Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you all had a good 2018. The purpose of this article is to keep you all updated on the plans for 2019 and show you how we aim to provide a better service to everyone, both instructors and pupils.
A quick recap of 2018
This has been our toughest year to date as a business; we started with approximately 300 instructors and now we have just over 400 across the UK. On paper that looks good, but we have had a lot of internal problems we have had to overcome, some extremely time consuming, challenging and a some sad circumstances effecting fellow instructors too. Here are just a few of them:
- Several instructors have passed away – including Lanre from Brixton and Fred from London. Many instructors have fallen too unwell to teach including Don Russell (Stroke) and Martin Mayston (MND). You can still donate to Martin’s charity walk here: https://martin-mayston.muchloved.com
- The Ashley Gorman and Abdi Dahir scams, taking over £10,000 of pupils’ money without delivering the driving lessons in London. They have consequently been taken off the ADI Register.
- Accumulation of poor online reviews due to poor driving lesson experiences. Most instructors causing this problem have been asked to leave the company now, so it has got a lot better.
- Office move – we had to source our new premises very quickly. Between March and June 2018, I lost many hours to this project.
- Office refurbishment – we spent the majority of June and July refurbishing the office and installing new phone and Internet lines etc.
- Building, integrating and implementing the new phone system to work with our existing one. This was extremely messy and challenging, and I would not recommend Ring Central to anyone again (one of the World’s number one VOIP providers apparently).
- Managing staff holidays throughout the summer (our busiest time) while having so many ongoing problems was challenging.
- In October 2018, we experienced our worst ever website hack. The Japanese SEO hack basically removed our website from Google, taking us 7 days to recover from. It took a further 4-5 weeks to get everything back to normal, pre-hack.
Looking at the above problems, I feel that we have done really well to overcome it all and still move forwards in one year. The downside is that it has hindered the plans to push the efficiency of the business and overall service to the instructors by 6-9 months.
I genuinely believe that most companies would not have been able to deal with the problems we have been hit with this year.
Personally, 2018 has been a mixed year for me. It was very challenging with many unexpected problems, but I’m fairly happy to have overcome them with minimal harm to the instructors and staff – it just elevated my blood pressure!
Another year with no price increase to the franchise
Those that have come from some of the large driving school franchises will be quite used to yearly price increases. As we increase staff in the office and spend more money on efficiency, we have still managed to not increase the franchise for existing instructors. We haven’t had a price increase for years and I am often asked if there will ever be one.
I always say to those that ask that I can’t rule out a price increase as you never know what is round the corner, but history tells you it’s unlikely (some instructors have been with us for years and seen a price increase of just £2.50 in their time with us).
If there was ever going to be a price increase again, it would be marginal, like a £1-1.50 a week increase. We will keep striving to keep your overheads low, but we really do need your help with some of the proposals for 2019 in order to do so and give you what you want us well – pupils & higher lesson prices.
Plans for 2019
More app introductions
- You will be able to access something very similar to Road Board (our own app) along with our instructor apps. All free to driveJohnson’s franchised driving instructors.
- GPS Route Tracker – your pupil will be able to review the teaching areas you cover in each lesson, this information can be released by the instructor with just a press of a button. This will particularly help learners if they are practising with parents and will help the instructor remember what areas have been covered. For example, important test routes and more.
- Signed terms and conditions feature on the app for you and your pupils. When the pupil signs the terms and conditions on your phone or tablet, they will automatically receive an email and a text message to their phone reminding them of the T&Cs/Cancellation policy which they have just signed.
- Pay up front feature: this will start with instructors being able to send a text to a pupil requesting the payment for the next lesson upfront if they want to continue learning with them. This feature will be introduced with pupils who have cancelled their lesson and the instructor does not have the funds. The instructor will be able to charge for their lost time or just insist on next lesson paid upfront.
Pupils can pay through the link or via their own app (coming soon) and you will be notified when a payment has been made.
- Pupil App: the pupils will have their own app. When they login it will show them the terms and conditions signed at the top of their app. You, the instructor, will be able to grant the pupil access to different sections of the app depending on their stage of learning to drive. You can record their progress online through your phone/tablet which will then update theirs. If the learner discontinues with you, you can log them out of the app.
- Pupil reward scheme: a little bit like a Nando’s card but on their app. Each instructor can set the reward of receiving a free lesson/20% off pass plus course etc/£10 OFF test day etc. We will provide you with various incentives and you can choose which ones you would like to offer to each individual. You don’t have to offer any but it’s a well-known fact that loyalty programmes do improve retention.
