Visionary PR guru and co-founder of London Fashion Week, Lynne Franks, talks to Director Magazine about challenging traditional stereotypes to succeed.
“As a child I was more of an organiser than an entrepreneur. I was always voted form captain by the other kids, but the teachers weren't so keen on me because I was a rebel and didn't do my homework. I used to organise charity dances and I loved chatting and introducing people and partying. I was good at it.
“I wanted to become either a journalist or a writer. I started out as a secretary on Petticoat with Eve Pollard and Janet Street-Porter. Most of us had started as secretaries but we created an influential magazine for young women in the 1960s and became the first generation of women in Fleet Street.
“Temping in a PR company was a phenomenal experience for me. It was full of ex-military men who spent most of the day going out for boozy lunches and all the secretaries were back in the office running the accounts. It was exactly like Mad Men. They said if I stayed for another 10 years I could become an account executive, but I was 18 and in a hurry.
“I was pretty unemployable because I made my own rules – for example, about what time I would get to work. I'm not very good at being told what to do. Setting up my own PR firm meant I was in charge, but when I became an employer I was strict with everyone about what time they came in.
“Lynne Franks PR was a fantastic business with amazing people working there. We did great, innovative things and the people I worked with are now out there doing incredible things by themselves. We got up to some extraordinary stuff.
“I don't believe in regrets but I think selling my business in the early Nineties was possibly a big mistake. My ex-husband wanted to sell and I thought at the time it was fantastic and I'd get really rich, but the money goes. I didn't really think it through; I was exhausted and burnt out and I got swept away.
“My advice to an entrepreneur starting out now is to love what you do because otherwise it is just not worth it. Even when work is stressful you have to really believe in what you're doing and enjoy the good times. If your business ideas don't resonate then just drop them – they will come back in a different way.
“Anita Roddick has inspired me in my career. She had the courage of her convictions and she was the first woman to really speak out about what she believed in. She inspired millions of women and even now, several years after her death, she still inspires me.
“It is a compliment and a responsibility to be considered a role model. I have been talking about a lot of the things that women care about for many years. We all need role models, iconic people who can inspire us and it is wonderful if I can motivate other women. I am a 64-year-old grandmother, I didn't go to university and I have still succeeded in lots of different ways. I have always kept my integrity and that is the most important thing. I hope that is inspiring.
“I think now is a fantastic time to start a business if you have the right idea. But it's clearly difficult to get funding and it's tough for young people out there. People my age really need to support them.
“I don't relax much. I mostly go for long walks in the country with the dog. My mind is always working – I am either full-on or asleep; there's no middle ground.
“I was the only person in my PR company who didn't use a computer, so I struggled when laptops first came out. It didn't take me long though and now I tweet along with the best of them on my BlackBerry, which is in my hand all the time.
“I feel I have had the perfect career. I could have been a restaurateur or work with kids or old people, all of which I like, but it would have been too limiting. My career has been ideal for me because it has been an open book and I can go in any direction I want. I am constantly reinventing myself and doing new projects."
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016