April 24, 2018
It’s no surprise that driving school owners struggle with turning a profit. The business is seasonal and expenses can be high. However, follow my 22 do’s and don’ts to increase driving school profit. Over time, you’ll be very happy you did.
Too many obstacles often get in the way. Instead of focusing on long-term initiatives, owners get bogged down in day-to-day tasks. Now is the time to realign your way of thinking to increase driving school profit to sustain your operations.
Simply get rid of old, non-profitable habits and welcome an era of change and profitability.
1. Don’t chase shiny objects to increase driving school profit
Do you have “Shiny Object Syndrome?” According to Entrepreneur.com, many small business owners suffer from this affliction. It’s a disease of distraction that can lead your business down the wrong path.
Like a small child chasing a shiny object, this syndrome is all-encompassing and extremely time-consuming. If you suffer from this syndrome, it can cause you to burn through cash and even confuse your staff.
I still struggle with chasing shiny objects, but I’m working on it. I now sit on ideas before launching them. What seemed like a great idea in February can seem like a terrible one in April. Instead of launching ten new projects, I might choose one or two. I also set long- and short-term goals for all new projects.
2. Do think outside the box to increase driving school profit
Instead of chasing shiny objects, a better plan is to think outside the box. Most driving school owners operate “inside the box” about 90% of the time. Familiarity means you’re operating within your comfort level. However, that’s not always a good thing.
Most driving schools look the same and usually offer the same services. Think outside the box with your brand identity to stand out. Instead of using stock photography, hire a professional designer to develop your unique brand image to separate you from the competition.
3. Don’t drown in the daily grind
As a driving school owner, it’s all too easy to get caught in the daily grind of checking things off your to-do list. If you’re not careful, you’ll star in your own version of Groundhog Day.
Sports superstars excel at leaving the daily grind behind and getting their head in the game. Somehow, they always manage to maintain perseverance and achieve their long-term goals.
While you’re not Tom Brady, you too can accomplish your own driving school goals by utilizing automation, hiring extra staff and breaking out of the daily grind. This will result in a path to increase driving school profit.
4. Do focus on big picture initiatives
Delegation and automation should be your best friends to break out of the daily grind. Delegate any tasks that can be handled by an employee and utilize software that can save time and money. Then redirect your focus on big picture initiatives.
So, how can you step back from low value tasks and look at the big picture to increase driving school profit? The first step is to actually allocate time to thinking. It’s amazing how infrequently we actually do this.
If you’re always focused on your to-do list, you’ll never find time to study the big picture. Block off some time on your calendar to generate new ideas and identify action steps. Read and study small business and marketing blogs. Think about how you can implement the best ideas at your own driving school.
Don’t work “in” your business, work “on” it. Work on high level hiring or a big initiative that can make a big impact on your bottom line. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t drown in the daily grind to increase driving school profit.
5. Don’t ignore your website
Let’s face it. Most driving school websites are outdated, feature stock photography, and are not maximized for mobile use. Believe it or not, some websites don’t even offer online ordering. That’s archaic, to say the least.
If your own driving school website is slow, boring or difficult to navigate, you’re losing money each and every day. Potential customers will bounce quicker than you can shout, “Come back!”
The biggest detriment to increase driving school profit is having a website that doesn’t offer online purchasing. About 80% of Americans have made an online purchase in the last month. If your website isn’t offering E-commerce transactions, you’re leaving thousands of dollars on the table each month.
6. Do have a professional analyze your website
Your website should perform like a seasoned sales professional. It should attract potential customers and convince them to purchase your services in the fewest number of steps possible. The best thing about a fine-tuned website is that it’s open 24/7/365!
Driving school websites should be simple, clean, responsive. They should also follow best practices for improving SEO and URL structure guidelines.
So, you’re not a tech guru, but understand the incredible value of a high performing website. Can you make changes that will immediately increase driving school profit? It’s possible, but very technical. Therefore, I recommend that you consult a professional company like Drive Scout to help with your website needs.
7. Don’t spend unnecessarily
Operating a driving school can be costly. The price to purchase, maintain, insure and fuel your driving school vehicles definitely take a gigantic bite out of your profit.
The cost to purchase supplies also affects your bottom line. However, many driving school owners have no purchase plan in place. I knew every vendor and reviewed them often to make sure I was always getting the best price.
Negotiation is key to increase driving school profit. Call vendors and suppliers frequently and simply ask for a better price.
If you continually pay “sticker price,” you’re paying too much. Keep a sharp eye on all expenses and negotiate frequently to increase driving school profit.
