How do you become a Deputy Chairman for one of the major international communications agencies? Tim Linacre, Deputy Chairman at Instinctif Partners, brought his City expertise to the table when he entered the business communications industry nearly ten years ago. Tim shares the twists and turns of his career, lessons learned and lets us in on the secret to a happy life!
1. Can you give a brief overview of your background and experience?
I always wanted to work in business; I was the nerd at school that set up and ran a tuck-shop to earn some pocket-money. At University I was elected to be the sabbatical union treasurer, effectively running a business of the Union shop, a number of bars, rock concerts, funding Union Societies and managing the budget of an SME- and having a ball. Somewhere along the way I got involved in Student politics and got elected as National Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students which was a full-time job based in Conservative Central Office, all great fun and tremendous experience. In my sabbatical year at Uni I was fortunate enough to be Chairman of a three person team that won a national business game organised by one of the global accountancy firms, the prize was a cheque and a job offer to join their management consultancy business which I accepted after my dalliance with politics ended. While there I qualified as an accountant and helped found the firm’s Corporate Finance division before heading off to spend the next 25 years in corporate stockbroking/investment banking, ending up as CEO of Panmure Gordon just in time for the financial crisis. Having hit my mid 50s a decade ago I changed career, joined what was College Hill which became Instinctif Partners and was CEO of that firm up until 2021. I am now Deputy Chairman of Instinctif, Chairman of Frenkel Topping, a specialist financial firm, and a non-executive of SDX an Oil and Gas business.
2. For most of your career you have held senior positions in consultancy, corporate finance and investment banking institutions. What life lessons did you learn from your time at these financial powerhouses?
I am always learning; some adages have stayed true all my life.
There is only one boss, the client. And he can fire everybody in the company from the CEO down simply by spending his money elsewhere.
There is no substitute for working with excellent colleagues, something I have been fortunate with.
And the secret to a happy life is balance. I have a great family, my wife has been a tremendous partner in life, my two grown-up children and my two grandchildren bring tremendous joy and balance; my season ticket for Tottenham Hotspur can disturb that balance! Music has many lessons and I am particularly fond of Springsteen- as I get older I realise that I am born to walk quickly, no longer born to run.
3. How did your City career bring you to your most recent decade working in the comms industry?
You are never too old to learn. After more than 25 years in investment banking I needed a change. I was lucky enough when I left that industry to be offered a consultancy role with College Hill while I thought about what to do with the rest of my life. And here I have stayed.
4. As you didn’t start out in PR and comms, what was your view on the profession before you entered it versus your view on it now, 10 years in?
I have always had a high regard for senior PR practitioners, and now working in the profession that regard has only increased. Of course, there are some BS merchants, but there are also many talented professionals who care about doing good and doing a good job. Reputational management is at the core of business.
5. What has been your biggest challenge at Instinctif Partners?
I am tempted to say, “not being found out”. More seriously the business had expanded too fast on too thin a balance sheet in the years preceding me taking over. I had to take some very unpleasant decisions quickly to restore it to financial health, which we did, and it is now doing fabulously.
6. How has your comms experience helped you as an advisor in your NED positions?
It is far easier to advise than it is to do! The ability to ask questions, to not be fobbed off with platitudinous answers, but also to be able to engage, to win trust, stands you in good stead in either role.
7. What would you say are your three key attributes that have contributed to your career success?
Stoicism, hard-work, good-fortune. I have seen tough times as well as good and have got through them. As the saying goes “I am not smart, I just stay with the problems longer”.
9. What has been your most memorable work moment?
Too many to count. But I get great satisfaction from seeing those that worked for me at the start of their careers go on and achieve real success, and I hope that I have had the smallest of influences.
9. Please share the best piece of advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?
“Ideas are very strange things; they only work if you do”. No idea where that came from, but it is as true today as when it was coined. As is one of my favourite tongue-in-cheek sayings: “A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort”
10. Do you have any hidden talents?
If I have, I have kept them well hidden!
Thank you, Tim.
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