If ever geneticist Stephen Pinker gets his hands on Duncan Bannatyne's DNA, I am certain he will find entrepreneurship oozing from the multimillionaire businessman's genes. Because even as a five-year-old, the fiercest dragon in the BBC's famous Dragon's Den had a determination to make money.
"I just wanted a bike and was going to make sure that I got one," he recalls. A local newsagent had told him than if he found a hundred customers, he could have a paper round. She thought it would put him off. But she did not bank on the Bannatyne spirit. He hiked the streets of his tough Glasgow neighbourhood and found the customers. Not long after, he had the bike.
It was an early lesson in his power to change things. "I didn't want to be poor and I could see an opportunity so I took it," he says simply. "I had a lot of determination to ensure I got a bike, and later not to be poor."
Determination is Duncan's middle name, born into a "big, boisterous family" in the poverty of post-war Clydebank. His father, Bill, was a veteran of the brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, whose "unswerving determination" was passed to his son, now one of the most successful businessmen in Britain and responsible for an empire that ranges from care homes to hotels to sports clubs.
"I wouldn't be the person I am if I hadn't been from a poor family," he says categorically. "In fact, I am not convinced that I would have been an entrepreneur." It is a surprising admission. He is convinced the go-getting attitude that characterised his journey to millionairesâ€™ row was born from poverty. "I think everybody has entrepreneurial genes hidden inside, but they don't let them blossom because they don't need to," he explains.
That philosophy informs his new book, Anyone Can Do It. Though an autobiography, it is also a business book, and each chapter uses an episode of his life to show how anyone â€“ no matter how disadvantaged â€“ can succeed if determined.
The book does not shatter the tough-cookie image of "Duncan the dragon", but it does reveal a softer side. What was it like looking back? "It was a little bit traumatic and emotional," he admits. Two things particularly touched him: his charity work, and the untimely death of his sister Helen. "Remembering my sister and how she had gone, and some of the stuff we did in the charity expeditions, was very emotional," he explains. He becomes silent. It is clear the memories remain raw.
It comes as a surprise to find that Duncan did not start his career until he hit thirty. After a spell in the Navy (Stoker) that landed him in jail when he threw an officer overboard, he spent time bumming around the Channel Islands. "I joined the Royal Navy to see the world and because people said that girls like guys in uniform," he recalls with a chuckle. "I didn't want to be poor, and they were paid reasonably well, and seeing the world and meeting girls seemed to me to be the most important things in life to do."
Though his time in the Navy ended badly, it taught him an unexpected lesson: "I didn't want to be in the Royal Navy with a wife and children and be away from them for three or four months at a time," he says. He may be famous for making money, but family is a priority and he spends all the time he can with his second wife Joanne and his six children. "I love coming home to my family," he says. "I have spent about the last four weeks of the past six in France with them and will be back again on Sunday, so we will be together for six weeks in all this summer. Family is so important to me."
Given its importance, his advice to would-be entrepreneurs to leave partners who hold them back sounds harsh. But his reasoning is not about success. "Wouldn't it be terrible to have a partner who held you back so that in twenty yearsâ€™ time you look back with regret and hate them for what they made you do?" he asks. Put that way, it sounds like good advice.
A lesson he learned along the way is that revenge is a dish best served cold. In the case of one business rival who attempted to extort money from him, he must have been tempted to change his mind? No, he says categorically. "I would have liked for him to be caught and put in jail," he admits. "But the best way to get back at people is to be successful." And when your success has you plastered over prime-time TV, revenge does not come much sweeter.
The success of Dragon's Den exceeded all expectations. It is must-see television, as contestants with ideas for business start-ups bid for investment from five successful entrepreneurs. The ideas vary enormously, from downright deluded to real bankers. "As we started to film the first series we realised it was going to be a phenomenal success," Duncan recalls.
"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. "He is still convinced that we were wrong, and is still trying to sell this single glove. We couldn't keep our faces straight â€“ why would we?"
And the most impressive idea? "Igloo Thermal Logistics. All they do is deliver food in chilled vans," he replies quick as a flash. "Loads of people are doing deliveries, but they are doing it better."
He is now filming the latest series. Anything excited him so far? He laughs out loud. "Aha!" He is not telling, but he adds teasingly, "There has been some great stuff. I didn't believe that this series could be as good as the last, but I have been proved wrong."
I've read his book and its brilliant. The officer he tried to throw overboard was his HOD, not his CO. Apparently Mr Bannatyne didn't get on with him too well and while they were waiting for a liberty boat to take them back to HMS EAGLE his mate bet him that he wouldn't do it, so he tried. He didn't manage it but the attempt was enough to land him in hot water.
.....how unlucky, my perc brother was on the run for about a year, when they caught him he was '' awarded'' 90 days in Col and soldier on, he appealed and got 90 days and discharge but only did 21 days and then civvy strasa.