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A Very Interesting Dragon
on 23 September 2008
As a non-entrepreneurial woman, but not of the `certain age' who, James tells us with rather touching surprise started writing to him when he began appearing on Dragon's Den - approaches from women of all ages were, I would have thought, an occupational hazard for multi-millionaires - I found this book a terrific read.
From the moment he left school, and walked out of his shocked Muslim family's home at 16, without waiting to take his O'Levels, until he took a late `gap year' at the age of 42, James never stopped working. He was driven by a desperate desire to prove to his dearly loved, but shocked, disappointed and briefly estranged father, that his decision had been the right one. He writes: `I had to prove to dad that I could make it without him. That was the only thing that would make sense of what I had done. I had to prove him wrong.' He made his point, but it was a tough road, and not one for the weak. Sometimes he lived on cornflakes for several days at a time, and after being a cosseted Muslim son, even fending for himself was a shock to his system.
What came across most strongly for me when reading about his progress was that although he was clearly bright, his main assets were that people liked him, he was amazingly quick to learn from just watching other people at work, and he always followed his father's teaching that "successful business is not about good transactions, it's about good relationships."
His love for his wife and two daughters shines like a beacon through this fascinating book, which tells of a life that now encompasses such contrasting events as dining with princes and stumbling through Kashmir after the devastating earthquake, seeing scenes that he says `no one should have to see.' The interesting point here is that he didn't `have' to see it, he chose to go there and see it, to try and find ways in which he could help the situation.
The inside look at the making of Dragon's Den is fascinating, but not as fascinating as the amazing journey that enabled James Caan to take his seat there. Don't miss this book.