Interview: Simon Dolan, Jota Aviation
Having made his money from running an accountancy firm specialising in advising contractors, Simon Dolan is keen not to be seen as a dull accountant. Which is fair as he never actually qualified.
His biggest businesses still are SJD Accountancy, Easy Accountancy and Contract Umbrella – which he stresses, do employ many qualified accountants – but he also has many other interests. Dolan is the author of How To Make Millions Without A Degree, a new book; he is the publisher of the UK’s first magazine focusing on mental health; and he recently offered up to £5 million to entrepreneurs who could wow him with a 140-character business pitch on Twitter.
Dolan is also the owner of Jota Aviation, a 24-hour charter and freight carrier operating two King Airs and two Piper Navajos from Southend Airport in the east of England.
Corporate Jet Investor: What attracted you to private aviation?
Simon Dolan: I saw an interesting business opportunity – I had no real passion for aviation, and indeed the passion I have now is still from a business point of view.
Who is financing your aircraft?
Dolan: Our aircraft are financed by Lombard on a straight lease purchase.
How is the business doing currently?
Dolan: The exact figures are commercially sensitive, but I can say that I am extremely happy with the level of demand – it far exceeds our plans.
Is there anything different about the service JA offers?
Dolan: The flexibility of our current fleet I think is the main difference. We offer cargo or passenger flights, be it on a brand new King Air for the passengers, or a specially built King Air for freight which offers way more capability than anything up to a Metroliner.
What are Jota Aviation’s plans for the future?
Dolan: Very much more of the same. We aim to increase the fleet with similar sized aircraft and grow organically.
What do you see as the major challenges for private aviation in the future?
Dolan: I’d suggest that the increasing levels of compliance and regulation are the biggest threat to small operators.
How have you found coming into private aviation as an entrepreneur? Some people who set up private aviation businesses know a lot about planes but perhaps less about business – is this the opposite with you?
Dolan: Exactly that – I knew nothing about planes and a fair bit about business, so I hope I can bring some commercial sense to an otherwise fairly emotive business.
On a personal level is there anything you have found particularly difficult about operating in business aviation as an entrepreneur?
Dolan: The cost! Most of my other businesses are in the service industries, so the capital expenditure of the extent required in aviation was difficult to accept.
What’s your next move?
Dolan: I am looking at a hugely impressive and interesting company at the moment. I can’t say too much for obvious reasons, but it is on the cutting edge of manufacturing technologies, and is linked to aviation.
To find out more about Simon Dolan, you can visit his accountancy firm’s website.