Category Archive: Meet the ADI

Meet the Instructor: Jessica Hanson

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Former retail manager Jessica explains the triumphs and troubles she has experienced as a young driving instructor.

Working in Hastings, East Sussex, 24-year-old Jessica started her training aged 22 and has been been an ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) for two years. Despite having to negotiate many hurdles because her age, Jessica opened her own school – Driven To Success – in October 2017 and has not looked back since.

Tell me what inspired you to become an instructor?
I was a retail manager from 18, which lead on to being a national trainer for various big name brands. This job involved a lot of driving so I was a confident driver.

When I turned 21, I decided to teach my partner to drive as I’d had enough of always being the designated driver. It went really well and he passed first time. So with my training background, I decided to take the leap and train to become an instructor.

How did you train?
I started my training with a big name driving school and found the service really poor! I then went with a smaller local school who helped me pass my Part 3 first time. I was with them for about 18 months before jumping ship.

What motivated you to create your own driving school?
I was getting so many recommendations and was having to pass them onto other instructors in the school. I soon realised there was no need to be paying the weekly fee, and I didn’t like the fact that other instructors using the same name could give my name a bad reputation if they were unreliable. The biggest push though was getting a new car; it was my big chance to re-brand.

How have you built up your business?
It’s all word of mouth at the moment; I haven’t needed to advertise yet. I also get a lot of people stopping me in my car to take a card which gets me a lot of business – so always have a smart-looking business card to hand if you’re an ADI!

Do you have any advice for instructors who wish to strike out on their own?
Speak to your franchiser. When I was at the smaller school, I was quite chatty with the guy who ran it. He was all for me making the independent move and gave me the confidence to go it alone; after all, it’s what he did originally too. Also speak to other instructors as they may know why people who struck out on their own didn’t succeed so you’ll know what not to do.

What kind of instructor are you?
I am a friend and a member of my pupil’s team all the way. There’s no hierarchy in my car so we share the same end goal; any problems are worked out together. I also find using this approach means they’re never afraid to ask questions or admit that something is difficult.

What is your teaching style?
I like to give a brief explanation with a picture, detail the general protocol, talk through it and let the student do it independently whatever the subject. I never like sitting there and talking for too long, and only ever demonstrate if they really want me to. My lessons are all about driving, making mistakes – and learning from them.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
I love meeting people that I wouldn’t normally in day-to-day life; sometimes you just click with someone and they can even become a friend. My least favourite part is definitely my insurance price, which is ridiculous! I pay £2,200-plus a year for my learner car, despite my private car being only £350 a year. All because there are only two insurers who will quote me because I’m under 25!

Also, I’m not keen on the lack of free time; I’m always texting someone about lessons or fiddling with my diary planning so there’s no off time at the moment.

Have you ever experienced any issues with instructors or examiners because of your age?
Yes, and some of the worst experiences have been with a particular examiner. I remember on one occasion at the end of a test, I was listening to the debrief – unfortunately, my student hadn’t passed because of a lack of a mirror check coming off a roundabout.

This examiner always belittles me so rather than explaining the issue to the student, he instead asked me if I knew what MSM (Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre) is or if I knew how to teach certain things. Of course I do – I passed the same tests as everyone else! The embarrassing part is that he undermines me in front of my students, making me feel very inferior.

Newer instructors may come into the test centre and assume I’m also on a PDI licence. They tell me what I should be doing like I must be clueless. Luckily, the majority of instructors are very friendly and care about my opinion. For the odd few who aren’t, it must be hard being so small minded – I feel sorry for them.”
– Jessica on what she thinks of peers who judge her on her age.

What one essential skill should all driving instructors have?
I actually think organisation! The amount of learners I get coming from other instructors due to them not showing up, not booking them in for weeks or just not being contactable is astonishing! I get a lot of my business this way and by always being prompt and prepared when talking to any new enquiry.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
I wish the test centre environment and the nature of most examiners (definitely not all) wasn’t so intimidating for learners. I’m not sure how this could be changed but a warmer and more welcoming atmosphere in the test centre would really help.

Finally, as a user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
I love knowing that sending my pupils to Theory Test Pro for their studying will be all they need. There are too many dodgy ideas about how to study for the theory and how to beat the hazard perception test. Rubbish phone apps don’t help either as they don’t get them fully prepared! I feel like I’m leaving my students in safe hands – I’m happy knowing that they’ll get a first-class service.

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Photography: Chris Ades

Meet the Instructor: Doreen Morrison

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Former NHS worker Doreen Morrison reveals how she made the move into driving instructing over 13 years ago, and why she believes in being fair but firm with her students – and qualified drivers as well.

Working in the Lancashire area, 68-year-old Doreen Morrison came to driving instruction later in her working life than most, but it hasn’t stopped her from carving out a successful career as an ADI through her driving school, Doreen’s School of Motoring and offering expert advice on what needs to be done to drive up Britain’s driving standards.

What did you do before becoming an instructor?
I worked in the NHS where I realised they were introducing more and more managers but less and less frontline workers like nurses, doctors and porters. It created a situation where there were more bosses telling less people to do more work. I didn’t like this approach so so started looking for a new job and saw an advert for driving instructing.

Why did you make the move into instructing specifically?
My favourite past time is motorcycling so I immediately thought about the amount of times idiots had nearly knocked me off my bike. My inspiration to sign up for the ADI training was if I can put more safe drivers out on our roads, then that could only be a good thing.

