GreatJobs24-New Ventures I Never Dreamed Of
After getting all the various institutions set up, I had given myself some time before I had to commit to any classes or driver training. I needed time to get cars, train instructors, buy books and classroom instruction materials, but meantime I was still getting by with regular call in students. I had put Charley’s oldest son to work as an Instructor and had him pretty well trained, but the two of us were not enough to train the hundreds of driver ed students I was beginning to sign up at the various schools.
As new schools came into the program, I usually set them up for the next school semester so I had some time to ‘put it all together’. In the meantime the Adult Education classes were small groups I could handle. While teaching them I was able to hire and train some new instructors. I quit teaching behind the wheel and just did the classroom instruction. I now had two leased cars, but I needed more.
I bought myself a Dodge Charger, with bucket seats and a standard transmission so I could teach students who wanted to learn the stick shift. I also used it as my Advertising Display. It was fire engine red and I had it painted with the AAAuto Driving School Logo on each side in bright yellow letters; a real traveling ad it was, with bucket seats and 4 on the floor. I also used this car for training my new instructors; it was imperative that they learned to handle a stick shift car. I reasoned that they had to be as good as I was, and my method of teaching had to be absolutely the same with each instructor or else there would be mass confusion when it came to teaching students. I even INSISTED that they had to teach my method or I would not keep them. And on many occasions I even sat in the back seat while they taught students.
Soon I bought a second Dodge, a Dart, which I considered an easy car to learn to drive and use in teaching driver Ed students. I could put three students in that car during driver training sessions along with the instructor. And now I had 4 cars, two that I had leased and now 2 owned by my company. I also had now hired another of Charley’s sons who was still in High School, to help with the classroom instructions. I figured he would be a great help in setting up the classes, and beside that he could read what I could not. And now I was ready to go get ‘em.
I had to divide my day into many parts, some schools allowed classes during morning and afternoon study periods. Some allowed classes after regular school hours, and some I even worked out Saturday morning or afternoon classes. The larger schools with large classes I had to divide between two semesters and the smaller schools I could set up just once a year.
Within the first three months of starting the private school driver training classes I had students running out of my ears. I had to lease another car and hire an office crew to take care of scheduling. I soon had two young ladies working in the office and I was first to offer them 40 hours pay for 36 hours of work each week. I worked out a 12 hour day for 3 days each week, thus 6 days, Monday through Saturday were covered from 8 in the morning till 8 in the evening.
Sundays were days my instructors could teach if they had students who worked and could take lessons on weekends. The girls liked the hours because actually there was very little to do in the office. Answering phones and scheduling was the bulk of their work, besides being the ‘attractive’ office receptionist. The 12 hour day was not a hard day and the 4 days off before they had to return to work was a big thing to them. One would work for instance Monday through Wednesday, the other Thursday through Saturday, and each have a 4 day weekend.
Later on I talked to the Missouri Department of Rehabilitation to see if I could offer Driver Training for disabled clients. They approved me, but I had to rely on not only physical reports but also on psychological reports because sometimes these individuals may be physically able to drive a car, but not always mentally capable. I personally taught many students, with restricted vision, many with hearing problems, and even those with physical handicaps such as paraplegics, who may have lost limbs, or could no longer use them. For those cases I bought a big 4 door used Buick. It had plenty of room so that I could put a wheelchair or such items in the back and adjust the seats to accommodate all cases. For those who needed hand controls, I had purchased several sets of them from Royce and could interchange them for every case. I also made pedal extenders for short people, and even had special cushions for the driver’s seat to place them high enough for proper vision.
Money began to roll in and within 3 years I had the biggest Driving School in the area. From the fall of 1967 through 1976, my own salary was usually $30,000 annually, which was not bad for those days.
And then I pitched it all to the wind.
“Why”?, you might wonder.
I was a success and I had shown Anita I could do anything I set my mind to do, but then she put in her two cents worth one day.
“If it had not been for me, you would have never made it,” was her remark one day.
“What do you mean? You worked every day in a law office and I did my own thing. Maybe together we paid off your house and we managed to raise German Shepherds together, but you didn’t do a thing for MY driving school business”.
“Well, I let you do it, and I let you put a phone in the house to get started”.
“Is that STILL bugging you”?
“No, but if it had not been for my help, you could have never done what you did”.
“Well, I guess that is true, you allowed me to live here until I got disgusted with myself and was ready to try to do anything. And if that was getting me started, then you are the success story”.
With that, I told Anita she could head for the office in the morning and take over the whole operation, I was out of it and it was hers to do with as she saw fit.
Of course, Anita was not going to quit her good job with the law firm, after all she was making a great salary on her own with the firm putting money into an IRA for her. On my part I did not think of that, my only bid for the future was patting myself on the back for being a smart SOB. I loved being smart enough to do the things I did. As far as I was concerned, I knew I was the greatest. I had done what few other persons had done. I made a success of myself under dire circumstances. And now that I did it, I was done with it. I knew, again, that I could do anything I wanted to do. So, if something came along next to interest me I COULD and WOULD do it, just to prove that I was able to do it. That seemed to be my life ambition, and maybe even now it seems to prevail. I suppose any reader might get the idea that I love myself, Yes, I guess I do.
No one ever told me I could write, but a few times when John and I went to cook offs I would scribble down funny recipes and pass them out to help collect funds for our charitable endeavors. Later on when I married for the second time, my new wife, Eve, would ask me to explain Bible passages to her, and soon I was writing them down in humorous ways. And, finally when I met Mary, she read some of my funny stories and told me to write them for Pencilstubs. So, am I a writer now? I sure am, and thanks to my ingenious mind, I am a good one. And many of my humorous stories are published, thanks to Mary. She pats me on the back once in a while so I still know I am good at whatever I do.
But, back to the story at hand. After our words, I told Anita she could have the business or do whatever she wanted with it. I was quitting, and I did. I returned to the office to get whatever personal possessions were there. I paid the two girls 4 weeks vacation pay, and helped them find jobs. One even went to work for Bob Batson at his driving school. The other got a job at Mercy High School in the administration office.
One of my instructors who happened to be at the office at the time asked if he could ‘buy’ the business. I asked how he would pay for it, but his only method at the moment was to take over the leases of the cars, and pay me a percentage of new business. I got the leases transferred to his name and called many of the institutions to refer them to him. Within about 6 months he lost most of the business, but I was out of it.
He may have been a good instructor but he had no idea of operating a business. So he did not know how to renew contracts with the various schools and other institutions. At least I was out of it and did not owe any money.
I had been there and done that. So what’s new?
Charley’s comment. “Leo, you are the smartest SOB, I know, but you’re the dumbest one I can think of too”.
Watch for Helmer's next chapter on Great Jobs in the December issue.
Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.