Multi-millionaire Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 with no qualifications. Today, he has a reported net worth of £175 million – so just how did the former tractor repairer, from Dalmuir in Scotland, make his fortune?
Born in February 1949, to second world war veteran and former Japanese prisoner of war, William, and cleaner and housewife, Jean Bannatyne, he was one of seven children.
They weren’t well off and Bannatyne grew up in a small house on an estate in Clydebank, where his father was a foundry worker at the Singer sewing machine factory. He thanks his parents for instilling in him a strong work ethic.
Bannatyne first showed entrepreneurial spirit aged 11, after he passed his Eleven Plus exam and needed a bicycle to get to Clydebank High School. He asked for a paper round with the local newsagent, but was turned down. Due to his persistence, the shopkeeper challenged him to find her 100 new customers, in return for a job.
To her surprise, he turned up in due course with 100 names – he was given a job and bought his bike! Afterwards, with hindsight, he reflected it would have been more entrepreneurial if he’d sold the list instead.
He wasn’t particularly keen on high school and only enjoyed woodwork and PE, so he left with no qualifications.
On leaving school, Bannatyne took an apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker in 1964, but then joined the Royal Navy as a stoker. He served on HMS Eagle for several years, but at the age of 19, he was given a dishonourable discharge, after throwing an officer off a jetty in Scotland!
In his autobiography, he claimed he had done it partly as a dare by shipmates. Unfortunately, it went wrong and consequently, he ended up serving nine months in Colchester military detention centre.
Returning to Clydebank after his ill-fated military career, he trained as an agricultural vehicle fitter and repaired tractors for a living.
He admitted to drifting around several casual jobs in his 20s, including deckchair attendant and hospital porter. He also enjoyed surfing and partying on the isle of Jersey, where he lived for four years, but he was poor and didn’t even have a bank account until he was 30.
Bannatyne changed his casual lifestyle when he started out on his own, selling ice-cream, after buying an old van for £450. Due to sheer hard work, it was a success and he expanded, gradually buying more vans. He sold the ice-cream business for £28,000 and invested the profits in his new enterprise.
After building his new venture, Quality Care Homes, over five years, he sold it in 1997, for £26 million, to become a multi-millionaire at the age of 48.
He used the money to launch Bannatyne health clubs – the UK’s biggest independent chain of health clubs, with 71 sites. He has also launched a chain of hotels and currently has sites in Durham, Darlington and Hastings.
Between 2005 and 2015, he was a “dragon” on the BBC TV series, Dragons’ Den, where a panel of millionaires decide whether to invest in fledgling businesses. Over his 10 years on the show, Bannatyne invested in 36 businesses.
Key to success
The entrepreneur says the secret of his success as a self-made millionaire is working very long hours in the beginning and putting in some “hard graft”. He says once achieved, it leads to a “fantastic way of life”, as described in his motivational book, Anyone Can Do It.
He advises would-be entrepreneurs to thoroughly research their product or service before starting out, and to be realistic with their expectations.
If you’re aiming high, like Duncan Bannatyne, effective communication through collaboration is key. At the Headspace Group, our coworking environments are a great place to make this happen.
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