Ep 6 – Enter the Dragon’s Den: Inside the Amazing World of Recruitment M&A Legend James Caan

Watch the Full Episode (40 mins)

Recruitment Transactions International is the first global matching platform for buyers, investors and sellers in the recruitment and staffing industry.  For our sixth podcast and first for 2023, RTI Managing Partner Simon Childs speaks with former Dragon’s Den ‘Dragon’ James Caan on what worked, what could have been done differently through his legendary career in recruitment, staffing and outsourcing.  He offers unique insights into the world of recruitment M&As from his vast experience as a founder, seller, buyer and investor.

James Caan is one of the recruitment industry’s most influential entrepreneurs and investors. Yet it was his three-year stint on the hit reality show Dragons’ Den that really helped raise his profile and make him a business icon.

He founded the recruitment company Alexander Mann Group in 1985, which he sold in 2002, and co-founded headhunting firm Humana International; exiting in 1999. He also founded private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw which he still runs as CEO. James is involved in a number of charitable activities.  He founded the James Caan Foundation in 2006.

Key Talking Points:

[00:20] Introduction

[01:15] Alexander Mann

– You made your name building Alexander Mann. Can you tell us briefly about how you built the business, sold on to PE and what you learned

– In hindsight, what would you have done differently?

[05:20] Humana Associates Franchise

– How were you able to build this global franchise and manage quality of output across so many countries?

– Can you share with us details of the sale and particularly how the buyer managed the due diligence

[10:33] Human Capital Investment Group (HCIG)

– Can you walk us through the concept behind the Human Capital Investment Group and the exit to Graphite Capital.

– How is that business doing now, post-sale?

[18:33] Recruitment Entrepreneur 

– It seems that the Human Capital Group experience and sale was the catalyst behind the launch of Recruitment Entrepreneur. It would be good to hear you talk the audience through the journey so far – what’s worked, what hasn’t and ultimately what the future plans are.

– What’s the end game?

[22:12] M&A – what you look for 

– From a value perspective, when deciding to invest in a business?

– when selling a business – what are buyers looking for beyond just the numbers?

[27:36] Dragon’s Den

– Dragon’s Den and start-up loans – how did these help you in your work in recruiting?

[30:37] Biggest Hits and Misses

– What do you regard as your biggest failure or misjudgement in recruitment so far?

– If you could choose just one achievement you are most proud of in your career to date, what would that be?

[36:30] Future-proofing recruitment businesses

– The recruitment industry is evolving so fast — what’s worked in the past does not guarantee it will work in the future.  What can recruitment businesses do better or differently to future-proof themselves and continue to create something of real value?

Watch the Highlights: Introduction (1.5 mins)


Watch the Highlights: What buyers look for in a recruitment & 

staffing business (3.5 mins)