October 1, 2017
Congratulations! You thrived during the busy summer months, but will you survive the slower months? Follow my top 5 five driving school tips to help you not just survive, but also thrive the other nine months of the year.
It’s a fact. The driving school business is very cyclical. Most driving schools generate 30%+ of their total sales during the summer rush. The reason for this is that parents want their teens to take driver’s ed when tests, projects, homework and after-school activities don’t compete for their time or attention.
So, what can a driving school owner do to help drive sales during the leaner and meaner months of September through May? If you follow my driving school tips below, you can turn the corner and not rely so heavily on your summers.
Driving school tips:#1 – Review each and every summer
After students head back to school, we’d conduct a very thorough analysis of the summer. Think of it as a postmortem review, so to speak. I like to refer to this important review as a “Start, Stop, or Continue” study.
What should we start doing next summer that we didn’t do this summer? Are there things that we should continue next summer that was successful this summer? What should we stop doing next summer that just didn’t work well at all this summer?
How to get feedback
In the past, I’ve held brainstorming sessions with my instructors and staff in September to come up with answers to these all-important questions. Without their input, I’m simply making assumptions. They are my eyes and ears, so I’d rely heavily on their input when I reviewed the successes and failures of my summer business.
As the business scaled, it became more difficult to conduct these in-person sessions. So, I moved to sending out post-summer surveys to all of my employees. You can easily create one on SurveyMonkey or GetFeedback. Be sure to send them to everyone including classroom teachers, in-car instructors, office personnel and your management team.
Analyze the feedback
Of all my driving school tips, this one piece of information may be the most important. After getting your feedback, analyze it thoroughly. Then, make informed decisions to improve your business next summer. Repeat your successes and learn from your failures. If you do this every September, your summers will become more and more successful each passing year.
Andy Stanley, a famous communicator, author and pastor once said,
Experience doesn’t make you wiser. Evaluated experience makes you wiser.
Driving school tips: #2 – Audit your expenses
You can easily control your expenses (and increase your bottom line!) by auditing each and every expense annually. My management team conducted an annual audit and saved the company thousands of dollars. Overtime, it really racks up!
When reviewing all of your vendors, it’s critical to ask, “If I got rid of this vendor, would my driving school still run efficiently?” If not, you still need to shop around for a more affordably priced competitor. Even better – maybe automation or helpful software can replace your costly vendor or employee entirely. To many driving schools are burning payroll dollars having employees complete administrative tasks such as data entry or scheduling that can easily be automated with software.
Where to start
Most driving schools use Quickbooks, so your profit/loss and vendor reports are a good place to start. Look at all of your vendors and anyone or anything that is involved in the profit/loss of your business. Sharpen your pencil and scale down your expenses by uncovering a cheaper solution or getting rid of it entirely if possible.
I started performing annual expense reviews in 2013 and the painstaking process has been highly instrumental in saving big time bucks. With lower expenses, we utilized the profits to increase our savings and open new locations.
Are you stuck in an expense rut? Do you pay bills through Auto Pay and never look at the nitty gritty of the numbers? If so, it’s time to make a change. Follow this and my other driving school tips to start driving success and long-term profitability. It’s necessary to dig into the details of your expenses on an annual basis to make your school run more efficiently.
Driving school tips: #3 – Evaluate your infrastructure and operations
While you need to evaluate your expenses, you also need to evaluate how you do business. Analyze everything from how you handle filing (paper or digital files), how you communicate through emails (Gmail or Office 365), how you manage your passwords (in your head or with software like Keeper or Last Pass), and how your team collaborates (sticky notes or project management software like Trello.
Are you old school and proud of it? If so, then maybe it’s time to change. If you’re not utilizing technology to save time and money, you’re missing the boat. Your competitors probably are, which means they’re probably more profitable.
Once a year, go through your infrastructure, operations and systems to make sure you are using everything that’s available to help your staff accomplish critical tasks in the least amount of time. That leaves them more time to sell your services and grow your driving school!
Driving school tips: #4 – Train and audit your staff
During the busy summer months, it’s hard to find time to do anything other than focus on classes and drives. However, how do you spend your time from September through May? When things slow down, it’s a great time to focus on your staff, the driving force behind the success or failure of your driving school.
Ann M. Mulcahy, the former chairperson and CEO of Xerox, once stated,
Employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.
So, how can you test how your driving school employees are doing? Ride along with your in-car instructors or observe a classroom session. The cream of the crop will become apparent. Your goal is to analyze your employees to see who is dead weight and who is going above and beyond.
Go the Extra Mile
For your best team members send them to a convention, like the one sponsored by the Driving School Association of America. Cheaper alternatives can be online training classes with powerful online tools like Google Analytics and Google Adwords.
In addition, you can encourage your staff to read business books, like “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” or “Scaling Up.”
When your employees sharpen their skills, it translates into happier team members. Happier staff members are more inclined to stay with you and grow your business. As an owner, you’re only as good as the people who surround you.
Driving school tips: #5 – Hold an annual planning meeting
The purpose of an annual planning meeting is to take a microscopic look at the current year. In the past, I’ve held our annual meetings in October with my top 2 key players and they last for 2-3 days, 8 hours per day. Are they exhausting? You bet! Are they worth it? Absolutely!
We huddle around a table and dissect our business. Literally. Our small group determines what worked, what didn’t work, and what needs improvement. We then develop our winning moves for the next year that will propel our business to success.
We also set sales and profit goals for the next year. As a group, we evaluate current employees and decide who to keep and who to let go before the end of the current year. We hold the meetings in October so that when the new year rolls around, we’re not planning, but executing our plan from day one.
In Review: Driving School Tips for slow months
So, there you have it. Appreciate the busy summer months, but make an action plan for the slower months.
- Review your summer
- Audit your expenses
- Evaluate your infrastructure and operations
- Train and audit your staff
- Hold an annual planning meeting