8. Do analyze your finances regularly
The best way to fully understand the success or failure of your driving school is to perform regular audits. It’s a dependable and reliable system of checks and balances.
If you’re not performing regular audits, how do you know if you’re reaching your goals? How can you make important decisions without reliable data? You can’t. That’s my point.
The old adage “garbage in, garbage out” comes into play here. If your data isn’t accurate and reliable, your decisions are only assumptions. Cold, hard and correct information can only come from regular audits.
I highly recommend performing daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual audits. For more information about the importance of performing regular audits, check out this Drive Scout blog post.
9. Don’t rely on paper
Does your driving school still use paper? If so, it’s time to start utilizing software and technology to make your work environment more productive.
Although technology has changed the way people work, most driving schools are still stuck in the paper-based document management rut. Owners often waste precious time combing through paper and folders when software solutions let you find the information you need in seconds.
Plus, if you are still operating in a paper world, it’s all too easy to lose or misplace important documents. This is frustrating and time-consuming. To stay competitive in the driving school industry, you need the right information at the right time. Paper-based businesses waste too much time.
10. Do automate whenever possible
Driving schools can be quite profitable when you use the right tools to save time and money. Especially when utilizing a solid driving school software suite.
I personally utilize technology to its full extend. My favorite software programs and tools to increase driving school profit include Constant Contact, Google Ad Words, Google Analytics, Microsoft Office 365 from GoDaddy, Quickbooks Online Plus, Trello, and Drive Scout.
11. Don’t undercharge your customers
Don’t be a loss leader. It’s never good to be the lowest priced driving school on the block. Undercharging customers can lead to low profits. If your prices are so low that you can barely cover your expenses, what’s the point of operating a business at all?
Someone will always beat you on price, so why not beat them at their own game by offering excellent customer service. People understand the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”
12. Do focus on offering excellent
In order to increase driving school profit, it’s critically important to provide the highest level of customer service. Providing the best consumer experience will lead to repeat customers, referrals and tons of good online reviews.
Small Biz Trends says…
Do everything in your power to absolutely delight your customer. Going above and beyond to deliver an amazing customer experience increases the chance of repeat bookings; and might inspire your customer to recommend your business. These are both positive levers on the unit economic model of a business.
13. Don’t continue marketing efforts that produce minimal results
Marketing has changed dramatically. In the early 2000’s, a small business like a driving school had about ten different avenues to market their services. Most were expensive and not very targeted.
Flash forward to 2018. Now, driving schools can advertise without breaking the bank. Why spend thousands on print ads? Yes, they reach your core customers, but they also reach every Tom, Jane and Harry in your community. The marketing rules and guidelines that existed ten years have been blown out of the water.
If you continue to advertise your driving school in the same community paper or multi-business coupon mailer, it may be time to rethink your strategy.
14. Do utilize pay-per-click ads
My marketing manager has had great success with Google, Bing and Facebook PPC ads. These pay-per-click online ads can be launched quickly and the results can be very impressive. We’ve run a variety of PPC ads that usually generate $17-$25 in sales for every dollar spent. That’s a great ROI! Plus, you can easily track the ad results to make minor adjustments when necessary.
15. Don’t forget about your team
Your staff is your best asset. Every driving school has a core team that keeps your school running. Be sure to hire the best employees and reward them for their hard work and loyalty. Also, make sure they advance in their career by providing necessary training and continual education. A happy staff is a productive staff.
16. Do hire staff as necessary
Every successful driving school evaluates its team. Who are the strongest players? Who may be weak in one area, but great in another? What happens if your star quarterback or receiver gets hurt? Do you have a back-up contingency plan?
Because most driving schools profit is made in just 3-4 months for the entire year, you can’t rely on just your star players. Group all your employees into three buckets: Instructors, management team, and office personnel. Make sure to cross-train everyone so that you can ask them to step into another role in case of illness or unexpected departure.
Plus, due to the sheer volume of students, always expand staff seasonally in the summertime. Because it often takes 6 – 10 weeks to get state certified, hire summer instructors in March, at the latest. That way, they’ll be ready to go in June. This includes hiring extra classroom teachers AND in-car driving instructors.
17. Don’t be everything to everyone
It’s far better to be a big fish in a small pond than to be a small fish in a big pond. You simply can’t be everything to everyone. If you offer driver’s ed, in-car lessons, defensive driving and DUI classes, it is very expensive to reach such a diverse customer base.
The most successful driving schools dominate a narrow niche. They don’t waste time and money providing every service under the sun. In other words, they don’t try to be everything for everyone. Instead, they work with a specific niche of clients, and they become the very best at what they do and who they serve.
