All of us, during our life journey, have set ourselves goals which we want to reach. Today we will reveal to you another success story of a woman named Barbara Davis. Since childhood she has focused on getting the best out of herself by learning and sharing her knowledge with others. From the age of 12 onwards Barbara participated in many competitions including singing, swimming and various sports and was awarded many different prizes. Also, from an early age, Barbara knew that she could teach others and felt that she could shine in some sort of teaching profession – in addition to her other work commitments.

During her life, Barbara has continued to focus on learning about different subjects in order to succeed in the fields of professional teaching and also as an instructor. She has worked as a Driving School Instructor for many years so that she could help her students to become excellent drivers. In all her endeavours, Barbara has never lacked the desire and willingness to share her knowledge with others and making positive changes to other people’s lives continues to be Barbara’s main goal.

How was your childhood? What are your strongest memories?

My childhood was a happy one. My two younger brothers and I were always loved and felt secure in a well-off family. My Father was a Solicitor and mum had been a Physiotherapist before becoming a stay-at-home mum. They made sure that we were all able to try out many activities and sports including swimming, horse riding, tennis, badminton, skating, skiing and sailing.

One memory from when I was about 12 is my Dad taking me to the local lake with the scouts and trying to teach me to sail in a tippy dinghy. I very definitely did not like it and to this day I have not set foot in a sailing dinghy ever again, Nor will I !!!! My Husband taught me to sail, when we met, in a keel boat, which we sailed for 29 years at World Championship level. We were top mixed crew in the world for many years and I won 1st lady’s prize in the class. I was the first female to win a world championship race in the history of the class.  One of my special memories!

In return, I taught him to Ski and we had many great skiing holidays over the years. Our Honeymoon was delayed from the October when we got married, until February the following year, as we wanted to ski in America at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Another memory that still features large at Christmas time was a School Carol Concert in 1969 which was held at Leeds Town Hall (I was 15 at the time). It was called the ‘Magnificent 700’ and it featured over 700 school children from junior and senior schools all over Leeds and was performed over three nights making a record as well. There were lots of less well known carols sung, as well as some familiar favourites.  I play the record at Christmas every year to this day, 50 years later.

I was never particularly academic and hated the private Junior school I attended. The only highlight was the weekly swimming lessons at which I excelled. I enjoyed the sports too, particularly Netball. In my last year at the school I used to help with reading to the younger years and knew from that early age that I wanted to teach. I failed the 11+ exam so I could not attend any of the private secondary schools that my parents were looking at, so I went to the local Comprehensive School instead.

A friend introduced  me to the ‘Leeds Ladies Swimming Club’ when I was 12 years old and, from then on, Thursday nights were swimming nights. At age 16 the club put me through the ‘Amateur Swimming Association Club’ Instructor course and I was then able to teach the younger members to swim which was something I loved. I then went on to qualify as a RLSS ‘Life Saving Teacher’ at the club as well as continuing to train and race at club level.

Friday Nights were Girl Guide nights. I had been through the Brownies and as a Guide I used to help with the Brownies as a Pack Leader. I also became a ‘Queen’s Guide’ and continued into the ‘Ranger Guides’ at 16.

Throughout Teacher training I was a Guide Leader as well as running a Company with a college friend and gaining my ‘Campers Licence’ and other qualifications that enabled me to take the girls away to camp.

On leaving Teacher Training College there were no teaching jobs to be had, so I joined NatWest Bank, and over the next 7/8 years I worked up to clerical grade three doing First Cashier, Securities, Foreign Desk and other duties.  Throughout all my ’employed’ careers I always ended up in a teaching/training role helping others do the duties I had learned. I was never happier than when I was teaching/coaching and helping others.

Today, as you look back, what are the dreams you have realised and the ones you still intend to fulfil?    

There are still dreams to fulfil, both personal and from a business perspective. My main dream at this time is to grow the Driving School to a point where it is an entity with assets. Maybe two or three instructors teaching learner drivers and me training  the instructors. Currently it is just me and if I don’t work I don’t earn! I need to be able to stand back from the teaching and know that it will continue.

I also want to be able to travel to Canada and America to ski and to catch up with family in those countries. I would also like to own property in my favourite ski resort in France, to which my family could go for holidays and breaks all year round.

When did you realise that you were more than a good driver and how did you decide to enter this Industry?

All my ’employed’ work, up until 1997, had incorporated some element of training others but in order to help more people in the store I decided to apply for – and was offered – a salaried job as ‘Deputy Customer Service Manager’ at another branch of the Supermarket, 40 minutes drive from home.

Unfortunately, I had badly misjudged the salary and was not actually getting any more than when I was hourly paid in my previous store near home. The job required me to work ten hour shifts plus weekends and that, plus the 40 minute commute each way, meant I spent those two years not seeing my family or being able to deal with my two teenage children as they needed. The salary  meant that debts were mounting up, the job was stressful, there was little or no support from the upper management and I was feeling the pressure. This all came to a head in February 1999 after two weeks of working nights. Flu and Laryngitis hit me and I lost my voice. Once over the infection though, my voice did not come back. In a job that required me to talk to both customers and colleagues, having no voice was not a good thing so I knew something had to change!          

