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The Real Deal: James Caan
James Caan is a multi-millionaire businessman who founded numerous successful recruitment companies and then became a venture capitalist and professional investor. In 2007 James Caan shot to fame when he first appeared on the popular BBC investment show Dragon's Den.
The book takes you on a roughly chronological journey through the life of Nazim Khan, a Pakistani immigrant whose father moved the family to East London, hence the reason the full title of the book is 'My Story From Brick Lane To Dragon's Den'. The autobiography is easy to read and contains quite a lot of useful insight into how business and especially sales and recruitment work. Throughout the book you feel engaged with Caan's life and although at some points it may sound a little clichéd it nonetheless provides overall a very insightful and interesting look into the life of this very successful businessman which I personally find fascinating.
The book is made up of thirty five chapters which as I have said run in roughly chronological order which is a good format because it means the reader gains a thorough understanding of how Cann grew up and the influence this had on his businesses and more importantly for me it shows how Caan set up and grew his businesses, which is for me the most interesting part of the book.
The first five chapters deal mostly with Caan's childhood which whilst undoubtedly interesting in terms of building a profile of the man wasn't for me the most interesting part of the book. However, having said that it is by no means a boring part of the book either and if you are more interested in the man rather than the businesses then this will be the part of the book for you. Throughout the rest of the book there are chapters that relate to Caan's personal life such as his father's kidnap - which is one example of this that sticks in my mind to some extent.
Chapters six to twenty three mainly focus on James Cann the headhunter and recruiter and I think are, for me at least, the most interesting chapters of the book. They explain in quite a lot of detail how Caan managed to set up his recruitment empire and what skills he thinks got him to where he got. A lot of his thought processes are explained which I found fascinating whilst reading the book and his business skills are shown throughout these chapters, unsurprisingly.
Then chapters twenty four to thirty five concern Caan's life after he sold his stake in his recruitment businesses. From investing to Dragon's Den and obviously a subject close to his heart: charity. Caan becomes a little philosophical about the impact of charity at some points during the latter part of this book which is quite interesting.
Overall this book is easy to read as the chapters are fairly short and the way in which the book is written, both in terms of the language used and the format, make it easy to read. The book offers a fascinating life into how this independent and daring boy turned into one of the country's most successful businessmen. This book is a real eye opener into the world of business as well as into the life of the man, James Caan.
This review is for the paperback book "The Real Deal - My Story from Brick Lane to Dragons' Den" by the entrepreneur James Caan. The paperback book was published by Virgin Books in mid 2009 and is 384 pages long, the hardback version had been published a few months before.
For those who don't know who James Caan is, he is one of the dragons on Dragons' Den, which is a programme on BBC2 where wealthy individuals give money to individuals or small businesses after a presentation. James Caan is one of the five wealthy dragons, joining in the fifth series of the show.
In this book, Caan takes the reader through all of the different elements and periods of his life, from his childhood and his start into paid employment, his setting up his own recruitment company, Alexander Mann, and then the setting up of his investment and private equity businesses which invested in other growing companies.
The story of his life can sound a bit dry, but Caan makes it a very interesting read. It's interesting to read how he decided against his father's advice to leave schooling early and go straight into work, and how he was driven to achieve success by wanting to prove to his father that he had made the right decision. Certainly it wasn't always easy for Caan, and the story can be quite inspirational.
If there is a negative in the book, it's that it isn't really a guide to run your own business in the way that some autobiographies of this genre can tend to be. Caan was quite specifically involved in the recruitment agency business, and so some of the skills and tactics he used are very difficult to transfer. However, you can pick up the way that he dealt with certain issues despite the obstacles, so general lessons can certainly be learned.
One of the business messages that does come through in the book, which is really positive to see, is that of trying to perform business ethically. It doesn't tell people to try to negotiate really hard to screw over the other person, but rather to achieve a result that is a win for everyone. In some autobiographies there is a ruthless streak which seems quite unethical, but that didn't come across in this book. If this book and his appearances on Dragons' Den are anything to go by, he seems to be a real gentleman, which makes his achievements even more inspirational.
The book retails for 7.99 pounds, but is currently available on Amazon for 4.99 pounds including free delivery. If you are happy with a second hand copy, these are available for about three to four pounds including delivery on sites such as eBay and Amazon.
Overall, this is a really well written book and likely to be of interest to the general reader of those wanting some guidance in business. It's good value to buy from Amazon with the free postage, and if you want, you can also buy the autobiographies of Duncan Bannatyne and Theo Paphitis at the same time, which are also really interesting titles. Definitely therefore a book worth considering.