Chairman of the Board

James Caan interview by Maarten Hoffmann

James Caan came to national prominence during his time on the television series Dragons Den but for many years prior James had been a highly successful entrepreneur, beginning in the mid 1980’s with the formation of recruitment company Alexander Mann, which he successfully grew to £130 million turnover with 30 offices worldwide. During the same period, he realised that the international franchise model had enormous scope and he launched Humana International, establishing 147 offices in 30 countries. He subsequently sold both businesses in 1999. James Caan interview by Maarten Hoffmann

With so much pressure these days on the future generation to attend university, it is interesting to note that James left school at 16 with no qualifications whatsoever and despite an easy route being offered, in following his father into his leather goods manufacturing company, he decided to resist the lure and fulfil his dream of running his own business. Although few of us would recommend that to our children, there can be no denying that James has done rather well.

Although common sense will get one so far, he realised that a good foundation was required and subsequently graduated from the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School in 2003.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, James’s family emigrated to the UK when he was two years old and his father subsequently established his clothing company in Brick Lane, East London. Other than a Saturday job at Mr Buyright, he had no formal experience of work and so went to a recruitment agency in search of a job.

His first was door to door sales, which he found tiring, wet and cold and at this point, decided he wanted to work in an office. He went back to the recruitment agency and asked for something that was indoors and worked for several recruitment companies before deciding he had to realise his dream of starting his own company and recruitment seemed the obvious choice. His first office was in Pall Mall but was so small that the door could not be fully opened as it was blocked by his desk. He purposely chose the prestigious address to convey an image that the company was bigger than it actually was to attract clients.

As he had no meeting rooms, client meetings would often take place in coffee shops and he would tell them that they were so busy that all the rooms were full. At this time he also changed his name from Nazim Khan to James Caan, after the famous actor, and an alternative way to spell Khan, which also helped him in his recruitment company as the name was more easily recognizable.

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James Caan