All Florida Safety Institute
Mark Allen, CEO
All Florida Safety Institute Economic Impact
115% Job Growth
All Florida Safety Institute is a driving school providing permit and driver’s license testing, driving lessons, traffic and defensive driving courses, manual training, driving simulator lessons, high school driver’s education courses, mature drivers courses, and special needs driving courses for ADD/ADHD, ASD driving and vocational rehabilitation.
All Florida Safety Institute is an Industry Leader with 5 Straight Years of Growth
Was there an ah-ha moment that led to the idea of your company?
As a successful retired auto dealer, I have had significant experience in the automotive industry in every aspect including performance driving. But as a parent of four children that would all eventually drive a car and need driving lessons, there was never a consideration that they would do anything other than high school drivers education. Our oldest, who graduated with over a 4.5 GPA from high school, took Drivers Ed and the results were less than expected.
Three years later after selling our dealership and enjoying a short retirement, our youngest son was ready to learn to drive. The thought of him driving scared my spouse to a near panic attack, and after weeks of discussion, did not get any better. After polling a few of our friends, we realized many parents had the same fear: Drivers Ed was not good enough and the absolute fear of getting in a car with a new driver in todays traffic was horrifying. At this point the lightbulb went off and we decided there needed to be something better.
Can you tell us about your business and the value it brings to your customers?
All Florida Safety Institute is a comprehensive Private Driving School and a Third-Party Administrator for driver’s license testing with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
The driver training side works with teens and adults from beginner to advanced driving experience. We teach a proprietary curriculum of car control, defensive driving, and our own predictive driver training. We have expanded our program to also provide the same quality training as a traditional drivers ed program for public and private schools and school systems.
We’ve recently added programs that provide training and testing to students through the Florida Department of Education’s Vocational Education.
This provides training to teens and young adults in the foster care system and to learning and physically disabled students through vocational rehabilitation.
Our testing side provides virtual and in-person training and testing for licensing as well a more convenient and consistent option for drivers license testing than a traditional DMV. Our programs insure those can drive and desire to drive and get a license are able to do so regardless of stature or need and at a cost below industry standards.
What’s your competitive edge over other companies in your market?
Our plan was very simple, create a contiguous foundation of brick and mortar locations across the state and develop the customer base by providing amazing service at a price below standard.
We can provide consistent quality regardless of the county’s economic demographics. We can provide better customer service, the ultimate in quality of service and an organization that is capable of adapting to any opportunity all of which provides the customer with a better product at a lower cost.
Can you tell us a bit about your company culture?
Like every good organization, we strive to be a place that people want to work. All Florida Safety Institute is about its mission to save lives of teens and adults in auto crashes through awareness and education. It’s not much different than a school; you have to thrive on the education you provide knowing that the lives you save are your true reward.
As we have grown across the state – over 30 counties and 23 locations – we have continued to promote our mission and create a culture of students first.
Our team can work together and all follow the same path to make certain our consistency and value are uninterrupted. We work hard to try to make the balance of employee happiness and extreme customer service.
What are some of the major challenges you’ve faced while growing your business?
The expansion to outside of our home area of North East Florida provided some of our first serious challenges. Our plan required us to circle around Central Florida before opening in the most traffic complicated market. This required us to add on an entire new team from leader down.
Our next major hurdle came with the company we had hired to perform our SEO and redevelop our website. After discovering some irregularities and then acquiring their past history, we ended up terminating the company. Unfortunately, on their way out, they sabotaged our online marketing and our website, making it beyond repair by the new company we hired to replace them. The financial impact of this following the second devastating hurricane and going into our slow season was nearly catastrophic. I feel all of this prepared us to handle the devastation of 2020. Having begun what was starting as a record year after three years of significant growth and only light expansion on the short- term horizon, the COVID shut downs hit, halting all non-essential training.
In mid-April, the company completely ran out of resources. Hours before informing the team they would all be sent home, we received word we were the first company funded in our area by the state’s emergency bridge loan. In 2020 alone, we went down to nine locations from 16 then back to 23 in less than 6 months and doubled our overall revenue. We are still fighting the effects of COVID and what it has done to our organization financially.
The most significant thing we did was pre-plan a reopening that allowed us to bring in fresh revenue while being able to still accommodate the 350+ students waiting to re- schedule. We were able to start bringing in revenue for three weeks in advance of returning to paying normal expenses and servicing students. This plan allowed us to catch up on all payroll and get all our instructors back to work.
What does it mean to you to be selected as a GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honoree?
Being Selected as a GrowFL Company to Watch is a huge honor. Having spanned a career of 27+ years with amazing successes to then stepping out of a comfort zone and risking an entire retirement on something that would be successful and allow me to give back and leave a legacy is profoundly humbling. It has taken every bit of experience, both good and bad, from my life to have made it to where we are. Knowing this is God’s path for me has given me the focus to go all in and continue to follow our plan to completion. To be selected for this great honor vindicates our efforts and gives us a renewed energy to fight on to continue to save lives and better our community.
2020 makes for five straight years of over 100% growth in revenue and students. We look at our success of increasing that revenue as our gauge to the number students we trained and the overall number of people we have saved. I do not think there is any award greater than this that we could receive in 2020 than one that rewards our impact on our state as a whole. We are humbled and thankful.
What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I have to start by reminding them that if it was easy everyone would make it. Small business is a risk. Very few start out with enough to stay the course. It takes more than money and desire to make it over the long haul. The first thing you need to evaluate is yourself.
Once you get started, do not look back. There needs to always be a question of whether to expand or hold, but even in hold you can never quit growing. Failing to grow to either capacity or into the next level will eventually leave you vulnerable to someone who is willing to grow. If you run into a roadblock look around for more solutions.
When you hire people, do not compromise. If they don’t have what it takes, they never will. Fit the person to the right position. A bad fit is a short- term solution to a long-term need. Make the decisions that are nagging at you, but you keep avoiding – they are what is likely keeping your success at bay. Remember that winners only win when they are winning, but champions win when they win and when they lose. There are so few champions but lots of winners.