Big client on a big show!


One of the earliest clients in Recognition’s 25 year history is doing something a bit different and I thought it was worthy of comment as so many people are asking me about it. Duncan Bannatyne, serial entrepreneur, one of TV’s Dragons and Darlington based Health Club operator has entered the jungle on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!

Most people ask me, why? The answer is multi-faceted. Firstly, he loves adventure. The same reason he climbed Kilimanjaro or skydived in his 60s. The second reason is that he sees it as a way to lever his profile for a good cause. In this case Operation Smile, the charity that provides free surgery to repair cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities for children around the globe.

People on his team are not allowed to reveal his fee but it is safe to say that it will make a huge difference to this charity, and can pay for a trip to Africa next year and operations for around 125 children.

So, while appearing on national TV reality show might not appeal to many business leaders in the North East, it has been done for a good reason and with a sense of fun and adventure which are worthy of admiration.

Duncan has already set aside part of his life for good causes, working with UNICEF in the wake of the Haiti earthquake is a good example as are his support for charities like Mary’s Meals or the Terrence Higgins Trust. In the early days of his business career he also raised funds to build orphanages in Romania, so his commitment to good causes is long-established and deep rooted. The day before he left for Australia his company held a Charity Ball in Hastings which raised about £120,000 for Operation Smile. Added to that, recent interviews in celebrity magazines have come with a conditional fee to the charity too.

The North East needs more Duncan Bannatynes – his business ventures have been responsible for the creation of thousands of jobs. Starting with his nursing home business, which was sold in 1996 and morphed into bigger businesses employing thousands more. Followed by his nursery school business which is now part of the UK’s largest nursery chain and leading to radio stations, hotels, and health clubs, spas and a head office which is pioneering digital contact with customers in the leisure sector. In fact, I estimate that at least 10,000 have a job today – either in businesses he established and are now owned by other companies, or in his current firms.

Working with Duncan, as all suppliers and staff will testify, is to be part of a whirlwind. He is an unstoppable force of nature and has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy. Whatever the day to day stresses and strains, when you step back and look at the big picture, the enterprise and ambition are a force for good.

The North East needs to encourage this, not just by complex grant aid or business benefits, but sometimes by stepping back and allowing the enterprise to flourish. Low tax, business rates, fair regulation not over regulation. These are principles which allow people like Duncan Bannatyne to flourish and prosper.

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