Hemel Hempstead businessman Simon says: ‘Don’t bother with uni!’

Successful entrepreneur Simon Dolan has written a book to advise youngsters about their career paths
Successful entrepreneur Simon Dolan has written a book to advise youngsters about their career paths

Exam results are being digested and teens are taking a serious look at their future – especially as the jobs market is looking increasingly bleak.

The country’s graduate unemployment rate coupled with the rising cost in university fees may well make youngsters think twice about options.

But according to self-made millionaire Simon Dolan, they needn’t despair.

He said: “University has a place, but it should be for the elite.”

His Hemel Hempstead-based firm SJD Accountancy turned over £100million last year – and guess what? He doesn’t have a degree to his name.

Instead, an early aptitude and interest in numbers – plus a stint on a market stall when he was 14 – was all he needed to pick up a strong work ethic and hunger for success.

Fast forward to 2013 and the firm has more than 40 offices across the country with more than 12,000 clients – and he has a fleet of super cars, private jets and his very own motor racing team, Jota Sport.

And now he’s keen to encourage sparky business smart school-leavers to start up their own projects and reap the rewards – and give higher education the elbow.

The self-made entrepreneur was born in 1972 in Chelmsford, Essex, to an accountant father and had a keen interest in all things numerate from an early age.

He said: “I went missing when I was about two and my parents couldn’t find me anywhere. They eventually found me in the cupboard under the stairs, watching the numbers on the gas meter go round.”

He was a self-confessed “smart-arse” in the classroom at the local grammar school, and was promptly expelled at 16 with barely any qualifications and a seemingly bleak future.

The years that followed were dedicated to “mucking about” and not much else, but to appease his father he applied for an accounting job and got it straight away.

After 18 months of learning the ropes in all things accountancy, he jacked it in and wondered what to do next.

Months of drifting led to him desperately spending his last £10 on a small advert in a local newspaper advertising his services, and he had to wait three nail-biting weeks until he got his first call from a client.

From there, SJD Accountancy was born and grew on a foundation of recommendation. He’s never looked back.

From his own personal experience, Simon believes academia isn’t the right path for everyone.

His published guide, How To Make Millions Without A Degree, was born of the anti-uni debate, and charts his journey to building the Simon Dolan empire.

He said: “It’s a lighthearted dig at the university culture. What it’s really about is how straightforward it is to make money.

“My beef is with the government, because they’ve been telling kids for years that they need to go to uni to get a good job.

“It’s been completely devalued because they try to make everybody go – it’s not good for society.”

SJD Accountancy put down permanent roots in Hemel Hempstead after Simon moved to Chaulden Vale in 1996 – four years after he started the business.

He relocated the office to premises in nearby Berkhamsted and Tring, before moving HQ to the chic setting of the KD Tower after its renovation in 2010. The firm is now one of the town’s biggest employers.

He currently lives in affluent Gerrards Cross with wife Sabrina and their two sons, 11 year old Bowie and Enzo, eight.

So would Simon want his two children to shun university, too?

“If they want to study something they’re genuinely interested in, then why not? But then again, they’re in a more privileged position than most.”

More recently, he’s also earned the title of the world’s first Twitter Dragon, after he began investing in small businesses by reading their pitches in just 140 characters on the social networking site. After being inundated with requests, Simon learnt to quickly separate the good from the bad.

He said: “They have to be interesting, but the money is irrelevant. It’s far more about the time and the guidance that I have to put in, so it has to be worth it.

“I’m not here to make friends, so I don’t find it rewarding in that sense.”

So what are Simon’s top tips for success?

“You need to be self-motivated. No one is going to do it for you – just get on with it. So many people waste time with business plans, but I never had a plan. I just did it.

“And this is a bit of a controversial one, but people need to recognise when to give up. People bang on about positive thinking but you can only force it for so long. Either you’ve got it, or you haven’t. I myself blew a lot of money before I realised that.”

And his parting shot was this: “Do it because you’re interested in it. Recognise that it does take a long time, because I think a lot of people give up just before the success.”

Visit www.nodegree.co.uk.