Today I have Joshua Mason Allen, An young entrepreneur who decided to jump on the entrepreneurial bandwagon after his company was made redundant and he realised he simply could not let his love for aviation go, he acted upon it and started LROPS Flight Simulation Limited.
Hope you enjoy the interview.
Hey Joshua, how is it going? Thanks for doing this interview with me.
Hello Joseph, thank you for taking the time to conduct an interview with me. The YHP venture that you have set up is quite unique and very impressive: I’m honoured to have been considered for a mention.
Thank you very much Joshua, I’m glad it is been seen like that.
Can you kindly give us some background information about yourself? What you do?
Currently, I’m the Managing Director of LROPS Flight Simulation Limited at nineteen years old and I’m based in Warwickshire. After leaving school, I knew I wanted to run a business but settled into a work environment for a little while to get some “real” experience.
I took a job with a bank, and got made redundant a year later which is possibly the best thing that had ever happened to me. Not only did the redundancy give me the proverbial kick, but I was elected as the employee representative for the 100+ of us that were being made redundant.
I dealt with negotiation of redundancy deals, holding meetings and conferences, as well as dealing with very senior managers. I was told by the senior staff that I did a fantastic job at it: and walked away with a very nice settlement, despite not being entitled to anything legally. As did everyone else who hadn’t been there two years, I should add!
Tell me about your company: LROPS – How it got started? What services do you guys provide? Etc
LROPS was started when I saw a gap in the market in the flight simulation community. Software was being provided, namely simulations of real aircraft that were so complex that they were tested by real pilots before being released. What we saw was a lack of training: it’s fantastic people get the opportunity to fly these sorts of simulations that, ten years ago, would have been unimaginable, yet there was no real training for them. The vendors did publish manuals, but these went only a short distance in proving a complete training solution.
At present, our main focus is on researching and developing the next stage of LROPS’ life, we’re working on two new business models that we shall provide side-by-side in the future, but also work seamlessly together. I can’t give too much away, but I can tell you that it involves the full motion simulators. The ones real pilots are trained on.
We then stepped in and worked with pilots to produce the sort of manuals and details that the enthusiasts wanted, this level of business took us to a level where incorporation into a limited company made sense, so that we could further what we wanted to do.
How did you finance your business?
The business has been grown from a nothing. I don’t mean I was given £2000 by anyone either, it was literally nothing, but eventually funds from profits were available for reinvestment. The only investment that I have ever made into the business is time, lots of it.
This way of doing things has certainly been interesting at times when cash was right for reinvestment for the business; however, it does make sure that you thoroughly plan every penny that you spend and that nothing goes to waste.
Is this your first business? You told me that you started making money at a young age? What were you doing?
It’s my first ‘legal’ business. From a very young age I started washing cars on a Saturday and Sunday, when I got a lot of customers, I started to get other kids that lived around me to work for me for half of the fee it cost for the car to be washed. For example, if Mr Smith needed his car washing, I could send my next door neighbour round to do it, and we both got £5!
When I was at secondary school, also, the school closed the tuck shop: preventing people from buying sweets and other sugary items. I stepped in and filled this gap very quickly: buying sweets in the morning on my way to school and then selling them on the playground during break time. It’s all very Del-Boy-esque now that I look back on it, however, at the time making money was the sweetest thing of all.
Is the business profitable? How do you make money?
Our current stream of income comes from the sales of our training materials within a simulator community. It’s got to a stage where the business is indeed profitable and is now in a position to start looking into where we want to go. We’ll never forget our roots, but I’m an ambitious person and hope to move on to bigger and better things in the not too distant future!
Who are your target audience?
At the moment, our products only appeal to people who use a computer based flight simulator, or those who are real pilots in some capacity. Our starting market is very niche indeed, but as I’ve said already, this is something that we hope to change in the next year or so.
Ultimately, our target market will be anyone of any age or gender who wants to experience the thrill of flying a commercial airline aircraft, such as those provided by Airbus or Boeing.
What type of technology do you guys use?
