Driving Instructor Franchise Tips – How to Expand Your Driving School

driving-instructor-franchiseIt’s great to hear that for many instructors, business is booming. I’ve certainly noticed a difference coming out of the recession over the last couple of years, and to be honest, it’s hard to fit new customers in when you’re so busy – what a fantastic problem to have!

An instructor recently asked for guidance on taking on another instructor and starting a driving instructor franchise. It’s a big decision. Here I’ll offer some advice and share what I’ve learnt and experienced as a franchisor over the last 13 years.

Is Starting a Driving Instructor Franchise Right For You?

The most difficult decision can be deciding to start a driving instructor franchise the first place. Yes, business is great and you may be turning people away. Is that enough reason to take on another instructor? It’s really hard to let go when you have such a great reputation, especially if your customers ring you from personal recommendations and want YOU to teach them. If this is the case, it’s going to be a challenge offering them lessons with another instructor rather than yourself.

If you do want to build a driving instructor franchise, how do you find the right instructor to join you? Can you offer them what they need and are they happy to agree to not only your terms but do they have a similar outlook and professionalism?

What Would a Driving Instructor Joining Your Driving School Need?

Everyone will have different needs but here are a few common denominators.

  • To cover a reasonable area without excessive travel
  • A minimum amount of hours
  • Some guarantee of the work you will provide
  • A reasonable price for driving lessons and ideally no silly offers
  • No lengthy contract periods
  • Help and guidance when needed on all aspects of the job

Of course there will be other needs on their wish list, and these will vary from instructor to instructor.

What Do YOU Want From a Driving Instructor?

checklistFinding the right instructor for your driving school isn’t always easy.. To find the right instructor, you need to know what you’re looking for. After all, they will be representing you and your company!

  • A likeable and friendly personality – your customers will want to learn with someone they like! How did they come across when you first spoke to them, do they smile, are they engaging? Did they use nicknames? – grrrrrrrr my pet hate!
  • Presentable – do they take care of themselves, present themselves well and do they keep their car clean and tidy? Do they smoke and is that an issue for you? Meet them at their car or walk them back when they turn up for your initial meeting so you can take a look at their vehicle.
  • What is their experience? Some instructors are brilliant but just poor at marketing themselves, they would prefer to let someone else do all that side of the business, and just be out teaching. Some newly qualified instructors will prefer to work for a school and be working straight away rather than setting up their own business. Find out their reasons for wanting to work for a driving school rather than setting up (or continuing with) their own driving school.
  • Good training – If they have been trained well, prior to qualifying, and they are committed to developing further, then great! If you’re not happy with the training they may have received, feel their teaching methods may be dated or they may have become lazy then it’s best to stay away. Observe them on a lesson, are you happy with their standard of teaching? If you feel there are weaknesses, are they happy to accept feedback and willing to improve?
  • How good an instructor are they? You must be a great instructor (and a great marketer too) to be in the position to take on another instructor. What is your pass rate and how many hours on average do your customers take before passing their test? Find out their pass rates and their average hours, watching body language and eye contact for any ‘exaggerations’. Use yourself as a blueprint and be wary of any figures that are much higher or lower than yours! Asking how many pupils they have had to test may explain a very high pass rate, 2 out of 2 passes since they qualified will give a 100% pass rate!
  • driving-instructor-bluetoothPhone use – Everyone will have different opinions on this. I personally do not tolerate phone use while driving and that includes hands free. I could quote many figures of how much more distracted a driver is when speaking on hands free, but for me it’s just common sense. I do not want any negative publicity, or liability claims, that could come with an instructor crashing while using hands free. If you have different opinions, then that’s fine, but if it is one of your no-no’s you need to make sure that the instructor has a similar outlook. Does the instructor take your call or ring you while driving? Or even worse, while they are teaching?!

What will you offer?

It helps me to see our instructors as our customers, they are paying for a service and we are there to provide what they need. Saying that, no one likes getting taken for a ride and it’s your company’s name at stake so you both need to know what you expect of each other.

