Starting life as a stoker in the navy, today straight-talking Scot and successful entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne is worth more than £310 million. So just how did Duncan get to where he was today? Simple – he was good with money…
From issue 3, Summer 2009
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you discovered your flair for business?
“I was born into a big, boisterous family and brought up in a council estate in Clydebank. However, it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I got my life together and set about making my fortune. In 10 years I went from being penniless to building a successful business and making money, and I learnt many valuable lessons along the way. The most important one was learning to understand the value of money and how to make the most out of what I actually had.”
Were you always determined to make money then?
“Yes! When I was five years old I really wanted a bike and was determined to make sure that I got one. A local newsagent told me that if I found a hundred customers, then I could have a paper round. She thought it would put me off, but it didn’t – I hiked the streets my local Glasgow neighbourhood and found the customers. Not long after, I had the bike. It was an early lesson that showed it was in my power to change things. All my life I have been adamant that I wasn’t going to be poor and so if I can see an opportunity I am always determined to take it.”
Why did you decide to wait until you were 30 before becoming an entrepreneur?
“I joined the Royal Navy to see the world and because people said that girls like guys in uniform! I didn’t want to be poor, and they paid reasonably well, and seeing the world and meeting girls seemed to me to be the most important thing in life to do. It ended badly though as I ended up in jail after throwing an officer overboard!”
Did your upbringing help make you more determined to succeed?
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t be the person I am if I hadn’t been from a poor family. In fact, I am not convinced that I would have been an entrepreneur at all. I think everybody has entrepreneurial genes hidden inside, but some people don’t let them blossom because they don’t need to.”
You’ve got a reputation as being a bit of a tough nut on Dragons’ Den. Are you really that fierce in real life?
“Not at all – I have a very soft side as well. People may not think it but I’m a real family man. I love coming home to my family. My charity work also means a lot to me and losing my sister was also something that I find very difficult to talk about. When I was writing my autobiography, remembering my sister and how she had gone, and some of the stuff we did in the charity expeditions, was very emotional.”
You must have seen some bizarre things on Dragon’s Den. Which were the worst?
“The daftest thing I’ve seen is probably the one-handed driving glove. It was a reversible glove that could be used by one-handed drivers whichever side of the road they drove on. We couldn’t keep our faces straight!”
You’ve recently written a book called How to be Smart with Your Money. What advice would you offer to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
“You don’t have to know any jargon, have money in the bank or a good credit rating – you don’t even have to know what a ‘credit rating’ is! Whether you’ve got money in the bank or not, whether you’re 18 or 80, self-employed or unemployed, the principles of being smart with your money are the same. All you need to do is be good with money and try and protect yourself from the worst the financial world has to throw at you.”
Duncan’s Top Tips
- Don’t dream, don’t worry– think! Planning your financial future is the firststep to making it a reality.
- You’re never too old to get your finances in shape, but the younger you start, the longer you have to reap the rewards.
- Get organised – file your receipts and income information sensibly so you can be sure you’ve got more coming in than going out!
- It pays to stay informed – gathering information from as many sources as possible will help you make smarter financial decisions.
- Boost your income – make sure you’re taking advantage of all the benefits available, whether it’s tax credits or employee benefits.
- If you’re working, don’t let your career drift. Keep thinking about your next career move and make sure you don’t spend years earning less than you should.
- Spend smart. Ask yourself if you really need it before you buy it. You’re not just frittering away money, you’re frittering away your wealth. Save! Savings help you cope with emergencies and let you invest for the future which gives you more options.
Duncan’s top tips were taken from his book How to be Smart with Your Money published by Orion. Buy from Amazon.