James Caan’s daughter, Hanah, tells us why she is determined to follow in her famous father’s footsteps
Ever since I understood what a job was, I knew I wanted to work with my father. I can’t determine what a four-year-old would have been inspired by, but it probably was my father’s infectious passion for whatever it was that occupied his days and kept him running like a machine throughout my childhood. There was no pressure, or a sense of him pushing me to work with him. I would put it down to the fact that the more I learned about the way in which he saw his own career, the more I wanted to have the same enthusiasm for my job when I was older.
Joining dad’s firm
‘I joined Hamilton Bradshaw (HB), my father’s private equity firm, straight after graduating from the London School of Economics. While most of my peers and contemporaries went into banking or continued to study, I was resolute in my decision. Having done an internship at HB the summer before graduation, it only served to make me more determined to work full-time for my dad in the future. ‘Naturally, I had some reservations. Should I experience working elsewhere first? Would this be my job for the rest of my life? And what about my relationship with my dad – how would it change?
‘I spoke to my mother and sister, keen to hear their thoughts on me joining the business. My friends were in agreement with both of them, encouraging me to follow the normal route of a graduate scheme in a large corporation. I ventured down that path, but quickly came to realise that I was being given a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity – to work with one of the most inspirational business leaders in the country. If he wasn’t my dad, would I turn it down? It was most definitely an opportunity that no one else I knew would ever give up. And what if I was good at it? If I succeeded, the opportunities would be endless. How could I not take it? ‘When I put it to dad, he told me I should choose my first career to be one that wouldn’t “niche” me into a small box. Obviously, the perfect job to start with was the one with him at Hamilton Bradshaw.’
Working with ‘JC’
‘I started work as my father’s assistant for two months. We both thought it was an excellent opportunity for me to get first-hand exposure of the business – what better way to learn about the company than to shadow and assist the CEO? ‘Working closely with him at the office was a real experience. The first thing I realised about “JC” (as I call him in the office) was that he has a unique way with people. When he speaks, people listen. I remember sitting in a meeting where people were pitching to win him as their client. They left wanting him to join their board and give their company strategic direction. How did he do it? I asked him as soon as they left, and he just looked at me with that crooked smile, almost not realising just how unique he really is. ‘I then developed a permanent role within the operations team. While James oversees and sets my projects, I report to his head of ops with whom I have a great relationship. Being part of a team is a new, challenging experience for me.
‘I was intrigued by the way in which people would perceive me both in the office and externally. On one hand, I was familiar with the business, the senior management and most of our business associates, but on the other hand, there were many new members to our team with whom I hadn’t been acquainted. However, watching the way James interacts with the team has taught me a lot about the value of teamwork and building a rapport with peers. You can only be as successful as the people around you give you respect for, and I think this is one of the key fundamentals behind his success – one in which I’m determined to succeed.’
So what does the future hold?
‘When I asked my father if this was a job for life, he smartly told me that nothing in life is certain, even when you’re working for your father! I believe I made the best decision to work for him, and have no doubt I have proved most people wrong who assumed this was the easy way out. ‘I find it funny that people say I’ve done what my father was adamant he’d never do. But I disagree. Joining his dad was the simplest route for him, especially as my grandfather didn’t have as high expectations as my father has.
The only thing I can think of harder than working for my dad, is starting on my own. ‘My parents have always been my inspiration and my drive. They’re the last people I’d want to disappoint. I probably work harder for my father than I would for anyone else. On the flip side, I don’t take anything for granted. I know that while I believe I have earned this role (my whole life has been my interview), I am lucky. The world may seem him as a CEO, a dragon, James, a boss. But one thing my role has reinforced is I am beyond lucky to have him as my dad.’
A word from James
‘Hanah had other interviews but still felt her best opportunity was to work for me. If she’d gone elsewhere their expectations would have been far less than mine but she’d done an internship here so she knew what to expect! I think she’s made the toughest decision, but she has a real passion for business and it shows.’