My Week: Simon Dolan of SJD Accountancy

The serial entrepreneur on not needing a degree, preferring to work with women and his passion for fast cars.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 11 Feb 2011
I’m almost losing count of how many businesses I run, but the main one is SJD Accountancy, which has been going for nearly 20 years. I started in 1996 with just one client and the business expanded from there. I’m not really that involved in the day-to-day running of the business now – I have regional directors who take care of the branches, so my role is really just to oversee everything. I spend about two days a week in the office – usually in our Hemel Hempstead branch, as it’s the closest to where I live.

I’ve recently written a book How to Make Millions Without a Degree, so that was really time consuming. I did it because I feel really strongly that that’s the direction we should be pointing youngsters in – more people need to be encouraged to start up on their own rather than thinking they need to go to university. I didn’t go to university, and I don’t think getting a degree’s necessary; never once have I asked for a degree from a potential employee. I think that entrepreneurialism can be taught, to some extent. Genetics might play a part when you get to the Bill Gates standard but I think you can teach the basic skills, and that’s what more schools should be encouraging.

These days, I'm also an investor, so this week I’ve also been catching up with some of the businesses I came across through my ‘Tweet a pitch’ idea – where I encouraged people to pitch for business funding through Twitter. So far I’ve invested about £1.2m in a handful of businesses. I originally pledged to invest £5m so I’ll carry on going if a great business idea comes my way.

What attracts me to an investor? Almost always it’s the person. They have to be astute, bright, and have a great personality.  No matter how fantastic the idea is, I couldn’t invest if the person was dull and boring to work with as getting a business off the ground involves spending a lot of time together. I also have to admit that I’m more inclined to invest in a woman than a bloke as I far more enjoy working with women. It’s a personality thing: I find them more loyal, trustworthy, hard-working and less likely to stab you in the back. Whenever I’ve been ripped off in the past it’s always been by men.

Motor racing is a big interest of mine and I set up my own racing team called Jota Sport, so I spent a lot of time on that. I've got some racing meetings this week,and then I'm heading off to Spain to test a new car.  I like downtime from the business, and car racing is a great way to relax. I don’t have time for other hobbies though - if I get a hobby it becomes a complete obsession and I’ll do that to death then move on to the next one.

Simon Dolan is the founder of SJD Accountancy and the author of How to Make Millions Without a Degree

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