After the driving school he worked for closed down, ADI Stewart Latcham started his own family-run business, KSL Driving School, with wife Karen Latcham, which has been operating in the Stafford and Telford areas since 2009.
So successful has the school been that the couple have gone on to create franchises with their son, Tom Latcham aged 22, when he qualified in September 2016 plus close family friend Dan McCabe and Graham Turney, their son-in-law. Here we talk to Stewart about why keeping it in the family has been vital to the driving school and its franchises’ reputations.
Why did you decide to work together? Having a family-run business means the pupils get an excellent experience as we can do mock practical tests with each other’s pupils. We have built up a sound reputation in Telford, Stafford and surrounding areas and no longer need to advertise with pupils typically contacting us because of recommendations from previous pupils.
Dan has said that the support from the family is reason he is with the company plus he, Tom and Graham wanted to have genuine career and professional status. Also, they will eventually take over and run the business together.
The benefits of a family working together means close communication with each other, close relationships, standing in for each other and having the benefit of sitting in on each other’s lessons to offer peer support.” – Stewart Latcham, owner of the KSL Driving School
What is the appeal of the job to you? The ability to expand someone’s knowledge and awareness – not only of what they can achieve but how their actions influence others. The satisfaction of taking on a pupil who has no idea about driving and then training them to understand all aspects so they can pass their driving test and become a safe driver is very rewarding. It gives a real sense of job satisfaction.
It’s also great to be self employed and in control of your own diary and time management without the bureaucracy of being an employee.
How would you describe your teaching style? We all have a relaxed, informal style of teaching, making sure that the pupil enjoys their lessons and feel as though they are getting the most out of them. Once a pupil’s potential has been identified, we feel a great sense of responsibility to bring it out of them. We encourage a relaxed atmosphere in the car as well and never become annoyed when pupils take longer than expected to achieve their potential.
A good rapport is built up between the instructor and pupil to ensure their confidence increases, enabling them to pass their driving test and become a safe driver. If a pupil is struggling with a teaching method then the approach is changed to meet their needs. We also give them the option to change instructors if their reduced learning is due to the instructor’s personality.
My favourite part is seeing a nervous pupil that lacks confidence pass their driving test. Least favourite part is becoming frustrated with pupils who are not committed to their lessons.” – Stewart Latcham
“My favourite part is building up a pupil relationship over the duration of their lessons and becoming very proud of their achievement when they pass. Least favourite part is the frustration when students don’t listen to advice.” – Karen Latcham
“My favourite part of the job is the satisfaction when a pupil passes their test. Like my dad, my least favourite part is becoming frustrated when pupils are not committed to their lessons.” – Tom Latcham
“My favourite part has to be the satisfaction of my pupils coming out of the test centre with that pass certificate. My least favourite part would be when you can see the potential of a pupil and put the work in but get nothing in return or they just don’t have the commitment needed.” – Dan McCabe
“My favourite part of the job is having the freedom to work set hours that fit around family life.” – Graham Turney
From left to right: Stewart Latcham, Karen Latcham, Tom Latcham, Dan McCabe & Graham Turney.
How do you run the business together? How do you allocate responsibilities? We are all proactive members of the KSL team, making joint decisions to ensure the business runs smoothly. Having spent many years in sales, I make the sales decisions and am always coming up with new sales and promotional materials to enhance company prospects.
Karen has spent many years in management and teaching roles so she takes the lead on ensuring all our instructors have the support they need. She also organises our monthly team meetings to discuss moving the company forward while developing our teaching materials.
Being young ADIs, Tom and Dan are both aware of what young pupils need and they communicate on the same level as the pupil. They have received excellent pupil feedback and have excellent first-time pass rates. Tom is also bringing KSL into the digital age by having a social media presence and improving the website design.
Also, because Tom is qualified in photography, he uses this skill to photograph our instructors and cars, etc. so the pupils are aware of what their instructors look like when they meet us for the first time. Finally, Graham has run his own business for many years so has knowledge of sales and marketing too.
What is the current state of your business and your plans for the future? We’d like to have more instructors working for us as we have to turn away pupils daily due to lack of instructor capacity! Turning business away does not sit well with the KSL strategy of offering a valuable service.
We will also be delivering instructor Part 3 training and this is something that all our instructors are keen to do. Running some Continuing Professional Development (CPD) events for our instructors is also something that we will be doing next year.
Finally, as a long term user of Theory Test Pro, how do you find the system helps your students? Our pupils benefit from both the desktop version and the app, the latter allowing them to access TTP wherever they are. We can track their progress and test their knowledge periodically. The hazard perception section is also larger than most other programs and is invaluable.