Hard work: Linda Plant left school when she was 15 to work full time in a market
Businesswoman Linda Plant does not bother to invest in a pension and has limited investments in the stock market, preferring to put her money into real estate and her own ventures.
The multi-millionaire famous for grilling candidates on the BBC TV series The Apprentice told DONNA FERGUSON that she has written a business course and is about to launch her own online business academy and club.
Founding members will have access to live sessions with Linda and the opportunity to ask her questions.
What have your parents taught you about money?
They never taught me anything about money because we just didn’t have one when I was a kid. My father was a tailor and my mother was a part-time secretary. Money was tight.
We lived in a small house and they took in a Jewish refugee from Germany to make ends meet. He lived with us long after we could afford not to have a tenant, and he was part of my family until the day he died.
I had to learn independence at a young age because my mother went to work. I became a house key child when I was seven and cooked for myself when I was eight.
The greatest lesson my parents taught me was good values - about money as well as about life and relationships. I think good values can get you through many parts of your life.
What was the first paid job you ever did?
When I was ten, I sold stockings with my mother at a market stall on Saturday.
If we had a good day, I got two shillings and six pence – equal to 12.5 pence. But I didn’t care about the money as much as the excitement 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 mom to quit her job as a secretary, borrow money from my grandfather, and work in the market six days a week selling jewelry and handbags.
When I was 15 I left school and started working full time in the markets – we had three stalls then and were no longer poor.
I was married at the age of 17. By the time I was 21 and had two kids, we had grown the business to 13 stalls.
We then became a fashion wholesaler. So I never struggled. I have always worked for myself and have full throttle in the business world.
Have you ever received ridiculous money?
No. I sold my first company at the age of 29 for millions of pounds. After that I co-founded an electronics company and sold it in 1988. I did very well then and have done well with real estate ever since, but I never got stupid money in return for my time. I only give after-dinner speeches for charities and I do that for free. I think it is important to give something back.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 1988 when I sold the electronics company. That was a great year. It sold for an eight-figure amount, which was an even more substantial amount at the time.
What’s the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
A black organza Chanel dress that I bought when I was in Paris on business in the 1980s. I had seen it in a magazine. It costs £ 3,500, but it’s worth £ 25,000 today. Believe it or not, I still have it and I will never part with it. It has a satin bow and beautiful large rhinestones. It’s simply stunning. The fact that little old me could walk into Chanel from a modest market stall in Paris and just buy that dress was one of the greatest sensations of my life.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Don’t invest in entrepreneur John Hargreaves. He was a customer of mine and told me in the 80’s that he wanted to expand his business. He needed £ 250,000 for his new venture called Matalan. I had the money, but 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 about £ 250 million if I had invested it in Matalan. That was a pretty big mistake.
The best money decision you’ve made?
Investing in real estate. My best decision was to pay £ 137,000 for a large warehouse on Regent Street in Leeds in the 1980s. It has increased in value immensely. I converted it into 360 serviced apartments, sold some of them for a few million pounds, and kept it with the rest. It provides an excellent rental income and is now worth quite a bit of money: millions of euros.
Are you saving for retirement or investing on the stock exchange?
I am not saving for retirement and I have limited investments in the stock market. I mainly invest in real estate because I believe in investing in what I understand and have control over.
So which property do you own?
I have two houses: 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 only little luxury with which to treat yourself?
I like to go on a health retreat. I usually go to a wellness beauty salon in Italy twice a year and treat myself to luxurious treatments. I came back two kilos lighter this year and felt a lot healthier.
If you were chancellor, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would increase the VAT on online sales. I think we need to create a level playing field for small businesses on the high street, which are quickly disappearing. About 13 million people work in small businesses and I fear for them during this pandemic.
During lockdown, I wrote a business course to encourage people who may have been laid off and want to start their own businesses – and to help existing entrepreneurs who may need some guidance in this difficult time.
I’m also launching a resume and business plan criticism service and the Linda Plant Business Blueprint Club. For £ 20 a month, founders can join the club and ask me questions.
Once a month I will give a lecture on various business topics. I’ve set the price at £ 20 a month so it’s open to everyone. I have been through three challenging times in my corporate career and we are about to enter the fourth. I want people to be able to afford to access what I have to offer them.
What is your main financial priority?
Providing safety to my three sons and three grandchildren – and supporting my mother, who is 93. She has Alzheimer’s disease, so she needs a full-time caregiver. That’s my priority, no fancy clothes and other luxuries.
As for retirement, I feel ageless. I have just as much energy, drive and motivation today as I did when I was a 12-year-old girl working at a market stall. More information about the Linda Plant Business Blueprint Club at Lindaplant. com.
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