I had spotted Charlie’s car as soon as I entered the Test Centre car park – a very distinctive, clean blue hatchback with an equally distinctive logo and roof box.
I already knew that my pupil preferred to have me wait at the test centre – and I have to say it’s a decision with which I always comply, as indeed with the pupils who want me to ride along on test.
I was hoping Charlie’s pupil had made a similar decision and, in a mildly selfish way, was looking forward to discussing what had happened during the 12 months or so since our last meeting.
I spotted Charlie, sitting in the far corner, alongside his young female pupil, though the customary gregarious guy, for whom I’d long had a massive respect, seemed jaded and very unenthusiastic.
All the five candidates then went out on test – three of them taking their Instructor, leaving just me and Charlie in the waiting room.
The conversation progressed, though significantly more laboured than usual and I found myself asking if all was going well.
“I left the National School about six months ago and all seemed ok for a while – I even got one of those free websites but it didn’t seem to make much difference,” said Charlie.
“Yeah, Tristar has a good website mate and they do take time to have an impact,” I assured “tell you what though Charlie, it was two grand well spent.”
At this last remark, he almost fell off his chair.
“Then of course we spend a few hundred each month on SEO – you know, search engine optimisation, and were riding high on Google page one,” I added.
Charlie looked aghast.
“How many Instructors do you have? “he enquired.
“At the moment there are six, plus me,” I replied “but I’m hoping to bring in a lot more, considering we give the first month free, then just £17.31 per week for the first twelve months.”
Charlie was heading from his chair to the floor again, with a cynical look on his face that is, until I handed him one of our Tristar leaflets, spelling out in detail, the facts I had just given him.
“What’s CPD mate?” he asked.
This quite surprised me for CPD had been a much discussed subject in our profession for a number of years.
“Continued Professional Development,” I answered – “we do a classroom Q&A session, In-Car Coaching Skills and various other courses designed to help ADIs to become better ADIs – we often invite guest speakers too, – but you yourself can attend courses externally and even a first-aid or CPR course counts towards your CPD.”
“That’s all well and good mate, but where do I get that kind of cash for a website like yours, and for that SEO what’s it?”
Charlie confessed that he needed to do something but didn’t want to return to the days of the National School, with the hefty Franchise each month and his lack of independence; nor did he want to incur large debts by having a multipage website designed, followed by the monthly SEO fees.
Yet he had to admit he was standing still – his business wasn’t growing and neither was his bank balance or his enthusiasm.
“What do you suggest mate – I mean, you must have been here once?”
This was the invitation I had been waiting for – I took the leaflet from the vacant chair between us and again handed it to Charlie.
“What you do – is exactly this. Call the number and speak to Mike.”
“But that’s you,” replied Charlie, always quick to catch on – though now with the old beaming grin.
And do you know that’s exactly what Charlie did, some three nights later and I know he will agree that it’s probably the best decision he’s made in ages.
Now Charlie shares in TRISTAR’S success – he has complete independence and (don’t say I told you) a bit of a guilty conscience that he only pays me £17:31 per week. (?)
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