Hard work: Linda Plant left school at 15 to work full-time in a market
Businesswoman Linda Plant doesn’t bother to invest in a pension and only has limited investments in the stock market, preferring to put her money in property and her own ventures.
The multi-millionaire famous for grilling candidates on the BBC TV series The Apprentice told DONNA FERGUSON she has spent lockdown writing a business course and is about to launch her own online business academy and club.
Founding members will get access to live sessions with Linda and the chance to ask her questions.
What did your parents teach you about money?
They never taught me anything about money because we simply didn’t have any when I was a child. My father was a tailor and my mother a part-time secretary. Money was tight.
We lived in a small house and they took in a Jewish refugee from Germany as a lodger to make ends meet. He lived with us long after we could afford not to have a lodger, and was part of my family until the day he died.
I had to learn independence at a young age because my mum went out to work. I became a latchkey kid at the age of seven and was cooking for myself by the time I was eight.
The biggest lesson my parents taught me was good values – both about money and about life and relationships. I think good values can carry you through many parts of your life.
What was the first paid work you ever did?
Selling stockings on a Saturday market stall with my mother when I was ten.
If we had a good day I got paid two shillings and sixpence – equivalent to 12.5p. But I didn’t care about the money as much as the thrill of selling. Today, I still get that same buzz from doing business.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
No – not as an adult. When I was 12 I encouraged my mum to leave her job as a secretary, borrow money from my grandfather, and work in the market six days a week selling jewellery and handbags.
When I was 15 I left school and began working full-time in the markets – we had three stalls by then and were no longer poor.
I was married at 17. By the time I was 21 and had two children, we had grown the business to 13 stalls.
We then became a fashion wholesale business. So I have never struggled. I have always worked for myself and been full-throttle in business.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
No. I sold my first business at the age of 29 for millions of pounds. Then I co-founded an electronics business and sold that in 1988. I did very well then and I’ve since done well from property, but I’ve never been paid silly money as a fee for my time. I only give after-dinner speeches to charities and I do so for free. I think it’s important to give back.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 1988 when I sold the electronics business. That was a great year. It sold for an eight-figure sum which was an even more substantial amount of money back then.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
A black organza Chanel dress I bought when I was in Paris on business in the 1980s. I had seen it in a magazine. It cost £3,500, but it is worth £25,000 today. Believe it or not, I’ve still got it and I’ll never part with it. It has a satin bow and beautiful big rhinestones. It’s just stunning. The fact that little old me from a humble market stall could walk into Chanel in Paris and just buy that dress was one of the biggest thrills of my life.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Not investing in entrepreneur John Hargreaves. He was a customer of mine and in the 1980s he told me he wanted to expand his company. He needed £250,000 for his new venture called Matalan. I had the money, but I decided to invest it in my own business.
I had dinner with John last year and he reminded me that my £250,000 would now be worth around £250million if I had invested it in Matalan. That was a pretty big mistake.
The best money decision you have made?
Investing in property. My best decision was paying £137,000 for a large warehouse building on Regent Street in Leeds in the 1980s. It’s gone up tremendously in value. I converted it into 360 serviced apartments, sold a chunk of them for quite a few million pounds and have hung on to the rest. It provides a great rental income and is now worth quite a bit of money: millions of pounds.
Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?
I don’t save into a pension and I have limited investments in the stock market. I mainly invest in property because I believe in investing in what I understand and have control over.
So what residential property do you own?
I own two homes: a beautiful three-bedroom apartment right on the ocean in Palm Beach, Florida – and a four-bedroom house in Central London. It has four floors and was built in 1826. It has spectacular views and is worth several million pounds.
What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to?
I love going on a health retreat. I usually go to a well-being beauty spa in Italy twice a year and pamper myself with luxurious treatments. I came back this year two kilos lighter and feeling a lot healthier.
If you were Chancellor, what is the first thing you would do?
I would increase VAT on online sales. I think we need to level the playing field for small businesses on the high street which are fading fast. Around 13million people work in small businesses and I fear for them during this pandemic. During lockdown I have written a business course to encourage people who perhaps have been made redundant and want to set up their own businesses – and to help existing entrepreneurs who might need some guidance during this difficult time.
I’m also launching a CV and business plan critique service and the Linda Plant Business Blueprint Club. For £20 a month, founder members can join the club and ask me questions.
Once a month, I’ll give a talk on various business topics. I’ve set the price at £20 a month so it’s accessible to everybody. I’ve lived through three challenging times during my business career and we’re about to enter the fourth one. I want people to be able to afford to access what I’ve got to offer them.
What is your number one financial priority?
Providing security for my three sons and three grandchildren – and supporting my mother who is 93. She has Alzheimer’s, so needs a full-time carer. That’s my priority, not having lovely clothes and other luxuries.
As for retirement, I feel ageless. I’ve got as much energy, drive and motivation today as I had when I was a 12 year-old girl working on a market stall. More information on the Linda Plant Business Blueprint Club at lindaplant. com.
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