We use lots of different technology, especially for what we’re growing into. The training books are published through software on a Windows operating system.
In the very near future, we’re going to be using CAD software.
What was the hardest part in starting the business?
The hardest part is probably maintaining regular interest and custom. Setting it up, managing legal structures, managing the website, dealing with other companies and private individuals is all very easy compared to maintaining regular income.
Can you give an example of successful technology change in aviation?
There have been a lot of technological advances in aviation in the last twenty years: it’s been totally revolutionised. The depths of this question, therefore, are probably a little too geeky for this interview – but allow me to explain this: the way aircraft are built, the challenges the aviation industry faces from the economists and global-warmingists alike mean that aviation needs to be on the cutting edge at all times.
Conversely, however, aviation is probably the only industry in modern times that has taken a monumental leap backwards. Naturally, I speak of the retirement of Concorde, and with the bankers and the environmentalists running the world’s progress these days, your life will always be slower. I doubt we’ll ever see anything like Concorde again in our life time.
Your company has been shortlisted for this month’s Livewire "Grand Ideas"
Award” we wish the best of luck, what should we be expecting from you and your company in the future?
As I’ve mentioned, we’re up to a lot of R&D this year to develop something truly brilliant. Between you and I, then, we’re trying to develop our own line of simulators that we shall both sell in an affordable way to private individuals and also offer them for use to the general public.
Aircraft seem to fascinate a lot of people, and they have done for a long time. I want to everyone to be able to share a passion, even if it is only for an hour at a time, of being able to sit in the left hand seat of a flight deck and experience the thrill and the passion of it all. Initially we shall provide a platform for people to be able to locate this sort of experience, and then eventually provide it ourselves.
With regards to me personally, I intend to see the success of this company before I move onto something else. I have a dangerous interest in property development!
What has been your most effective way of marketing your company’s services?
Almost certainly by getting peer-reviewed in all sorts of different aviation publications has been the most effective way. We’ve had our publications reviewed by real airline pilots and then published in world-wide magazines; likewise we’ve had reviews done by the sort of websites that flight simulation enthusiasts read.
What tools have helped you as a young entrepreneur starting your business?
I’m not really sure there has been a specific set of tools or other devices that have helped me to start a business. I’m quite old-school in my belief that you can either succeed in business or not. The advice I’ve received has been very valuable though: even just by speaking to people in my local pub, I’ve got a good tip, idea or suggestion. Networking, therefore, I suppose has been a good “tool”.
What would you like to see coming out that could help young entrepreneurs?
I think there should be a place for young entrepreneurs to chat to other young entrepreneurs: sort of like a social club, together I suppose we can make a real good go of setting ourselves up as the people to lead this country through the next generation.
For example, I would like to meet other company directors who are my age; I know people around my age that are self-employed, but only (I think) one director.
I don’t think it’s a problem of there being no support or advice; I don’t necessarily consider that to be dependant upon the entrepreneurs’ age. Maybe a lack of motivation or confidence – but if I can start a company, I don’t see why any other person can’t.
What advice/tips do you have for young entrepreneurs looking to start-up a similar company?
I think the words of Getty have always stuck with me when I was working up to opening a company: he once said: “rise early, work all day and don’t sleep until you strike oil”. While oil is, of course, proverbial here – the reference to good hard work is a solid one and one I feel is taken for granted these days.
The ‘Dragons’ Den’ culture as I shall now call it seems to glamorise business and doesn’t give a true reflection of what it’s like.
Yes, there are five very well-off people sat in those chairs who have done exceptionally well in business, but that isn’t how it is. Even those who deem themselves successful have a couple of million in the bank, and not the fortunes these people do.
You don’t go into business solely to make money, it isn’t easy and nor should it be.
What should we be expecting from you next?
Hopefully a lot more interviews from different publications like yours, Joseph. I’ve told you a bit about what my company will be doing over the next year and hopefully I can come back next year and tell you where we’ve got with it.
Thanks for taking time to do this interview with me, I hope you guys got some tips and inspiration from the interview.