You have been a sole trader since day one – why?
When I first started training, I did it through a company who also did franchising. The idea was that once I qualified, I would then work as a franchisee for the company. So when I qualified, I said: “Right, I am ready and I have already handed in my notice”. But they then said, “oh we don’t have any cars available for you for three months”. So not a great start! Then I figured why pay somebody else to help generate business when I could do it all myself? So I became an independent instructor instead.

How did you set about drumming up business?
I came across a course about using Facebook to make money. I soon discovered that the advantage of the social media platform was that you could put your adverts in front of 17-25 year olds that live within a certain post code area and who are interested in driving.

I did some targeted ads over four weeks and it took off; I have not had to do any other advertising since then! So from doing about 8-9 lessons a week, I was suddenly up to 30 which is the right amount. Social media really is the way to build up your driving school quickly.

What have been the other benefits working as an independent instructor?
The main benefit is actually for the pupils! Most of them don’t come to me after seeing an advert but because I have been recommended to them by former students. Thing is if a recommendation is made but it was done through a franchise, the potential student would contact the company but not necessarily end up with me as their instructor!

What kind of ADI are you?
I have been described as ‘scary’, though I would say firm but fair! It think it’s because I tell students how it is; I’m not one to give them false hope. They need to realise that making the grade requires a lot of hard work and real commitment.

It is also important to push people out of their comfort zone too or else they never learn anything. For instance, I had one pupil who was happy in the ‘nursery estate’, where everyone begins learning to drive with me as there’s no roadside parking and it’s all 20mph.

I told the student that I was planning to take her out of the estate after five lessons but she said no. So I told her, “you’re not going to get anywhere so just give it a go. If you don’t like it after half a mile, we’ll swap seats and I’ll drive you back.” She agreed and she’s not looked back since! Ultimately, I want to push people to get the very best out of them.

What’s the favourite and least favourite part of your job?
The best part is the satisfaction I get when the pupil passes their test – they are buzzing and I can feel that buzz. My least favourite part are awkward students where I think I am never going to get anywhere with them. Thing is I do – and I get them through the test so that ends up being a buzz as well!

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
Learning to think outside of the box when it comes to teaching those awkward students. A classic example was one pupil who had problems listening and focusing. For instance, we were at a roundabout and I told the pupil to take the second exit, all while pointing to it. They then suddenly took the first exit instead, and then did the same thing at the next roundabout.

It was very frustrating but there are ways round such issues; you just have to teach in a different way. With that particular student, I changed tack by telling them I wanted them to drive into the roundabout and I would tell them when to exit. This approach worked because it forced them to listen.

Bottom line is that you are always learning as an ADI. Yes, there’s a big learning curve in the first 3-4 years but it should never end. I think you have to keep learning all the time to be the best you can be as an instructor.

The new test element – pulling up on the right and reverse parking – isn’t great. I would rather we pushed people not to do it because I don’t think it is safe and it is against everything that the Highway Code teaches us. The reality though is that people still do it – drive down any road and you’ll see many cars parked up on the wrong side of it. It means as much as I don’t agree with the introduction, I do agree that it needs to be taught.”

– Doreen on the introduction of the new manoeuvre in the revised driving test.

If you could change one thing about the industry or driver education, what would it be and why?
The standard of driving on our roads is a disgrace so I believe all drivers should have their driving assessed 2-3 years after passing their test and then every 10 years thereafter. If they aren’t at a high enough standard, they should be reassessed after 18 months – enough time for them to take some remedial lessons to bring them up to standard. To be clear, I don’t believe drivers who fail their assessment should have their driving licenses revoked but they should have ongoing guidance until they are fit to drive safely.

Finally, as a longterm user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
I always recommend my students download the app because I get a lot of positive feedback from those who do. They say it has really helped them with the Highway Code by making learning a boon for them, not a pain.

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Meet the ADI: Phil Jones

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Former army man and Heavy Goods Vehicles driver turned driving instructor, Phil Jones, reveals the secrets behind the success of his driving school.

After becoming disillusioned with the franchise he was working for, Jones has gone on to create the Go Learn 2 Drive driving school based in North Wales. Here we discuss his attitude to instructing, hiring ADIs (or not in this case) – and why business must come first if you hope to survive and thrive in a competitive marketplace.

Tell us about your previous careers before becoming an ADI?

When I was at school, the only thing I ever wanted was to be was a soldier so I joined up aged 16 in 1978. I served eight years in the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and had an exciting life. I decided though that I either needed to get out while I was still young enough to adapt to civilian life or stay in for 22 years.

I decided to leave and became a self employed motorcycle courier with the aim of funding Heavy Goods Vehicles lessons. I passed my class 1 and started a career of driving all over Europe and the UK. I did this for about 15 years but eventually thought it was about time to settle down and be at home at night instead of sleeping in a lorry for weeks at a time.

What attracted you to instructing?

I saw various articles about becoming a driving instructor and decided to give it go because I needed a change in direction and a new challenge. I passed my part 3 in May 2006 and started a franchise with a local school. However, after a couple of years, I realised that 90% of my pupils were self-generating plus the school I was with didn’t want to move with the times. So I thought “this is no good for me” and decided to go solo.

How have your experiences in HGV driving and the army informed your approach and teaching style?

My time in the army and my vast experience of driving have given me the confidence to pass my knowledge on to others. Also, the ability to think on my feet and make quick, important decisions is crucial – plus the ability to take responsibility for your actions is also important. A lot of my pupils say I’m firm but fair and like the fact that I say it as it is. I don’t believe in sugar coating!

The one thing I would change about the industry is for a national or local minimum hourly rate of, say, £26 to be set; this would put an end to all these cheap deals that are stopping instructors from earning a decent wage.”

