No Gears is a family business owned by Sarah and Dave Watson. They both had successful careers in the IT business, Dave specialised in Marketing and Business Development and Sarah in Finance. When Dave retired from the IT sector in 2003 he missed the contact with people and decided to become an ADI working for a regional franchised driving school. Based on their collective business experience they decided to set up their own automatic driving school to avoid the overcrowded manual market and formed No Gears in 2005.
Too many ADI's in the manual market
In short we felt that there were simply too many manual instructors fighting for the same business. The public’s perception is that they can get the same training from any number of instructors/driving schools, and unless they have been recommended to someone, they shop around. Of course the recent recession made matters even worse because pupils had to make their money go further so they consciously shopped around for the best “deal”.
Too much competition makes the market more price sensitive
In addition some ADI’s who were short of work decided to reduce their pricing in an effort to differentiate themselves from their local competitors, driving local pricing down, or at least preventing others from increasing the lesson rates to meet increasing costs. This becomes a vicious cycle where nobody really wins.
Franchised driving schools take on too many ADI's
At the same time driving schools who use the franchise model have been taking on too many instructors compared to the number of new pupils they were able to generate. Unfortunately, in our view, this will not change in the foreseeable future until the balance is restored between the number of ADI’s relative to the size of the manual market, and the franchise based driving schools balance the number of instructors they have with their ability to provide sufficient new pupils to keep their ADI's busy!
Why the automatic market
We knew there had to be a better way and specialisation seemed to be the best option. As a family business we also knew that if they kept our overheads low, used modern technology to help us generate new pupils, and properly managed the numbers of franchises we had based on the volume of new pupils we could generate, we would have a successful business model which not only worked for ourselves but also our franchised ADI’s as well.
Why have we been so successful
Based on many years marketing experience we decided to focus our marketing spend on the internet and to mainly use Google who are by far the predominent search engine in the UK. We developed our own website which today is the most used website for anybody searching for automatic driving lessons. If you type the words "No Gears" into Google you will see what we mean. All our pupils are invited to complete a questionnaire about their No Gears learning experience. We use these recommendations to differentiate ourselves from our competition by advertising the fact that we are a "highly recommended" automatic driving school.