Me & My Partner
Burt and Greener together forever.Lorna Burt and Janine Greener met when one was going out with the other’s brother. Perhaps not the best basis to launch a new PR business on. But six years on with offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh, it seems to have worked out. Here they spill the beans on their relationship.
When Lorna and I started the business, we barely knew each other. I knew her brother (we were romantically linked at the time) and I knew she had once been a Goth, but we’d done nothing more together than a sweaty aerobics session, which I’m sure is no precursor to a healthy business partnership.
However, on a professional level, I knew she had experience working in journalism and TV, which complemented my background perfectly, and this seemed a solid enough foundation. I soon found out we also shared some good old-fashioned common sense when we took our first major business decision – the naming of the company. Thankfully, “Rooftops” (we worked back then from my top-floor flat) and “36-24-36” (only my mum could dream this one up) were very quickly vetoed and Burt Greener seemed daring enough!
Now we’ve moved on from the two of us working in my flat with one client, to working with a great team for many clients across offices in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, with an affiliate in London. I have Lorna to thank for this. I’d never considered starting a business, whereas she’d had one by the time she was ten. Admittedly it centred on the profit margins of a segmented Cadbury’s Finger of Fudge but the point is she had one, and it was a goer!
While we both knew we could offer a more proactive and creative service than other companies out there, it was Lorna who suggested we actually go ahead and do it. I know now it’s her “can-do” attitude that not only got us started but has enabled us to progress from having no PR experience in Scotland to breaking in, and working with, an exciting range of clients – from global brands like IKEA and Conran, to home-grown pioneers such as Fopp, Tennent’s and DF Concerts.
It goes without saying that Lorna’s great at the job but the point is she’s great at the job all of the time. We share a common work ethic but Lorna never really stops. She’s constantly thinking about how we can do things better, create opportunities and get real results for our clients. This has become the norm at Burt Greener and I’m sure is the reason we retain our clients and have a lot of work coming via recommendation. People know we’ll work hard on their behalf.
Nothing fazes Lorna. She takes it all in her stride, which is great in this line of work since it can be really hard graft and you have to be prepared for anything. I’m more of a worrier, so I think we balance each other very well. I’ll make sure she knows when she should be worried but more often than not she’ll rightly tell me I’m over-reacting.
Lorna and I obviously want the business to be a success, and to a large extent we measure this success in how much we enjoy the day-to-day. Lorna’s great company, we work with a fantastic team and the atmosphere in the office is always upbeat, so I’d say we’re pretty successful at what we do. Lorna and I can spend all day together and then socialise after work, which I know amazes many people.
I couldn’t have run the business on my own, nor would I have wanted to, and I’m glad to have shared with Lorna some classic moments. Who could forget the “blind” Buddhist monk who had a penchant for rubbing healing serum into women’s breasts? ... You had to be there, and, thankfully, Lorna was. Yes, she’s my business partner but first and foremost she’s my friend. I’m not sure at which point friendship took precedence over partnership but I can say it has been an easy and highly enjoyable transition.
I met Janine when she was going out with my brother in London. She was managing PR for Chris Evans and Paula Yates at The Big Breakfast, which was hard work since she had to set off at 4.30 am every morning to get to the house for six. It all seemed unbelievably exciting to me (I was making tea at Good Housekeeping at the time), but she would meet people like James Brown and Alice Cooper and not even mention it (apart from the day she met “Jeff Colby”, which all girls of our generation will understand).
A few years later Janine moved to Scotland and we found ourselves in similar situations, working in television on short-term contracts and looking for something a bit more stable. I thought there was an opportunity for her to work in PR in Scotland, offering the same edgy, creative work she had done in London. I think I kept nagging her until she agreed, and I blagged myself a job in the process.
The first day of Burt Greener was quite telling. I spent the day labelling folders and reading PR theory books and Janine phoned Simon Fuller to say she thought we should work for the Spice Girls. It made me realise that if I’d started the company on my own I might still be making “to-do” lists. But it has turned out to be a good combination. Janine now looks after all the business development (she still loves cold calling) and I keep things organised, thanks to my love of labelling. It also helped that we didn’t know each other too well then, so from day one we operated the business in quite a formal way.
I think our partnership works because of our different skills, but also because we have lots of things in common. We’re both very loyal to our clients and to the people that work with us, and we’re committed to being creative and thinking differently about PR. We have the same old-fashioned work ethic and obsession with accuracy, thanks to early training under terrifying newspaper editors. We both still get a real kick out of seeing the company grow, and we’ve never lost the huge excitement of winning new business and being involved with the amazing clients we’ve had the good fortune to work with.
Janine is much more fearless than I am. I was relieved to be on the mainland during her nightly calls from the Outer Hebrides when Burt Greener was working on BBC Scotland’s Castaway series and tabloid helicopters were in pursuit. She persuaded me that living in IKEA’s Edinburgh store with a group of customers and media for a weekend would be a great campaign, and, waking up in twin beds on the shop floor one Saturday morning with the Sun and Sunday Times “next door”, I had to agree.
On a day-to-day level, it’s a bonus that Janine is one of the least dull people I know. She can be rubbish at things like driving and going to the supermarket, but then is brilliant at water-skiing and mountain biking, and getting to sit in the jump seat on flights. This is a good thing in a person that you’re committed to spending most of your working life with. Saying that, she’s also a Geordie and is quick to bring a down-to-earth perspective to any situation, which is often an advantage in the world of PR.
Six years on, I can’t think of another person that I could have done this with, and still look forward to sitting opposite on a daily basis. We walked past two old ladies recently and we both thought that could well be us in a few decades’ time, going on about how good the scones are in our retained teashop. I hope so!