– ADI Phil Jones on the solution to the industry’s cut price lessons issue.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?

Like most driving Instructors, the best part of the job is getting a pass; it’s priceless especially with a pupil who has special needs and has struggled. The worst part has got to be the book keeping and tax returns; thankfully, the advent of IT has made this side of things much easier.

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience?

My biggest learning experience has been going on a small business course. It doesn’t matter how good an instructor you are, if you can’t run a business, you will fail. It’s important to realise that you are a businessman first who just happens to teach people how to drive.

What was it like striking out on your own for the first time?

When I first started Go Learn 2 Drive, I had a few reservations but decided to do both manual and automatic. I very quickly had too much work for me to cope with on my own so I took another instructor on – a woman – giving me more flexibility plus attracting even more pupils. I also had a fantastic website and was able to concentrate on doing all my marketing online.

I am now expanding and am training my own instructors. I find this is a better approach than taking on an already qualified ADI as I can mould them into what I want for my business; ADIs are too set in their ways and don’t seem to like change.

What advice would you give to an ADI wanting to set up a driving school?

I would say anybody thinking about setting up on their own needs a business plan plus you need to set yourself a target and have a USP for the school. Also charge as much as you can and don’t let any pupil get away without paying; personally, we work on a pre-paid basis so if someone cancels with short notice, it doesn’t matter as I’ve already been paid!

Finally, how do you find Theory Test Pro helps your students?

It’s a great tool to have as I find pupils seem to pass the theory test a lot quicker when using it. It’s also great for part 1 training as well.

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Meet the ADIs: Stewart Latcham & Family

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After the driving school he worked for closed down, ADI Stewart Latcham started his own family-run business, KSL Driving School, with wife Karen Latcham, which has been operating in the Stafford and Telford areas since 2009.

So successful has the school been that the couple have gone on to create franchises with their son, Tom Latcham aged 22, when he qualified in September 2016 plus close family friend Dan McCabe and Graham Turney, their son-in-law. Here we talk to Stewart about why keeping it in the family has been vital to the driving school and its franchises’ reputations.

Why did you decide to work together?
Having a family-run business means the pupils get an excellent experience as we can do mock practical tests with each other’s pupils. We have built up a sound reputation in Telford, Stafford and surrounding areas and no longer need to advertise with pupils typically contacting us because of recommendations from previous pupils.

Dan has said that the support from the family is reason he is with the company plus he, Tom and Graham wanted to have genuine career and professional status. Also, they will eventually take over and run the business together.

The benefits of a family working together means close communication with each other, close relationships, standing in for each other and having the benefit of sitting in on each other’s lessons to offer peer support.”
– Stewart Latcham, owner of the KSL Driving School

What is the appeal of the job to you?
The ability to expand someone’s knowledge and awareness – not only of what they can achieve but how their actions influence others. The satisfaction of taking on a pupil who has no idea about driving and then training them to understand all aspects so they can pass their driving test and become a safe driver is very rewarding. It gives a real sense of job satisfaction.

It’s also great to be self employed and in control of your own diary and time management without the bureaucracy of being an employee.

How would you describe your teaching style?
We all have a relaxed, informal style of teaching, making sure that the pupil enjoys their lessons and feel as though they are getting the most out of them. Once a pupil’s potential has been identified, we feel a great sense of responsibility to bring it out of them. We encourage a relaxed atmosphere in the car as well and never become annoyed when pupils take longer than expected to achieve their potential.

A good rapport is built up between the instructor and pupil to ensure their confidence increases, enabling them to pass their driving test and become a safe driver. If a pupil is struggling with a teaching method then the approach is changed to meet their needs. We also give them the option to change instructors if their reduced learning is due to the instructor’s personality.

My favourite part is seeing a nervous pupil that lacks confidence pass their driving test. Least favourite part is becoming frustrated with pupils who are not committed to their lessons.”
– Stewart Latcham

“My favourite part is building up a pupil relationship over the duration of their lessons and becoming very proud of their achievement when they pass. Least favourite part is the frustration when students don’t listen to advice.”
– Karen Latcham

“My favourite part of the job is the satisfaction when a pupil passes their test. Like my dad, my least favourite part is becoming frustrated when pupils are not committed to their lessons.”
– Tom Latcham

“My favourite part has to be the satisfaction of my pupils coming out of the test centre with that pass certificate. My least favourite part would be when you can see the potential of a pupil and put the work in but get nothing in return or they just don’t have the commitment needed.”
– Dan McCabe

“My favourite part of the job is having the freedom to work set hours that fit around family life.”
– Graham Turney

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From left to right: Stewart Latcham, Karen Latcham, Tom Latcham, Dan McCabe & Graham Turney.

 

How do you run the business together? How do you allocate responsibilities?
We are all proactive members of the KSL team, making joint decisions to ensure the business runs smoothly. Having spent many years in sales, I make the sales decisions and am always coming up with new sales and promotional materials to enhance company prospects.

Karen has spent many years in management and teaching roles so she takes the lead on ensuring all our instructors have the support they need. She also organises our monthly team meetings to discuss moving the company forward while developing our teaching materials.

Being young ADIs, Tom and Dan are both aware of what young pupils need and they communicate on the same level as the pupil. They have received excellent pupil feedback and have excellent first-time pass rates. Tom is also bringing KSL into the digital age by having a social media presence and improving the website design.

Also, because Tom is qualified in photography, he uses this skill to photograph our instructors and cars, etc. so the pupils are aware of what their instructors look like when they meet us for the first time. Finally, Graham has run his own business for many years so has knowledge of sales and marketing too.