My days off were spent scouring the local newspaper for suitable jobs.  It was three months later in May that I saw a small advert inviting people to become Driving Instructors. An Advanced Driving Test some years earlier had proved to me that I was a good driver. I knew I could teach and loved doing that and I was also interested in road safety. After going for an interview, I made the decision the same day to train to be a Driving Instructor. That was the catalyst for my voice to return in an instant.  Funny thing – STRESS!!! I knew in hindsight that was what had kept my voice from returning.                  

In order to have the time to do the training and the three exams I moved back to the store near home working less hours. The first two exams, ‘Theory and ‘Practical’ were passed by the beginning of December. Work on the final part, ‘Instructional Ability’, began with a six day course just before Christmas with another trainee. This meant that we could take out Trainee licences and start work as Instructors in the New Year, finally passing Part 3 that year.  The rest, as they say, is history and I’ve been a self-employed Driving Instructor for the last 21 years. After all this time I never want to be in employment, working for someone else again.

How hard is it to teach teachers how to teach other generations to drive?

This assumes that it is hard to teach teachers but the ‘teacher ‘needs to be aware of how the student learns. Every student is different so the teacher will teach or coach in different ways to reflect that including visual, auditory or kinetic learning.

My course will help trainers to explore the different ways that the student learns. It’s not just a matter of different generations. My very first student was a 68 year-old lady, twenty years my senior. It took a bit longer for her to learn and pass her test, but the principals of teaching/coaching were no different and no more difficult.

If a student wants to learn, no matter what their age, they will learn and they will find someone that they can resonate with to learn from. We are all different and there is no ‘one size fits all’.

What are the challenges you face most in your work?

One of the most challenging things I’ve found in the past, is convincing , or getting a student who has driven for a long time in another country, ie. India, Pakistan, Africa or even former eastern block countries, to appreciate that driving in the UK is very different and is not a ‘given’. Some think they’ll have a little practice, ‘cross the examiners palm with silver’ and they’ll get their full licence! They soon find out that is not the case and they have to put some work in.

One of the greatest challenges I faced about eight years ago was when a lot of my students at the time all passed their tests within a short space of time. This left me with a shortfall of funds to pay the regular bills such as the car lease and insurance etc. As it happened I’d had some information some months earlier, about doing intensive courses for another Driving School. It turned out that they  had a contract with the M.O.D. It meant picking up two students on a Monday morning from a military base and then teaching them all day until they had their test on the Friday. I specified that I would not go anywhere more than about one, to one and half, hours from home so I could fit my own students into the evenings. They paid a regular lump sum based on the students passing their tests. I started doing towing courses too. This continued for 3 to 4 years and only finished when I had enough of my own students again and could not fit in the military work any more.

Another challenge is that my students do not pay at regular times in the month so forecasting a fixed income is not always possible. I encourage them to pay for a block of lessons (usually 10 hours) and then it may be two and half months before they need to pay again. Especially as I choose now to work only two days per week.

Have you ever considered changing professions?

Twenty one years is the longest I’ve been in any job and I have never considered changing that for something else. I tried taking on Trainee Instructors about five years ago with guidance from another Driving School but it didn’t work for me at that time. Possibly because I did not have a complete and accredited course to deliver as I have now. Having that has allowed me to completely change my mindset and to see the way to develop the Driving school going forward.

As for changing profession, that has never entered my mind!

How do you describe yourself and what features characterize you?  

I have always considered myself to be patient, friendly, considerate, responsible and committed to anything I choose to do. Things I value are freedom and helping others

I have recently had the opportunity to discover my life purpose which turns out to be to make a positive difference in people lives. Teaching, and in particular the Driving Instruction, is the vehicle (pardon the pun) I use to do that.

It all makes sense now that I know that. The only time in my life when I suffered from stress was when I wasn’t in a job that I felt was making that difference, or teaching.

What is your Motto?

Driving To Freedom!

If you would like to learn how you can drive yourself to freedom by becoming a qualified driving instructor, book your free discovery call with Barbara now:

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The London Business Magazine is a leading voice of business communities across London with a mission to inform, connect and empower. Founded by Mirela Sula, our business magazine aims to share the experiences of London entrepreneurs and highlights successful and entrepreneurial business minds of all backgrounds. We envision this to be a platform that allows us to express and educate with no boundaries. With a mission to inspire, the London Business Magazine features stories of all aspects of business, from failures to successes. This publication includes, but is not limited to, expert advice, industry updates, exclusive interviews with leading business figures and the latest news on London's business community. If you want to be featured, have a story to pitch or have a few business tricks up your sleeve that you would like to share, reach out to us at [email protected]


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