  • Be realistic and honest – how much work can you provide, and how quickly? I always underestimate rather than over estimate. From about 2008 – 2011, I told instructors that it may take a month or two to get them to 35 hours a week. Lately, it’s taken just a couple of weeks to get instructors to the same amount of hours. If you’re taking on a newly qualified instructor with no customers, can you realistically get them the hours they want? Would an instructor with a half full diary, or one that only wants to work part time hours make it easier for you to meet their expectations?
  • A fair driving instructor franchise fee – If an instructor is paying you for a service, then you have to provide that service. It won’t do your reputation, or your ability to sleep at night, any good if you are accepting franchise fees and you are struggling to fulfil your end of the agreement. Look at offering a reduced franchise if you fail to meet your promises. We found early on that a lot of instructors left our driving school once they had a full diary, and they were getting recommendations themselves. For a number of years now, we have offered a variable franchise. If an instructor gets a lot of recommendations themselves and therefore takes less work from us, they pay a lower franchise fee, a bit like a top up service. It’s a win/win situation and now our instructor turnover is much lower. Benefits to instructors: Instructors do a great job = more recommendations = lower franchise fee!
  • driving-instructor-franchise-contractReasonable contract terms – We don’t agree with long contact periods, and yes this has backfired, but much less than it has been a benefit. We feel to get trust, you have to give it. If it’s abused, it’s better to find that out sooner rather than later. Do you really want someone you can’t trust representing your driving school? I personally lay my cards on the table from the outset. We have a 3 week notice period in the contract and I am clear that to fill a diary from scratch costs a lot. Providing 15 -30 customers in a short period is more costly than just keeping an instructor topped up. In return, I ask for their loyalty that this will not be abused by them leaving as soon as they have a full diary. We have a ‘per customer’ cost, worked out by calculating the total expenses of the driving school over the year divided by the amount of new customers in the same period. I use this to give them an idea of how long it takes to break-even with their franchise fees. I find once they understand this, they appreciate the need for loyalty.
  • latics-driving-instructor-oldhamTo treat them fairly and expect the same in return – Offer help, guidance and advice whenever they feel they need it. Whether it may be with their teaching, marketing, problem pupils, car troubles or with anything else they need help with. In return you want them to be open with you, come to you with any troubles or concerns, and respect your ‘rules’ as an ambassador for your business. Some of our ‘rules’ include; being punctual for driving lessons, being reliable, giving quality lessons, always driving correctly – including family members using the car too (all our cars are sign written and people love reporting bad driving, especially when they think it’s a driving instructor!), always displaying appropriate behaviour (respecting the pupil’s personal space, no use of pet names, no discrimination of any sort) no smoking in the car, not using the phone while the car is in motion, no piggybacking, and absolutely NO personal relationships with pupils. Phew, I think I’m a bit of a control freak!

What if the Driving Instructor Leaves My Franchise?

Over the last 13 years as a multi-car driving school, we have had 67 instructors come and go, 27 of them are still with us. That’s 40 that have left! Don’t be disappointed if an instructor leaves, it’s all part of being a franchisor. Apart from ones that have been ‘asked’ to leave because of their conduct (rules are rules and they need to be respected), I am still friendly with most of them. 16 of them have their own driving school and are in fact my healthy competition, 21 have left the industry, many after setting up their own driving school or ‘franchise hopping’, and 3 are currently with another driving instructor franchise.

Out of the 27 remaining, 24 have been trained by myself or Ged, so relationships and trust have been built as they train. It also means we know how good our instructors are. We’re in the fortunate position of being able to take on instructors that we have trained personally, and we no longer take on anyone who hasn’t trained with us. If you’re thinking of expanding, this may not be possible for you and finding the right instructor can be a challenge.

Finding A Good Driving Instructor

I would suggest approaching the best ADI trainers in your area and nationally. Not all trainers offer driving instructor franchise options for their trainees. For example, we train people from all over the UK. Local ones are offered a place at our driving school. The ones that aren’t local who want to join a driving school are given help and guidance in choosing the right school. Asking trainers to let their trainees know that you’re looking for instructors could be a great way to find new instructors.

driving-school-franchisePut it out there. Let instructors know you would like someone to join your school. Have it displayed prominently on your car, on your website and utilise social media.

Talk to other instructors. In the test centre, let others know you are looking for an instructor. Hand out business cards in case they think of someone who may be interested (they won’t always admit they’re considering it in front of other ADIs!). Ask on forums and Facebook groups.

adi-franchiseFinally I would add, trust your gut instinct. If there’s something niggling at you, politely let them know that they’re not what you’re looking for. It’s much better to struggle on until you find the right instructor than to just take the first one that comes along just for the sake of it and regret it later.

Good luck! 

What do you have to add? Have you started a driving instructor franchise and has this worked well for you or not? Please comment below so others can benefit from your experiences.

Are you looking for an instructor to join your school or are you an instructor looking to join a driving school? We will help you if we can!

down arrowIf you are a trainer and want to help your trainees find a driving school to work for, or would like a local driving school to recommend your training services, get in touch. It would be great to build up a list of regional trainers and driving schools to help everyone establish collaborations!

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