What is the current state of your business and your plans for the future?
We’d like to have more instructors working for us as we have to turn away pupils daily due to lack of instructor capacity! Turning business away does not sit well with the KSL strategy of offering a valuable service.

We will also be delivering instructor Part 3 training and this is something that all our instructors are keen to do. Running some Continuing Professional Development (CPD) events for our instructors is also something that we will be doing next year.

Finally, as a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Our pupils benefit from both the desktop version and the app, the latter allowing them to access TTP wherever they are. We can track their progress and test their knowledge periodically. The hazard perception section is also larger than most other programs and is invaluable.

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Meet the ADI: Robert Anscombe

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A veteran instructor based in Yorkshire, Robert Anscombe reveals how to stand out in a competitive marketplace and what the DVSA needs to do to make life easier for his students.

Owner of Rob’s School of Motoring in Whitby, Robert has carved out a successful career as an ADI over the past ten years, putting his success down to reputation building plus a shrewd use of internet marketing.

What did you do before becoming an ADI?
I worked in a lot of office-based jobs, including a hotel on Scarborough seafront and a bank in Whitby. Since leaving full-time education though, I only managed to stick at a job for one-to-two years at most as I got bored and always wanted a change.

Why did you make the move into instructing?
In my previous jobs, there was a focus on selling and even though I was good at it, I knew deep down that it wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career. To be honest, I never even thought of becoming a driving instructor; I just knew I wanted to do something different.

So when I was looking in the jobs section of a newspaper, I saw this advert simply stating “Become a Driving Instructor”. And when I thought about it, I realised that I have always loved driving and really liked the idea of being my own boss. Of course, I didn’t have any experience of teaching so I knew it would be a challenge – but one I was up for.

What kind of ADI are you?
I’d like to think that I am a very easy going person who gets on very well with all my students. Even though we have a laugh and a joke on my lessons, I am also very aware of how expensive driving lessons are so I also like to make sure my students are getting value for money.

I would class myself as a bit of a perfectionist and like to get my students to a high standard. Often after one of my students passes, they will say to me that it was a lot easier on the test than they thought it would be – this always makes me smile but also pleases me because I know then that I’ve done my job properly!

What is your teaching style?
Some of my students might disagree but I don’t think I have a ‘teaching style’. Instead, I would like to think I can quickly assess the type of student sat next to me and adapt my teaching method according to the individual’s needs.

An example of this would be if one of my students is struggling with a particular manoeuvre, I will try and use explanations, diagrams, reference points, etc. But there then could be another student tackling the same topic but who is more or less doing it on their own so there’s no need for that extra guidance. Ultimately, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to teaching isn’t the right way to go.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
I love many aspects of it including the fact I am my own boss, which is great when you have a young family. It means I can watch things like the kids’ nativity play without worrying about asking anyone for time off.

I also enjoy the fact that you meet so many different people and even though you are always teaching people to drive, you never get bored as there are always different situations to overcome. But best of all, I love the look on my students’ faces when they find out they have passed – I still remember my first pass 10 years ago and that sense of satisfaction never gets old.

The worst part of the job is when a student fails; I know I shouldn’t but I personally feel like I haven’t done my job properly. Trying to make conversation with someone on the drive back from a fail is still a horrible experience.”

– ADI Robert Anscombe

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
We all know that some students can take to driving really quickly and you only have to tell some people something once and they ‘get it’. Then we have the students who are just ‘average’ and I mean that in the nicest way possible, i.e. that they take the average amount of lessons.

But my biggest learning experience is dealing with students who really struggle with driving and you need a lot of patience and commitment to help them. It was something though that I was worried about because outside of instructing, I am not a very patient person – I like things done there and then – but with instructing, I like to think I am extremely patient and being able to get such students through their test gives you a massive sense of achievement.

Whitby has a very competitive ADI scene – how have you managed to stand out from the crowd?
Whitby does have a lot of instructors considering the size of the town plus we also get a lot of ADIs coming in from outside Whitby to teach as well. You also have to consider that in Whitby there are a lot of extremely good driving instructors so it does make it difficult.

I don’t think what I am doing is any great secret – I just try and be as professional as I can and teach people to the best of my ability and hopefully my reputation helps me stand out. It must be working as I have had a waiting list of three months for a long time now and I don’t do any paid advertising.

Instead, I use Facebook and Twitter a lot which is great as it’s free and used by young people which is a massive age group in our profession. When people pass, I post photos of my students saying that they have passed and usually within hours of doing this, I’ll have 2-3 enquiries for lessons.

What advice would you give to an ADI who finds themselves in a crowded area?
Use all the free advertising you can, i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also consider paid advertising if you are new to the job – it might seem expensive especially if you don’t have many students but usually just one student signing up will be enough to cover the cost of that paid advert.

I would also suggest new ADIs consider how they advertise – will your target audience see where you are advertising? Do many students flick through the Yellow Pages? Possibly not – so consider a more internet-based approach.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
The waiting times for driving tests. In 2016, some students were waiting up to five months for a test and I think such a delay puts a lot of pressure on pupils because they know if they fail, they’ll have a long wait before another test date comes up.

Thankfully, a lot more effort has been made by the DVSA in Whitby this year to try and reduce the times as they have recruited more examiners in the area. Overall though, they must offer more test dates and bring on board more examiners nationwide.

