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Dads, Experts, Dr. Who and Silver Bullets

June 17, 20140 Comments

I’m sat here on a Saturday morning at our Under 17’s driving experience. I’ve just seen a parent pull in, register and then drive them up the apron to where parents park their cars to watch little Johnny or whoever drive around the circuit. But I’ve just seen him drive like a maniac to that spot. Very fast. Lots of revs. Lots of noise and a little bit careless. I’m sure at this point I should get angry and rattle a cage or two about driving standards and what kind of influence their style of driving has on little Johnny.

So as I sit here and listen to the rugby, because my pupil is ill, I’ve started thinking about what my dad did to influence me. And he did when it came to running my own business, but it got me thinking about the ‘experts’ that people follow and what effect they have on us, as small business people.

Now apart from my Dad’s influence, (which was to do everything the opposite, as he was about as successful as a chocolate fireguard), the more I thought about some of the experts and the way in which some promote their services, the more the words ‘silver bullet’ kept popping in my head. Let me explain.

If you sit and scour social media enough, you will find that many people offer, “promote your driving school this way….”, “…do this and you’ll get more pupils…”, “…listen to me because I’ve been there and done it…” and “…listen to me I have a certificate to prove that what i say is the bible….”. It’s all over FaceBook and Twitter. At times Twitter is not so much a micro blogging site, more a very long classified advert site. All of it amounts to wanting you to follow exactly what they do, and so you become their disciple.

That to me is dangerous. That to me is thinking that Dad’s way is the way to do things and it is acceptable and everything will be perfect.  It won’t. There is NO silver bullet. There is NO 100% proven way of doing things. There is NO one solitary expert that knows how to run your business. If anyone ever says their way is ‘proven’, ‘low risk’ or ‘guaranteed’, then unfortunately you will end up closing your mind to expanding your own knowledge.

Let’s get one thing straight about business and marketing. There are NO NEW IDEAS. There…said it…I feel better now.

Let’s face it, there aren’t, are there?

if you think hard about it, something like TV adverts for example, have just evolved from the salesman that sold products from a suitcase on a street corner, where they used to use catch phrases and ‘patter’ to get people to buy. Adverts just started to come to our attention through the medium of TV. So as ideas go, it wasn’t a new idea, it’s just the medium in which we received the messages was different.

When I worked for ASDA they employed marketing guru’s in their head office. Two weeks before the new series of Dr Who in 2007 I rang the buying department and then the marketing department and asked what activity we were doing around the toys in line with the new series.  NOTHING!  Errr….why?  Didn’t realise it was coming back.  OK…so what can we do?  NOTHING!  Why?  We don’t think it’ll add many sales.  But it’s huge with the kids.  I have a 4 year old that’s mad about it. Sorry!  OK.  Can I have a pallet of the play figures please?  Are you sure?  Yes!  I want a pallet of them and by the weekend please.

It arrived.  I merchandised an end shelving fixture (gondola end).  I even created Dr Who shelf stripping.  Bought the Dr Who soundtrack album and put it on a CD player on repeat hidden behind the end. A Pallet contained 50 boxes, with 10 figures in each at a retail price of £6.99. We sold the lot. We did just under £3,500 for doing something a little different. And something people that were on £40,000 plus a year, didn’t want me to do.

The reason I mention this is not to show off my retail skills, it’s to point out that the end of the isle I    re-merchandised had been selling a certain brand of vacuum cleaner. It was on the company plans that had been commissioned by the marketing guru’s.  We had sold 3 in 2 weeks because the ‘offer’ was quite frankly, rubbish. So in two weeks that end had earned us about £500.  In one weekend I earned £3,500. And that was down to NOT listening to the gurus who think and are paid to know more than me.

I had a gut feeling. I had some knowledge of my subject, (yes I like Dr Who too) and I decided to deliver the promotion in a different way to the way it ‘should’ usually be done.

The same should apply to your business. Some instructors teach a left reverse this way. Some coach it that way. Some experts know how to do things a certain way, some know how to do it a different way. It doesn’t mean either are wrong. They are probably both right, but when people state “this expert is copying me, or that expert says they have a 100% guaranteed way of getting you onto page 1 of google”, at best, they are believing their own hype. Think about the google thing for a minute. If you get 30 driving instructors in the same geographical area, using 30 different experts who all claim to get you onto page 1 of google, there will be at least 15 disappointed people. There are only so many places on the first page, so it’s not really possible is it?

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try what they are saying, but getting onto page 1 of google is only part of the problem isn’t it? If it’s page 1, but the website is crap, it’s still not going to deliver pupils is it? And even if it is good, who says the other 14 aren’t?

The point I’m trying to get across is that in any business, by all means use experts and guru’s but look at what works for others. Don’t copy it exactly, that is not cool, but tweak and make it work for you. Give it your personality and get it to say your message that you want to get out there. If you’re going to use experts, use 3,4 or 5 of them. Read their books, their blogs, watch their videos or listen to their podcasts. Use what you think you can use, but have an outcome in mind to achieve.

Don’t become a disciple of one particular expert. There is no way you can guarantee that’s the right fit for you. Don’t look up to ‘Dad’, because what he might be teaching you, might just be the wrong thing for your business and for you. And the only thing that silver bullets are good for? Werewolves!

Marc Ford ADI

DIRECTOR at HD Driving School LTD, FRESH ADI Training LTD & 1st APPROACH Academy LTD.


Filed in: Teaching LearnersYour Blog

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