18. Do limit your services
If you want your driving school to be really successful, I recommend that you fine-tune these business basics: Limit your services, simplify your pricing, and effectively manage your payments.
Limit your services to increase driving school profits
I used to think the more services a driving school offered, the higher profits would be. I don’t think that way anymore.
I’ve seen some schools offer 7+ different services: Drivers education classes, driving lessons, a road test service, DUI classes, defensive driving classes, a learner’s permit course, and an Advanced Driver Training course for parents and their kids. That’s a lot!
I recommend focusing on your top 3-4 services and that’s it!
Simplify your pricing
Have you ever looked at a menu so expansive that you couldn’t decide what to order? Just like having too many services, too many pricing options can also confuse your customer and complicate your business.
Customers need to quickly decide what packages work best for their needs and budget.
19. Don’t rely on organic traffic
Organic traffic is what your website gets over time. It’s is entirely different from traffic that visits your website through paid ads.
Think of it like this. Organic traffic is like a faucet that drips. And drips. Very slowly. Paid traffic is like a faucet that is turned on fully. Traffic comes more quickly and at a steady stream.
Here’s what Paul Tobey from Training Business Pros says about organic traffic…
You can have all the organic traffic you want, and it looks great for google and anyone else you’re trying to impress, but at the end of the day, organic traffic does not bring home the bacon. The user comes, scrapes your website, reads some stuff, logs that information in a dusty closet in their brain somewhere and goes to the next website. That’s what happens.
People who find your website organically are not at the end of the sales funnel. So, don’t rely on organic traffic to reach people ready and willing to make a purchase.
20. Do try to rank #1 on Google
Is it even remotely possible that the average driving school owner can get their business ranked #1 on Google, the MacDaddy of all search engines? The easy answer is “yes.” The more candid answer is “probably, but a lot of time and effort will be required.”
Things a driving school can do to rank #1 on Google:
Improve your website’s SEO
Google success and SEO (search engine optimization) go together like peanut butter and jelly. Your business can’t rank high in a Google search without making a true effort to improve your SEO.
Software is especially important and useful when trying to improve your on-page SEO. I personally like SEMRush. This SEO tool will perform an audit of your website to help you determine its overall health and performance. You’ll get a clear picture of any technical issues and suggestions about how to fix them. SEMRush is a subscription service, so there is a monthly cost of $99.95. However, it could potentially generate thousands of dollars of additional monthly revenue, so it’s worth it.
Produce content people want to read
To truly increase traffic, you’ll need to open more windows and doors to get into your website. These are called “portals.” One way to open a new portal is to start a blog on your website.
Current research shows that 60 percent of businesses that blog acquire more customers than those that do not. It’s a no-brainer. Start blogging to help your driving school rank #1 on Google.
PPC advertising works!
Another avenue to drive more traffic to your website is PPC (pay-per-click) advertising.
There are many different types of PPC ads, but the two most popular on Google are search and display. Driving schools are local, so the search ad option will produce the best results. When a potential customer types in “driving schools” or “driving schools near me,” your paid search ad should display on the first page.
If you choose the right keywords and link to a highly relevant page of your website, you too could pop up as the #1 search result on Google.
21. Don’t make assumptions about your customer
How well you understand the demographics of the customers that are using your driving school? Knowing your audience is the most fundamental when it comes to marketing, but many times we overlook it.
Without any data, an assumption is just that. An educated guess at best. If you’re not using available tools to analyze your customer base, you’re missing out. The best decisions are data-driven.
22. Do rely on data-driven tools to increase driving school profit
You might think you know who your customer is, but tools like Google Analytics and surveys will give you an exact picture.
The monster tool is Google Analytics. The best news is that’s it’s 100% free. After embedding a snippet of code on your web pages, you’ll be able to track information about how visitors find your site, how they interact with it, the demographics of your customers, and so much more!
- What keywords did a visitor type in to their Google search bar?
- Where did they come from? What device did they use?
- What time of day do most visitors come to your site?
- Which pages do they click on the most?
This is powerful data that can help you make critical decisions to increase driving school profit.
My marketing manager used customer surveys to get to know our customers and their satisfaction level. She sent out monthly surveys to parents after their kids went through our program.
Gathering customer feedback will help your business understand what’s working, what’s not and tackle any issues you might have otherwise not been aware of prior to the survey.
Driving school owners must make many decisions every day. Some are good ones that lead to success. Others are bad ones that lead us down the wrong path.
These are my tips to help you navigate your way through owning a driving school. It’s important to remember that you can’t avoid mistakes, but you CAN learn from them. Focus on the do’s and steer clear of the don’ts to help your school thrive and survive the ups and downs.