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.