As a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Theory Test Pro helps my students massively – there is nothing else on the market which offers so much free material to pupils. My students also like the way the software records everything they do and tells them what percentage of the questions they have answered. Also having the free app is a massive bonus. I certainly wouldn’t be without Theory Test Pro as it also helps me stand out in Whitby’s highly competitive market.

rob2

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Meet the ADI: Ehtesham Patel

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Former council worker turned driving instructor Ehtesham Patel reveals why constantly improving and pushing yourself is essential to becoming a successful ADI.

Owner of the Leicester-based Your Driving Academy, Ehtesham has been teaching learners since 2008 and puts his success down to adapting his teaching method to suit his students’ individual needs – and ensuring his team of ADIs always get the support they need.

What did you do before becoming an ADI?
My previous experience was in customer service roles – for instance, while qualifying to become a driving instructor, I was working for Leicester City Council delivering a frontline service to local residents. Whatever the job, I was continually developing my communication skills on the telephone and face-to-face, which has proven to be invaluable as a driving instructor and driving school owner.

Why did you make the move into instructing?
To be honest, I actually thought about a career in instructing while I was learning to drive! I can remember being in the middle of a driving lesson – I can even remember exactly where I was at the time – and thinking: “I’d love to become a driving instructor”. I love driving and being out and about, and the idea of teaching people essential life skills was really exciting to me – and still is.

How did you develop your career?
I started out as a franchisee for a local driving school where I learned a lot – for instance, how all driving schools were generally run at the time. To be honest though, I didn’t have the greatest experience; I wasn’t supplied with enough work and found myself struggling to make any profit with little or no support.

Once my contract ended, I decided enough was enough and started up my own driving school – with my first child on the way, it was a huge and scary step. I committed myself entirely to the task and as the business grew, I started working with my first ADI and we haven’t looked back since! The school now has 10 driving instructors including myself.

Growing the driving school hasn’t come without its own challenges though – being a good driving instructor isn’t enough. Some of the challenges include cashflow problems, time management (there’s never enough hours in the day!) and learning how to properly run a business.

Ehtesham Patel - Your Driving Academy 2

What has been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
Changing my mindset and repeatedly stepping outside of my comfort zone by trying out different teaching styles and methods. Also, the day-to-day running of a business is a challenge, and writing and creating my new Learners Toolkit was something I’d never done before either but it turned out really well.

What is your teaching style?
I’ve changed my teaching style several times over the years and I continue to do so. The philosophy that lies at the heart of all my teaching though is to tailor the training to the individual and their learning needs. Most importantly, I have focused on simplifying the learning process; the way I introduce topics, break things up into bite-sized information, correct faults, even down to the wording and phrases I use. I go to great lengths to ensure driving lessons are fun and enjoyable and that my students meet their goals in each and every one.

Critically, I realised very early on that I had a lot to learn and I have committed myself fully to continually boosting this learning. I still push myself constantly so I develop in every area as a business owner and as a driving instructor.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
Being an ADI can be lonely and finding the right help and support didn’t come easy to me especially in the early days as an ADI. As for the favourite part, I love making a positive impact on other people’s lives; empowering them with life skills and making learning to drive simple and fun. The best part though is aiding learners gain their independence by helping them pass the driving test. It is hugely satisfying!

What practical advice would you give to new ADIs to ensure they don’t become isolated or are left feeling unsupported?
I’d recommend newly qualified ADIs start with a franchise to kickstart their new career and have their diaries filled within a few days or weeks. Ideally, find a franchise that offers not only plenty of work but is very supportive in your formative stages. I make myself available to my team 24/7 – even when I’m on vacation.

We also offer in-car support to all our instructors but if your franchisor doesn’t offer this service, I’d definitely recommend finding a local trainer to help. They can confirm you’re doing the right stuff and advise on what steps you can take to further develop and improve your training and working practices.

I promised myself that any ADI who I worked with would never go through the same struggle as I did during my own formative years; that I would always support them and be there for them”
– Ehtesham Patel, owner of Your Driving Academy in Leicester

How should a new ADI get the best possible start for themselves and their business?
If it’s the first time you’ve been self-employed, seek advice from an accountant. You’re going to need to take some time out to get up to speed with running a business (even as a franchisee), i.e. what records you need to keep, important dates, managing your money, etc.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question (that’s what we tell our learners right?). As first point of contact, you should approach your driving school for any advice and support. You’ll get to meet other ADIs at your local driving test centres and over time, you’ll develop good relationships with other local instructors as well. Remember that driving examiners are very approachable and I would encourage you to speak with them. Ask them questions regarding training, standards check and driving tests.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would give an ADI about growing their careers?
Commit to learning, improving and developing yourself as an ADI whether it be through BTEC coaching courses, training days, conferences, etc. This commitment to learning and developing helps unlock potential you never knew existed. Take personal responsibility.

Finally, as a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
I believe Theory Test Pro is a huge help. It doesn’t cost students a penny, keeps track of their progress, is accessible anywhere at anytime and is available on practically any device – it prepares pupils so they can take their theory test with confidence. It’s also a huge help for us too because it adds value to our service and generates new pupil enquiries. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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Meet the ADI: Rob Gwilliams

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Former factory line trainer turned ADI Rob Gwilliams reveals why his move into instructing was the best career decision he ever made – and how it could help the future career of his motorsports-obsessed daughter.

Owner of the Shrewsbury-based Rob Gwilliams Driving School, Rob has been a successful ADI since 2004 and is using the training skills he learned on the factory floor to make students safer drivers – and to help under 17s make their driving dreams come true.

What did you do before becoming an ADI?
I worked for a large engine manufacturing company for eight-and-a-half years. Because of my knowledge of the factory and how it worked, I was one of the main trainers on our line and enjoyed the teaching aspects. Because I loved driving, I decided that I could put the two together! Unfortunately, the cost of training was too expensive at the time so I was forced to put my plans on hold. But when a voluntary redundancy programme was announced, I realised that the funding I needed was suddenly there! So I took the plunge.

