Here at City Life Dundee we are always looking for inspirational Dundee stories to share with our readers and so it happened that we had the chance and grabbed it with both hands to interview Dundee’s self made national entrepreneur Tony Banks, former bin collector who some of you may know from the Channel 4 TV show ‘Secret Millionaire’, broadcast a few years back.
Tony is owner of The Balhousie Care Group, Scotland’s foremost quality care group employing over a thousand people around Scotland and beyond. Brought up in Dundee, schooled at St Saviours HS, he became an elite soldier in The British Parachute Regiment fighting in the Falklands war before following the entrepreneurial road to fame and fortune.
We wanted to try and get behind the celebrity man and try to find out a wee bit about what inspires him and to see if he can share some wee secrets of success with his fellow Dundonians.
CLD – Dundee has contributed some amazing characters over recent years to name but a few here- Liz Lynch world champion runner, Gary Clarke singer/songwriter, Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue, Michael Marra & Andy Pelc of St Andrews and the Woollen Mill, Chris van der Kuyl digital entrepreneur, Paul Motwani Scotland’s first ever chess grand master, Hollywood actor Brian Cox, Hayley Scanlan award winning rising star of the fashion design world and of course yourself. What do you think makes a successful Dundonian and why are we so good at producing great talent?
TB – I personally feel that Dundee produces all this great talent down to the simple fact that we all know how to stay grounded and not let success go to our heads. One thing in life, you should never forget your roots and background because that’s where it all started!
CLD – What people in your life have inspired you and what are the most important lessons you have learned from them?
TB – Obviously in business there are the likes of Richard Branson, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, however I have never really had that one true inspiration in my business life. I have as much respect for a man who runs a corner shop to a man who runs a multi-million pound business because they both face many of the same challenges.
CLD – You are known for your generous charity work and determination to help other people. Where does that burning desire to help others come from and why do you keep doing it?
TB – I have always liked helping others out, even as a kid if I had money and my mate never, I would always make sure he didn’t go without. I am now in the fortunate position having built a successful business to be able to give something back to charities which I feel very passionate about.
CLD – Is it true that you have booked a space flight ticket on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space program and if so what has inspired you to venture on such an amazing life journey?
TB – Yes that is true, I am Astronaut Banks No. 200! I am a complete thrill seeker and love to try out new things and when this opportunity arose I thought what better 50th birthday gift to myself!!
CLD – Do you have anything else or any new projects you would like to share with the Dundee public?
TB – I’ve recently been supporting and will continue to support the Memory Box Network which is a Dundee based charity. Their aim is to use digital technology such as iPads to help people with dementia reminisce. We piloted this project in a few of our homes and our residents found it very beneficial. Balhousie Care Group are going to continue to support this project as we find it is valuable for the residents wellbeing and it allows them to be more connected with other people.
CLD – Scotland’s fast approaching a momentous time in its history with the 18th September referendum on independence, so we have to ask you how will you be voting and why?
TB – I will be a YES vote on 18th September. It is very clear Westminster isn’t working for Scotland, or the rest of the UK. But a YES vote in September will give us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the inertia, make our own decisions, release our huge potential and rebalance the economy of these isles. The UK economy needs a major rebalance and Independence can help us achieve this.
CLD – What can we do to inspire the next generation of young people in Scotland to develop their entrepreneurial skills, like yourself?
TB – Entrepreneurs like myself along with the Government should be encouraging our younger generation from as early as primary school age. Not every successful businessman has been through university, a lot of business people gained success purely through life experiences. I would like to see the Government introduce a scheme whereby if a school leaver has a great idea and business plan however don’t want to go onto further education, then they could be offered some sort of business start-up loan. This could also be paired with mentoring and business advice.
CLD – Do you have a few final words of wisdom to share with your fellow Dundonians?
TB – I think that my fellow Dundonians should all be very proud of our city like myself. It is a vibrant and up and coming city in Scotland with so many success stories. The V&A will do wonders for our tourism in the coming years and the plans to regenerate the waterfront area are excellent. Dundonians should be very optimistic, there are lots of opportunities already out there in Dundee especially our thriving renewables, gaming and bio-sciences industries.
To read more about Tony Banks and the amazing charity work he is involved in please visit: www.tony-banks.com
For more information on Balhousie Care group please visit: www.balhousiecare.co.uk
For more information on Memory Box Network please visit: www.memoryboxnetwork.org