The Bookkeeper Q&A: Dave Shannon, Drive Ahead Bookkeepingby
Dave Shannon explains why he set up a bookkeeping practice to support driving instructors.
Dave has had an incredible year since starting his bookkeeping practice, Drive Ahead Bookkeeping which specialises in working with driving instructors. He’s just about to publish his first book, Are You Ready for Business?
What were you doing before you joined the bookkeeping world?
I’ve run a driving school for the last 16 years, I’ve been a driving instructor myself, have trained driving instructors and the business is still running now. Back in my school days I had ambitions to be an accountant but didn’t follow through with it, more recently I’ve taken an interest again but I didn’t want to go back to university or start at the beginning, I felt that bookkeeping would be a good place to enter. I spent 12 months or so training with the ICB, set up my practice during the pandemic and since then I’ve been slowly building the bookkeeping practice alongside the instructor training I do in the driving school.
How did it feel to start studying again?
It’s been 16 or 17 years since I last did any studying. In the early days I got loads done quickly but lost momentum. The pandemic came at a good time because I could get my head down and focus on completing my studying. The pandemic also showed the vulnerability of the driving school and bookkeeping gives me diversity and more stability.
When did you start your bookkeeping practice and what does it look like at the moment?
The practice isn’t massive, I’ve got about ten clients, some larger than others. I’m focusing on working with driving instructors because it’s the business I know best. I understand the needs of driving instructors, I realise from being in driving instructors’ Facebook groups that there’s a real need for guidance and support with accounting and bookkeeping.
The combination of my understanding of bookkeeping and the driving school world lead me to the idea of writing a book so I could tell other driving instructors what they need to do.
Tell me about your book, how did you decide to write it?
I was inspired by the conversation we had in The 6 Figure Bookkeepers’ Club about my niche. I realised I had an opportunity to write about an area I really understood and faced with another lockdown and with time on my hands I decided to get started. Traditionally instructors are taught to instruct, they usually set up as sole traders and are then left to run a business with no business advice. There are then a lot of questions, from whether to work as a sole trader, whether to invest in a franchise, to what to do with paperwork. I decided to write a book to help them with everything from business structure, to dealing with HMRC and the accounts side of running a driving instruction business.
Has the book helped you to find clients?
Yes, I’d written a section about capital allowances for driving instructors and I made that available as a free download and it had 70 or 80 downloads in just a few weeks. It’s had a really good response and I can now follow up with people to let them know the book is available. It talks about the role of the bookkeeper and accountant, so driving instructors can understand how I can help them with their businesses and of course it’s something I can promote in the Facebook communities I’m a member of.
Will you continue with the driving school business?
Yes, I have instructors who work with me, and I’d like to continue to build the business. I’m doing that by training additional instructors but on a day to day basis I won’t be teaching learners for too much longer.
You are somebody who’s good at training people to deliver, would you look to scale the bookkeeping business in the same way?
Yes, with everything I do, I look at how I’m going to expand things. I don’t sit there and think, “right I’m a bookkeeper now” and aim to do the same thing for the next 20-30 years. I always like to think about how I can do a bit more and build the business. I’m already looking at the possibility for how I can bring my wife into the business in the near future. She will probably come in as the payroll specialist although at the start her role will include more admin and marketing. There’s a lot I want to outsource and it makes sense to bring my wife into the business as she’s already here with me and knows what I’m working on.
Scaling and outsourcing can be the thing which stops many bookkeepers from growing. Did you think from day one that you’d eventually bring a team in?
I’ve learnt from the driving school. In the past I’ve felt I should do everything myself, I like to keep control and I like to know how everything’s being done, but I can’t do everything myself and it’s more efficient if I can outsource it. In the driving school I’ve had people look after social media, I’ve hired people to do instructor training and from the start of running the bookkeeping practice I’ve seen opportunities to bring people in over the next 12-18 months to help things run better and I would like to grow the business.
Has that meant taking a different approach to pricing than you might have done if you were working alone?
Yes, it’s a work in progress and my pricing’s still developing. I did a lot of pricing by the hour at the beginning and recently have started to work towards a fixed price. Go Proposal is helping me understand how I should charge, that has definitely helped.
When will your book be available?
It’s currently in the final editing stages and I’m going to make it available through Amazon in the next few months.
Dave’s upcoming book is called Are You Ready For Business, and you can find out more about him at driveaheadbookkeeping.co.uk.