What kind of ADI are you?
I am a very laid back and mellow kind of instructor. I like to make my lessons fun but keep them very informative too, focusing on real learning while prioritising safety. To help connect with each and every student, I have also been using Client Centre Learning (CCL) techniques to get the students learning in a way that suits them.

The CCL approach sees you adapting your teaching style to suit the learner’s aptitude – after all, everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds so it’s important to adapt your teaching style to help them achieve test success. My pupils also get a book to help them learn, write their logs in and do their homework in. In my experience, if they actually do fill in the books, they tend to learn better, although it’s not always easy to get all of my students to do it!

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
My favourite is when students pass their tests – I love to see their happiness and pride when they do! I also love meeting new students and figuring out the best way to teach them. The worse part is when a student fails their test or when a student cancels without giving me enough notice; the latter really does make me feel like I’ve been messed about.

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
I think the whole job itself has been one big learning experience; you are always learning and growing. I don’t think that anyone in this job is perfect as the challenges facing the profession are continually changing plus every student is different.

There are two things I want to change about the industry – first, for tests to be more consistent; for instance, one student can do one thing and fail but the following week, they do the same thing and pass because it’s a different examiner. Second, test waiting times are a major issue that must to be rectified as soon as possible. It is unfair to make pupils wait so long when they are test-ready.

– ADI Rob Gwilliams on the current state of the industry

You have set up an Under 17 Driving Academy to not only help youngsters get into driving but to help your daughter too. Can you go into more detail?
My 15-year-old daughter Caitlin wants to get into motorsports but can’t if she is unable to drive! So she started looking into enrolling at an under 17 driving school but there weren’t any in the local area, so we decided that it was gap that needed to be filled!

I got together with two other ADIs and formed the Shrewsbury Under 17 Driving Academy. Caitlin now has 13 hours of driving under her belt and has become a lot more confident – she really wants to get on the roads now! In the meantime, she has also bought herself a go-kart that she’ll get out on to the track in shortly and meanwhile, has done plenty of racing in corporate karts.

Why do you think it is important for under 17s to get behind the wheel?
It helps them learn the controls plus it drives home the importance of safe driving. It’s also great to give them an experience in a safe and legal environment that they can’t officially get yet.

Finally, how do you find Theory Test Pro helps your students?
It’s an excellent source of training where I can keep a track on their progress and advise them if they need help in particular areas. It’s also a very easy system to use and covers a wide range of questions.

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As well as creating an under 17 driving school because of his daughter Caitlin’s motorsport ambitions, Rob has also  sponsored her first pro go-kart, officially making him a nominee for a ‘World’s Best Dad’ award!

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Meet the ADIs: Andy and Lewis Wright

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The father-and-son instructing team reveal how they created and grew the award-winning driving school, WrightStart.

Created by the father and son team, Andy and Lewis Wright in 2013, WrightStart has been a huge success story, culminating in winning a place in the Small Business Saturday 100, the annual event that celebrates the very best in British small business.

Theory Test Pro talks to the father-son team about their business and how being related has helped boost their company’s fortunes.

How long have you both been ADIs?
Lewis: I qualified in September 2012 and Andy shortly after in March 2013. We formed WrightStart in 2013 so we’ve been officially working together for nearly four years now and going from strength to strength!

What was the inspiration behind becoming ADIs?
Lewis: I always wanted to become a driving instructor ever since my first driving lesson. I knew from an early age I wanted to be a teacher of some kind and when I found out I was a natural at driving, I knew it was the right career choice for me. So I enrolled onto an ADI training course as soon as I was eligible at 21. My father Andy then saw that it was a good move and decided to have a career change.

Andy: I had previously been working as a computer engineer, a job that I enjoyed but I knew that there was more to life than putting in a lot of work hours for little credit. Several people had suggested to me over the years that I would make a good driving instructor because my previous job had entailed teaching and training. Having seen what was involved as Lewis went through the process, I decided to take the plunge and have a complete career change.

What is the appeal of the job for you both?
Lewis: I thoroughly enjoy sharing skills and knowledge with other people and seeing their learning progress plus it’s great to be your own boss and not be stuck in an office environment.

Andy: I knew the benefits and pitfalls of running my own company as my brother had run his own business for over 30 years and it seemed the right time to make that big commitment before I reached the age of 50.

How would you describe your teaching style? Do you differ from one another?
Lewis: I would say that we are very similar in teaching styles as we were both trained by the same instructor. We also regularly discuss techniques and ideas and use the same lesson plans although I prefer my way of teaching the parallel park to Andy’s. Also, having similar teaching styles works really well if one of us is off sick or working away as we use the same cars and can cater for the others pupils in our diary when necessary.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
Lewis: I love teaching anything I thrive at and showing others how to do it. I would probably say the worst part of the job is the constant car cleaning although I normally pass the buck on that one.

Andy: I find the best part of the job is the end result; a confident pupil who has a good understanding and application of the skills of driving, all culminating in a test pass with as few minors as possible. My least favourite part is probably having to say “sorry we can’t fit you in”. I always like to accommodate where possible but even I need a break sometimes!

When and why did you decide to go into business together?
Lewis: Two brains are better than one and we obviously have the benefit of both youth and experience, which works incredibly well as we can bounce ideas off of each other. I knew from a young age I wanted to run my own business and to have the opportunity to do that with the support of my father was excellent!

