An Audience with James Caan

If there’s a will, there’s a way.

This may sound like down-trodden advice but entrepreneur and millionaire James Caan insists it’s the secret to his success.

Born to a Pakistani family, who barely spoke English, when they arrived in London, he left home at the young age of sixteen to pursue his own dreams rather than following in the footsteps of his family business.

In the first few years afterwards he worked 7 days a week to pay simply for his living costs.

Don’t limit yourself.

Eventually, he found himself working at a recruitment agency, which paid the bills. Then he found out that head hunters make about 10 times the commission he did, so he decided to set up a head hunting firm of his own at the age of 23.

He chose the name Alexander Mann Associates because, in his opinion, it sounded more sophisticated than James Caan Associates. It had the added benefit of making it sound like there were at least two people in the business and when he needed more time to think about a deal he could say, “Let me discuss this with Alex first.”

Start with small goals and work yourself higher.

Caan wanted an address that would look good on his business card, so he tried to find an office on Pall Mall he could afford. It was a tiny broom cupboard, where you couldn’t even open the door without hitting the desk but it was still a prestigious address.

His first goal became to make enough to afford one of the offices downstairs which had the luxury of a window. After that his ambition became earning enough to be able to hire someone he could talk to.

He started with small, achievable goals and slowly turned his company into one of the biggest corporations in the HR industry. In 2013 the company sold for £260 Mio.

Don’t be afraid to fail.

Later Caan decided to go into private equity, although he had no traditional skills associated with the industry nor experience.

“Success is not a destination but a journey and failure is part of that,” Caan explained. If you don’t take a risk, in spite of being aware you could fail, your fear of failure will always hold you back. Without such a leap of faith and courage, you will never succeed.

Know your weaknesses.

Caan knew he lacked experience in the private equity sector but he knew how to find people who balanced out his weaknesses. You don’t have to know everything. You just need to be good at realising what you can’t do and finding people who can.

Know when to quit.

Caan invested in a sandwich chain which kept losing £100k every week. In situations like this it’s important to know when to quit. It’s not when you run out of money but when you can’t add any more value. As long as you quit early enough, you get to learn from mistakes like this.

Be passionate and believe in yourself.

If you believe in yourself and what you are doing, you can overcome all your weaknesses and disadvantages. Simple as it may sound, this is James’ Caan advice in a nutshell and it did make him a multimillionaire. So why shouldn’t it work for you, too?




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