Duncan Bannatyne : Anyone can do it, my story

My second book review is of Duncan Bannatyne’s “From an Ice Cream Van to Dragons Den, Anyone can do it, My Story.

Anyone Can Do It
Anyone Can Do It

Yes another business biography review.  I do love reading about how successful people and businesses got to where they are and the insider view on it.  You might think that this is all about Dragons Den, the successful BBC entrepreneurial show which he features on.  In fact a search on Amazon.co.uk reveals 622 books (it will have probably gone up by the time I finish writing this!) with dragons den in the name, description or comments.

Refreshingly though this is not a “cash in” book on Dragons den.  Duncan Bannatyne’s autobiography starts at his childhood, describing his up bringing and those around him, how he started with little education going from one town to the next looking for work.  It was only in his very late 20’s early 30’s that one day sitting on a beach in Jersey after spending summers there working and partying that he decided to go back to England and become a millionaire (as if it’s that simple).  He was inspired by an article on Alan Sugar and thought if he could do it why can’t I.

The book then looks at his main career starting at “Duncan’s Super Ices”  where in a short amount of time he built up a fleet of Ice Cream Vans, National Care Homes where he set out to build quality care homes, interestingly this was a company he publicly floated on the stock exchange and it discusses his experiences of that and whether what is good for the stock price is good for the company, (quite topical at the moment).  Just Learning a nursery chain he founded and sold for a good profit.  He hasn’t just started businesses, he has also invested in many some successfully some not so well, Alpha FM is a great example of how despite being a completely different business format, many rules of business remain the same and he was able to turn the stations fortunes around.  Of course also Bannatyne’s Fitness which at the close of the book was vastly expanded with the purchase of Living Well from Hilton.

The book takes a chronological look at Duncan Bannatyne’s life and in doing this it includes his relationships, work for charity, business and TV career.  There is a small section at the back of the book about the first three seasons of Dragons Den with some interesting insights into the making of the TV series but this book is not about Dragons Den, it’s better! its about the man and what he has done, that said there is enough on Dragons Den, the other dragons and entrepreneurs if that’s what you want to read

Some interesting points I will take away from the book are

  • How much money can be made from the ice cream business!  Duncan Bannatyne partnered with local dairy’s where he was able to make a considerable margin on ice cream sales, he bought vans at auction and soon had a fleet of Ice Cream vans in his area
  • Always agree a fixed price.  Many of the conflict points in the book were due to builders working slow or overcharging. Duncan Bannatyne showed agreeing to a fixed price could be to the benefit of all parties.  Especially paired with the incentives he offered, such as to share the savings of cost reduction ideas that the builders could come up with when looking at the plans.
  • Build your brand – in everything he has done he hasn’t set out to be the cheapest he has set out to be the best!
  • Delegate
  • Don’t buy a plane.  A funny but true comment that he heard and follows, if you buy a plane the only days you enjoy it are the day you buy it and the day you sell it.

In summary this book is much more than just a book sold because of a TV show.  It really shows where Duncan Bannatyne has come from and what he has experienced and learnt on that journey.  Anyone can do it!

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