There are many benefits to working together as a duo; we can share amazing ideas and spread the risk when introducing new services which solo instructors can struggle with. I do have to say though that when we are at family events, we sometimes struggle to switch off!”
– Son Lewis Wright on working with his father, Andy.

How do you run the business together? How do you allocate responsibilities?
Lewis: Over the last few years as we have started to grow in size, we have found more and more jobs need doing so dividing up responsibilities has been essential.

Andy: Generally, Lewis works on business growth and development along with looking after our sister company WrightStart Experiences, which is a junior driving school for under 17s. I manage all pupils and bookings plus vehicles and networking with our affiliate companies.

What is the current state of your business and your plans for the future?
Lewis: Business is currently booming, we have a constant stream of pupil referrals and long may this continue. In fact we need two instructors at present to join our growing team. There are some big plans for the future – we are launching something in the New Year which could change the face of the driving industry but for now we’re keeping our cards close to our chest.

Why do you feel you have been so successful?
Lewis: Success is hard to achieve and has taken a lot of time and effort; we are still working hard to get where we really want to be. I feel the reason behind WrightStart’s success so far is consistency, professionalism and our market-leading website that our pupils can utilise alongside lessons.

Andy: Being a father and son team definitely offers a quirky edge that works in our favour too!

Tell us more about the Small Business Saturday Award you won this year.
Lewis: Small Business Saturday is an exceptional example of collaboration and co-operation with small businesses teaming up in communities around the UK. It is all about working together and promoting local suppliers and companies instead of using large national chains and brands. It is so refreshing to buy from local people and know that it is making a difference to a real person and their families.

What do you believe were the main reasons for winning a place in the Small Business Saturday’s Small Biz 100?
Andy: As a driving school, we strive to work as a business that partners with other local people to promote driving products to our customers. We look after all our customers even after they have passed their tests by providing help and guidance on their driving needs and putting them in touch with trusted professionals. This is a key part to Small Business Saturday.

What advice would you give to ADIs who want to expand their business and broaden their horizons?
Lewis: I would definitely encourage instructors to treat their job as a real and proper business; it has to be profitable and creating a thorough business plan is essential to achieving this. Stick to what your good at, move with the times and ensure you know exactly what your target market wants. In other words, do your research.

As a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Andy: We have been with Theory Test Pro for a number of years now and cannot fault the system and the support behind the scenes. It is a fantastic tool which is fully integrated within our website and is actively used among our pupils. The software is definitely a key part of helping our students learn.

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Meet the ADI: Alison Nolan

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From training call centre employees to instructing pupils how to drive, ADI Alison Nolan has proven she has a natural gift for teaching.

Founder of Alison’s Driving School in Sittingbourne, Kent, the former call centre operator-turned-ADI has been instructing since 2008, first as part of a franchise before striking out on her own and becoming a successful independent instructor.

What was the inspiration for becoming an ADI?
In 2007, I was working in a call centre where as well as taking customer calls, I taught new staff members how to use our in-house computer system. After a while I realised how much I liked teaching and helping people, so when I saw an advert in the paper to train to be a driving instructor, I decided to do some research.

Initially, I decided that the cost to train was too much and left it another 14 months before I thought about it again. This time, my husband and I decided that I should do the training. It took me a year to train as I was also working full-time at the call centre. I finally passed my part 3 exam in August 2008 and started a franchise with a large driving school at the beginning of September 2008.

Was there anything you learnt from your previous career that informs how you teach as an ADI?
I do believe that helping people to learn at the call centre helped me to realise my potential to become an instructor and as I love to drive, I decided to put the two things together and teach people how to drive!

What were the benefits of being part of a major franchise and why did you go solo?
Initially, working for a major franchise was the best way forward for me, as they supplied me with the vehicle and all the advertising, and they also had a pupil introduction scheme which allowed me to get started as soon as possible. I continued with the franchise for two years before deciding to go independent as the franchise costs had become quite high. I realised that leasing my own vehicle would virtually halve my costs therefore allowing me to earn more in the long run.

What were the main issues you faced going solo and how did you overcome them?
It was quite tough going independent initially as I had to find my own pupils. After a while I started to get recommendations and the work slowly built up but I needed to do more. I printed some special offer vouchers and did a leaflet drop in my local area. This got me two pupils straight away and then a few more booked lessons as birthday or Christmas presents. My work now comes mostly from recommendations with a few people calling as they’ve seen my car and some have found my website on Google. I get quite a lot of work from people wanting a female instructor.

My business has gone from strength to strength over the last few years as I am now a well established name in instructor circles within my local area. I would like to continue the business and perhaps start teaching automatic lessons as well.

How would you describe your teaching style?
My teaching has developed a lot over the years. I try to make the lessons fun while also getting across the importance of safety; I focus very much on the issue of safety throughout the entire learning process while teaching key issues in stages. I find this works best as it allows the pupil to think about one thing at a time until they are able to put the whole process together. Although we have a set curriculum, I tend to teach things according to what I feel will benefit the pupil the most on each lesson. If they don’t get it straight away, I explain things in a different way, which works 99% of the time.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
My favourite part is when the examiner tells my pupil they have passed their test! The look of joy on their faces is awesome and I feel that we have reached our goal together. It’s amazing to see them on the road in their own cars after they have passed too. The worst part is the amount of traffic on the road and the attitude of a small minority of other drivers who seem to have forgotten that they were once learners themselves!

