.
All I wanted to do was deliver the flipping lessons. I did NOT want to be doing Facebook or my website in the evenings. I did want to be studying for my diplomas, my teaching qualifications and finally my Masters Degree.
At 1st 4 Driving I think of all the things that a professional driving instructor should do, but maybe would rather not. There are many things that should be done but perhaps time gets in the way.
Take one of these services from many. We carry out all the licence checks for our instructors. When a pupil books we take their licence details then get them to send us the check code so we can check. This may be a simple enough task to do yourself but, it never works like that. If they do bother to send the check code, they send it all-in lower-case letters (not exactly as it sent to them with a combination). We then go back to them and ask again. By the time they respond, the code has expired. Sometimes we have up to 10 messages just about the licence check code. That’s not including the ones we have found that were banned or licences taken away.
I hear it all the time though on social media, “you don’t need to check licences.” Maybe you agree.
Of course, if you like doing all that stuff or don’t think you need to, then there are a million reasons why a franchise is not for you.
But our ‘Associate’ and ‘Partner’ schemes are for the instructor who wants to run a professional business and not worry about the marketing or the admin. The sort of instructor who wants to do a good day’s teaching, go home, and recharge the batteries for the next day. Rather than going home and having to do all the other stuff, or not doing it then wondering what happened to their business.
This is open to you. Click the button below to find out more, or request a free no-obligation trial with us.
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.