Above the cloud is beautiful sunshine, blue sky, wonderful views and clean, fresh air. Under the cloud, it is grey, cold, damp and pretty miserable. It’s a bit of a drag if the truth is known.
Maybe, some kind soul will one day tap you on the shoulder at a test centre, or a CPD course, or perhaps a driving instructor annual meet, and perhaps, say something that to them is so obvious but had never occurred to you. It will be about running a driving school, and you momentarily stare at this person in disbelief. An enormous sense of realisation consumes your head, neck and shoulders, and there is a wave of good feeling that is truly magical to experience. For the next 30 seconds, you think that person is a God. You cannot believe that they have just mentioned something that is so outstandingly beneficial to you. Still, they said it in passing, as a matter of fact, with no ceremony, almost like it was the most natural thing for every driving instructor to know.
The next day, you reflect on this newfound piece of information, which is truly transformational to the running of your business, and you start to think how you didn’t get to know this sooner. Why were you so unaware?
You sit there.
You know that kind of deep thinking?
You are racking your mind, trying to think how you did not know this golden nugget of information. No one ever mentioned this to you before. Your trainer didn’t say it when you were qualifying. It has never cropped up on any Standards Check, but then again, it wouldn’t when you think about it. Your peers who you speak to have never mentioned it. It never came up in the Facebook groups you follow. You are motionless, head bowed, deep in thought.
Your thoughts soon turn to wonder what else is going on out there that you are unaware of. You start to question if you are some kind of mug, doing things the way you do. Entirely and utterly oblivious to what many others are doing – why are you making your life so difficult? You start to feel alone, vulnerable, and you wonder if many have been mocking you for running your driving school the way you do. Irrational thoughts begin to enter your mind, you find yourself on a downward spiral, and suddenly, you snap yourself out of the trance, look up, and see the dog is bringing you one of your slippers. Your dog still loves you.
We don’t know what we don’t know.
Instructors with many years of experience have been wrestling with the issue of the timing of a driving test. Some have conceded to the pressure put upon them, and against their judgement, agreed, rather begrudgingly, to take the pupil to test. Sometimes the pupil fails, and you have one of those conversations based around “I told you so”. Sometimes the pupil passes, and you lose sleep, wondering if they are going to be safe and whether you should contact the pupil’s parents to warn them of your concerns.
For decades, last-minute cancellations from pupils have plagued the working day of driving instructors. The problem is as old as the hills. You prep for your lesson, travel to the pick-up, sit outside for 10 minutes. Then you receive a text with some sorry excuse as to why the pupil doesn’t want the lesson. You drive back home, wondering what you will do for the next 40 minutes.
The constant answering of queries on your social media or via text, email or call. At all times of day and night: “How much are your lessons?”, “What’s your pass rate?”, “When can you fit me in?”. It is relentless; you get interruptions when shopping, fishing, having meals, playing golf, and even when you are in bed. The questions keep coming, showing no sign of reducing. You start to resent them. Your mobile becomes your enemy, and you hate it. You are too contactable.
Some instructors go through their entire career seeing no correlation between what happens on mock tests with pupils compared to what happens on the test itself. For some, it is truly baffling. They cannot understand how a pupil can pass a mock test so convincingly, with such apparent ease, only to then get dualled on the actual test, triggering one of the DVSA data captures for a Standards Check. There is no similarity between faults marked up on the mock with those observed by an examiner. Some pupils do a terrible mock test and, against your advice, go on to take the driving test and pass with apparent ease. It makes absolutely no sense.
You start to wonder if there is something wrong with you. Why can you seemingly get no engagement from so many of your pupils? They aren’t talking to you, and they barely answer any of your questions. They can’t recall what they did the last time you saw them, and they can’t remember the key learning points that happened only 15 minutes ago. It is very odd. Surely, this isn’t normal? When something of higher risk crops up, they don’t seem to recognise the gravity of what happened. They seemingly don’t care. Is driving instruction this hard?
Many driving instructors set their pricing compared to what others are doing locally. They see no relationship between the value being offered to customers and the price. It’s just a case of constantly looking around at what others charge and setting the price a couple of pounds cheaper.
We don’t know what we don’t know.
Join the BIG TOM franchise, and start seeing the views from above the clouds. Franchise information memorandum – recruit@BIGTOM.org.uk