- Instructor rewards scheme on the App: we like loyalty at driveJohnson’s. Similar to the pupil offers, we will be offering similar benefits for those instructors who have been with us for more than 1 year. Each instructor accruing different financial benefits for the time they have been with the company.
- General app glitches: we are aware of a few glitches on the app, which are non-urgent but will be fixed beginning of January 2019.
Why are we spending so much time and money on the app?
It’s the future. Like it or not, if you don’t keep up with the times, you get left behind. Trust me, I would love everything to stay the same and not have to do all of this, but we are one of the leading companies with this sort of technology. driveJohnson’s has always prided itself on being the company that others copy, rather than us copying them.
I would probably say we have the best looking website on Google. What we have noticed is some companies trying to catch us up by styling their website similar to ours. So as always we will be giving the website a facelift which will include lots of new learner videos and a section exclusive to the learners learning with driveJohnson’s.
There will be a dedicated phone number for instructors to call the office on.
The helpline will start from February 2019. If you want to speak to someone ASAP in the office, between 9am to 6pm, we will have a line dedicated to the instructors. We understand not everyone wants to write a long message then wait a few hours for a reply, hence why we have listened and implemented this line. This option will be available making communication easier, quicker and hopefully smoother.
Actively encouraging pupils to pay for their first lesson upfront
This is not something I can promise 100% just yet, as we need to see how the pay upfront feature works out for when pupils are messing the instructor about. This is however the long-term goal, which I believe we can achieve.
Requesting pre-payments through the app
Rather than having to text Carla in accounts, you will be able to ask the pupil to sign your tablet or mobile that they have received the lesson and it will automatically notify accounts. The long-term future will be that you will receive payments quicker. The old texting option will still remain while this is tested for several months.
You will also be able to see the payment is there on your app for your peace of mind.
Getting more personal
I have been slightly off the radar for the last 6 months, as I have had to deal with the biggest problems explained earlier first. I believe Ashleigh and the girls have done a very good job responding to everyone.
However, we want you to feel part of a team. In all correspondence, you will be able to see a picture of the staff member you are talking to on the app. Along with the ability to call us anytime and speak to someone on the instructor helpline.
Extra training and CPD
We will be arranging a few training days and seminars to instructors seeking extra CPD throughout the year.
We will be aiming to provide one free social event in the summer which will hopefully appeal to as many of you as possible.
There will also be a couple of other events such as go-karting which may require payment in advance.
What can you do for 2019?
Hopefully, you can see we are doing a lot on our end to improve the service to you.
All we ask from you is the following:
- Use our roof sign for all of your pupils, including private and self-sourced.
- Take pictures of happy pupils who have passed and upload to the driveJohnson’s app or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Encourage your pupils to write positive reviews about yourself on our driveJohnson’s Google or TrustPilot pages.
- Use your online calendar through the app or Google Calendar so we can better place pupils in your diary.
If you can do all of the above and we can do everything we are proposing, then I genuinely believe we can raise the driving lesson prices across most areas of the UK. This would make us a premium driving school, offering affordable franchise to the instructors. This time next year, I would like to be saying to new joiners that it’s £300 to join. We have around 25 instructors asking to join us a week at the moment – that’s over 1000 instructors wanting to join us a year. We have got ourselves into a good position now where we can be more selective and cherry pick instructors and that’s what we do. Many instructors this year have been asked to leave the company and, as a result, complaints have been reduced.
Are you with us? Do you want a more prosperous 2019?
There is no I in team! Everyone can achieve the same goal, if we all pull in the same direction!
Imagine that we honour what I have proposed on our end and all 400 instructors honour 1-4 mentioned above? I believe putting the lesson prices up in all areas would be easy, we just need everyone pulling the driveJohnson’s boat in the same direction!
All of the above implementations should happen, and we will notify you as and when they come into place.
January 2019 is going to be extremely busy for us in the office. We expect daily and weekly booking records to be beaten, so trust me, everyone will be busy from January onwards (snow permitting).
Wishing you a merry Christmas & happy new year
Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard this year to serve their pupils well! I hope everyone understands and appreciates the above plans for 2019. If you don’t like what you have read, then please get in touch with Ashleigh or me for a chat. I’m very sure the majority will like it though!
Have a fantastic Christmas and new year!
Anthony Johnson & the driveJohnson’s office team: Ashleigh, Carla, Chantelle, Elaine, Toni, Aimie, Danielle, Nina, Anisah, Bali and Charlie.
Written by Anthony Johnson
Director of driveJohnson's
Grade A - 51/51
ORDIT Registered Trainer