What’s been your biggest professional learning experience and why?
Over the years, I have learnt that everyone has a different learning style and I need to adapt my teaching to fit in with each individual learner. If they find something challenging, I try to explain and demonstrate it in a different way. I also ask them how they feel about what they’re doing and what are they thinking about at each stage of the lesson; giving them this opportunity to tell me what they think really helps them to work out the best way to deal with any problem.

Finally, as a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students?
Giving my pupils access to Theory Test Pro helps us to work together in our own time and if they get the answers wrong, the site is very good at offering an explanation of the correct answer. Pupils also have the opportunity to practice everything they need to pass – including the Hazard Perception – in whichever way that works best for them. By topic, by quick test or by full mock test, everything is in one place for them.

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Meet the ADI: Kathy Higgins

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Since 1999, ADI and owner of Insight 2 Drive, Kathy Higgins, has built up an award-winning business that has several areas of expertise from teaching learners and instructors to fleet driver training.

Kathy currently spends her time between managing her Liverpool-based company that employs multiple ADIs, running Speed Awareness/driver behavioural courses and continuing to train driving instructors.

What was your inspiration for becoming ADI?
Back in the 90s, I was a sales rep travelling the length and breadth of the country and was fed up with it. To add insult to injury, I remember returning to the office one day in my battered old Ford only to find that the boss had got a brand new car. I remember thinking that here I am, out in the field all day and he’s got himself a new car just to get to and from the office in.

At that moment, I realised I needed to be my own boss and have my own business. So I thought about what I was good at and realised it was driving – I had already taken and passed an IAM Advanced Motoring Course at this point. So I decided to become a driving instructor – it was the perfect fit.

How would you describe your teaching style?
I am down to earth, quite relaxed and try and simplify things as much I can. This is especially true when it comes to training ADIs – you find there are ADI trainers out there who through no fault of their own, overcomplicate the training because of how they themselves have been taught. They can make the process sound really complicated when it it isn’t – all you have to do as a trainer is see the faults, identify them, say something about it, find out why the faults occurred and how you are going to fix it. That’s it – it’s not rocket science so keep it simple, keep it direct.

What essential skills must an ADI have?
The first is adaptability; an instructor must be able to adapt their training style to the specific pupil. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has taken on pupils from driving schools who have given up on them and told the learner that they aren’t good enough to ever pass. In actual fact, it’s not the student who isn’t good enough – it’s the instructor who hasn’t adapted their style so they can teach the pupil effectively.

The other essential skill is basic business acumen. It’s critical that trainee instructors understand that they will be running their own business and the buck will stop with them. So they must plan their cashflows properly, ensuring that if they, say, charge £240 for 10 lessons, they don’t spend all that money at once and then come up short later down the line.

So I teach them about cash management and cash flow; for instance, I’ve always had a savings account for my business, into which I put a quarter of what I earn on a rolling basis and just leave it there. Come the tax bill at the end of the year, it means I always have the money to pay it. And then because I have saved a quarter, I always have money left over that I can then reinvest in the business, buy essential equipment with or even give myself a pay rise with!

What do you say to ADIs who offer cut-price lessons in order to get more trade?
If things are going badly, the knee jerk reaction is often to start cutting prices, to be the cheapest – but there is very little chance of coming back from that if you make such a shortsighted move and you end up working for next to nothing. We maintained our prices – with a rare loss leader or two – all the way through the credit crunch and okay, we might have had less learners on our books but we weren’t running round like fools working for a pittance.

If you offer cutthroat prices, you’ll also attract the wrong type of customer, the one who is going to run out of money sooner rather than later. They’re the type who just want cheap lessons and then the next thing is that they can’t afford it or they let you down. It’s just not worth it.

I always tell my ADI students the story of Barbara and Tom; Tom is very successful instructor and works 40 hours a week. He’s got a waiting list of learners wanting to learn with him, and he is constantly busy. Tom charges £10 an hour so he grosses £400 a week.

“On the other hand, Barbara is not very successful; she only gets about 20 hours a week of work. She doesn’t have much of a waiting list either because Barbaras’ biggest problem is that she charges £20 an hour; that’s twice as expensive as Tom. Barbara grosses £400 a week too.

“I ask my students – which instructor would you rather be? The answer of course is Barbara but some instructors don’t understand that it’s okay to lose half your customers but still earn good money because you’ve been charging proper prices. It’s about working smarter, not harder.”
– Kathy Higgins, ADI trainer and founder of Insight 2 Drive

As a presenter and trainer of Speed Awareness courses, what do you think of the standard of driving now compared to ten years ago?
I believe driving has gone bad. The reason is simple – people aren’t getting caught when they break the rules of the road anymore because we have less police officers on patrol than before. This is compounded by the fact there is now precious little respect for the police or the law itself. People know that they won’t get caught and the more times they get away with breaking it, the more it tells them that they won’t get caught – so they keep doing it. It’s a vicious circle.

You achieved a great deal in your career to date. What motivates you to keep pushing yourself?
I have a need to learn new things and be inventive. If I’m honest, I suspect it goes back to my school days where I wasn’t deemed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer! And if you didn’t get top marks at my school, you were left to your own devices because the support simply wasn’t there and the staff didn’t care. I was left feeling that I had to constantly prove myself – to show myself and others that I was bright enough to do whatever I turned my mind to; ultimately, that I have something to offer.

Finally, what do you think of Theory Test Pro?
I ensure that all my ADI trainees use it and the feedback from them has been fantastic. We’ve also noticed that pupils who use Theory Test Pro properly always pass first time. As for those who fail their theory test? You only need to go and look at their Theory Test Pro account and see that they’ve only used it once or twice. Bottom line is that the software prepares you fully for your test whether you’re a learner driver or a prospective instructor.

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