With thousands of passes under our belt, dozens of instructors successfully trained and a growing team of franchisees, we are thrilled to be celebrating our 10th anniversary. We caught up with founder Howard Floyd, who celebrated another milestone, his 50th birthday, last month, to find out how it all started and ask about his plans for the next 10 years.
When and why did you decide to become a driving instructor?
Before becoming an instructor, I spent 15 years as a restaurant manager, which is how I met my wife Sam (now How-2-Drive Managing Director), then an Area Training Manager. We both worked at Pizza Hut and then Frankie & Benny’s.
In 2009 I decided to become self-employed as a driving instructor because I wanted a new challenge, to be able to set my own working hours, and get rewarded well for the effort I put in. I also wanted to work more sociable hours so I could spend time with my then young son, Tyler, who turned 21 this summer.
I qualified as an ADI (approved driving instructor) and set up How-2-Drive. In the time it took to build the business and become better known, I joined the AA Driving School (AADS) and in my first six months managed to achieve the highest grade then given to ADIs (Grade 6).
The AADS asked me to start training and developing driving instructors for them and in 2011 I qualified as an ORDIT trainer with the AA. I also gained my DVSA Fleet qualification with AA DriveTech and worked with companies such as Sainsbury’s, Mars Foods, DOW Petro-Chemical, Royal Mail and Parcel Force to train their professional drivers on things like reducing their risk of collisions and becoming better drivers.
How did you go from training other companies’ drivers to building your own franchise?
As soon as I was getting enough pupils coming to How-2-Drive I was able to leave the AADS and gained ORDIT accreditation for my driving school, which means we are qualified as a company to train other people to become instructors.
I took on my first franchisee in 2012 as the business was growing and I couldn’t meet the demand on my own. Soon after that, Rowland Sells, who is still with us today joined, as well as our first female instructors.
Sam joined in 2016 as Managing Director and, with her flair for business and great people skills, we have grown significantly. She has made How-2-Drive really unique because even as we grow, she’s made sure that we stay warm and welcoming with a personal touch. She genuinely cares about each and every customer, as well as being really supportive of our instructor team.
We now have nearly 40 instructors all over Norfolk and Suffolk and I have helped more than 70 people to gain the ADI qualification. I also work with Norfolk Police and Suffolk Police and the East of England Ambulance Service to help their trainers gain the ADI badge.
How has learning to drive changed in the last decade?
There have of course been major changes to the driving test to reflect how driving practices have changed, particularly our reliance on satnavs to get around. I think the changes have helped to make safer drivers; demonstrating independent driving shows you could handle the same situation when you’re out on your own with a licence.
Our principle of pupil-centred learning, where our instructors work out the best way to teach pupils the skills and knowledge they need based on their strengths and weaknesses, hasn’t changed. And the goal has always been the same, to help put safe and confident drivers on the road.
Since 2009 we have seen an increase in demand for automatic lessons and intensive courses, though weekly lessons in a manual car is still our core business.
What are the best and most challenging parts of being a driving instructor and trainer?
The best thing about being a trainer is of course when your student passes; it shows you’ve both done a great job. I really love it when someone qualifies as an instructor. It’s a lot of hard work and it can be very emotional when people succeed; their life has just changed for the better.
The most challenging thing is probably the attitudes of other road users, though it is only a small minority. Some people show little understanding of how learners become safe independent drivers, even though they have been in the same position themselves before. Learners need a little bit of space and time to learn and get better at driving, and it doesn’t really affect other drivers in the grand scheme of things.
On-screen driving star
You appeared on the Channel 5 programme Dangerous Drivers’ School in 2011 and have also built a successful YouTube channel with videos for learners and instructors. You obviously enjoy being on camera; how important is it to you to be able to help people remotely, too?
I started H2D TV on YouTube initially to help learners from anywhere get some tips on driving, so effectively a free lesson. This has since expanded to helping trainee instructors to pass their qualification, including with videos of real lessons to help them prepare.
The videos have been brilliant for helping our pupils consolidate what they have covered, or are about to cover in their lessons. They might see their instructor for two hours a week, but with the videos, they can be doing something each day or a few times a week to help improve their knowledge and skills.
Often we get a complete beginner in the car who has never driven before, but they are able to complete their cockpit drill using the DSSSM routine, to move off using the POM routine and stop using MSM, with just a little guidance from the instructor – all because they’ve already familiarised themselves with what they need to do. This saves them lots of time and they are able to progress much further in their lesson – which in turn of course saves them money.
I’m proud to offer a resource that anyone can access, and our free online learner driver guide is also used by people from far and wide outside of East Anglia.
Are we right to be afraid of the driving test examiner?
Of course any nerves about your driving test will also be felt towards the examiner, but it’s important to remember they are purely there to ensure everyone on the road is a safe and considerate driver.
If you take regular lessons with an instructor, listen to their advice and just relax and drive the way you have been taught during the test, you should be fine.
If something comes up that you haven’t dealt with before, respond in a way that keeps you, your passengers and other road users safe. Know the rules of the road and follow them at all times.
Can you ever switch off from trainer mode when you’re in a car?
You never quite turn off; even after a nine-hour flight and getting a taxi back from Gatwick to Norwich, I find myself assessing the drive – only in my head of course; I don’t want to have to walk back!
Best place to drive in Norfolk?
My recommendation is to head to the North Norfolk coast with your dog and a camera.
After running your own business for 10 years, what would you say to anyone thinking about embarking on their own venture?
There are of course highs and low; there are lots of benefits like working when you want and knowing you can do a great job for every customer, but also difficult things like managing your own finances and not being paid if you are ill. It’s also much more important never to have an off-day, as it could mean you lose out on custom. For me, it’s absolutely worth the harder days.
Finally, what do you think the next 10 years hold for you and for the industry?
I plan to retire when I get to 60 so I can enjoy life to the full with Sam. So, for the next decade I’d like to continue to build the team of instructors and continue to deliver excellent standards of driver training.
In the next 10 years electric cars will become the norm, so we will see more fully electric cars being used for tuition. It’s already started as one of our instructors, Blair, has ordered an electric car for his new tuition car, which will be arriving next year. Of course it’s important for people to be able to learn to drive in the sort of cars they will end up driving.
Over time I think technology will continue to make cars safer and the way people drive them will also improve.