Monday, 13 October 2014

Lazy bones

I like my job. I enjoy driving. I enjoy teaching. I've been doing the job long enough to know what works, but I'm forever trying to develop and evolve what I do. I enjoy doing that too!

After years of struggle, I eventually got a break, and am now in a stable position. My diary is consistently full. The enquiries continue to come in, and I have the skills, experience, and bedside manner to keep the vast majority of new business well beyond the loss leading first lesson. Without spending a penny on advertising, my business has taken off in the last couple of years, and I'm in as good a position as I possibly could be as a sole trader. I could capitalise a litle further by increasing my lesson price - balancing price of supply with demand in accord with the standard economic model.

It would be relatively easy from here to increase that demand. Here are some reasons why...

  • I've just got a DS3 Dsport as a tuition vehicle. It's almost certainly the poshest learner car on the Wirral right now. The DS3 is now a popular choice of vehicle for driving instructors (I was one of the first around here to teach in one, and it definately generated some business for me) but the Dsport pushes things a little further, both in terms of performance and style. As far as I know, I'm the only instructor in this area teaching in one. There are other instructors teaching in premium cars, but most of them have had these cars for several years. Right now that gives me an advantage.
  • I have a good name in the industry, and few enemies. What I do doesn't always work with people, and I have made mistakes. But I've always tried my best, and when things haven't gone right, I've gone out of my way to try to make amends. What has sometimes cost me in time or money has generated a degree of goodwill, or at least a lack of active animosity.
  • There are several methods of obtaining work, with little cost, that I don't really utilise. In particular, facebook, if I took the time to use it effectively, could generate a lot of new business for my school. In addition, I could incentivise word of mouth by offering free lessons to existing pupils if they generated work for me. This is something I've done in the past that I don't do at the moment. I do get a substantial percentage of my work from recommendations, but if I needed to, I could increase the volume at the cost of time, and a bit of fuel.
  • I could of course spend money of advertising. When I first tried to generate work for myself, I would use paid advertising in the local free press. This coincided with the rise of the internet, and was not good value for money, but I'm a little more savvy these days
I've been toying with the idea of expanding for a good few months now. Although I enjoy the front line, chalk face experience, I'm working long hours and I must admit, I'd quite like to take things a little easier, if I could do so without sacrificing the income.

I could certainly fill the diary of an additional instructor within weeks, without breaking sweat, and by exploiting some of the unused methods detailed above, I could probably go further.

The prospect of doing so though, scares the shit out of me.

The mathematics of the benefits of franchising for me are a little complicated. On the face of it, if I charge £22 per lesson, and an instructor gives me, say, £100 a week to provide them with the means to earn a living, then I can spend about 4.5 hours less a week teaching without losing any income. But that takes no account of my overheads, and they are a fluid thing. I don't get £22 per hour. I get that minus what it costs to do my job - mainly car, fuel and insurance. I could with a little work, go through my diary, and work out exactly how many hours I work, and relate it to my income. Indeed I should, if I'm going to do this, but if another instructor gives me that £100, I don't have to spend any more on car fuel or insurance. So really, it equates to more like perhaps 7-8 hours per week. This has to be set against a degree of responsibility. A weight upon my shoulders. I've been on the other side of this equation, and have often got the thin end of things. I don't want to treat others this way.

Socially/Interpersonally, I'd be setting myself up as a sort of employer. In a sense that's not really the case. Another instructor would be giving me money to provide a service to them - They're paying me, but psychologically, they'd be working under my banner, and that's just the way things seem to go. In addition, I'd want anyone who worked with me to take something of the way I do things into how they do the job. It's my name and reputation afterall.

I've now spent almost a decade trying to make people do things the way I want them to do it, in exchange for money, but it's still a little uncomfortable to think of doing what I do with learners, on a similar but undeniably different basis, with instructors.

I think I may have found a way of doing it though, if I choose to do so.

There's an instructor I know and like, who I haven't seen around for a few months. I looked online for him, and found a facebook page that hasn't been updated for a while, and a link to a dead webpage.

The internet has an inertia to it. It contains links to the dead websites and contact details of instructors who no longer do the job. Some of these ex-instructors will have dropped by the wayside because they weren't up to the job, and no effort at further training on my part would make them into what I'd want them to be. Some though, like me a year or two back, are perfectly competent, but just didn't have the breaks to survive. We're all self employed. This industry is a Randian paradise.

A carefully crafted letter to some of those people could possibly lead to me expanding my business in a way that benefitted them, without treading on anybody's toes.

There is of course, more to it than this. Contracts would have to be devised. Solicitors would have to be paid. A lot of thought and effort would be needed on my part for this to happen in a way that didn't lead to problems downstream.

But wouldn't it be nice to capitalise on what I've achieved, and not have to work quite so hard?

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014


Posting while drunk, huh? Often I am. While sober, I don't have much to say for myself. I often find, when reading back what I've written, that the spelling is impeccable, the grammar is ok, and the overall coherence is sometimes questionable.

It's rare that I unpublish anything I've blogged, although I quite often don't publish something I've written, or I fail to finish something I've started to write. Reading it back sober the next morning, I am no longer happy with it and it languishes unfinished, and eventually gets forgotten about. Going through my post list, I find many unpublished drafts, often trying to say the same things time after time, but always failing to do so in a way that I am happy with.

But usually, if I've actually hit the "publish" button, it stands, as a record of what and where I am. If it's crap, well, that's ok. It's as much part of me as the polished stuff, and why blog if not to try to project something of yourself?

I did though, unpublish  my most recent post, which was written while I was drunk, and mainly concerned a teaching method I'm pleased with, and which, on sober reading, was particularly incoherent.

While on a lesson, the other day, the word "bricolletage" popped into my head.

"Bricolletage" I said to my pupil.

"What?" he replied?

"I don't know. The word just popped into my head."

We googled it and drew a blank. Google suggested some place names, and the word "Bricolage", which I think is what I really meant to think. What I'd thought of was a portmanteau of "Bricolage" and "Decolletage"

Male pupil, by the way.

I know what decolletage means. I didn't consciously know what bricolage means.

Here's what it means, according to the internet...


[bree-kuh-lahzh, brik-uh-]
noun, plural bricolages [bree-kuh-lah-zhiz, ‐lahzh] (Show IPA), bricolage.
a construction made of whatever materials are at hand; something created from a variety of available things.
(in literature) a piece created from diverse resources.
(in art) a piece of makeshift handiwork.
the use of multiple, diverse research methods.
 So for this to pop into my head was a happy accident. Bricolage plays a big part in what I do.
The pieces I draw from are often little set pieces that I've developed over time, but I'm forever incorporating new methods, and developing and modifying old ones. Sometimes things don't work, and I discard or change them. Sometimes things work with a particular pupil, but not with another. It's almost always ok to break the fourth wall, and to share what I'm doing with my pupil, not as a driving technique, but as what I'm trying to achieve as a teacher.
It's an approach that has taken me a long way beyond the basics that I was taught, although those core skills also have to be in there. 

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