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Christmas

Me & My Partner

By The Drum, Administrator

July 21, 2003 | 6 min read

Alexander and Martin living the PR life to the full.

Flora Martin and Lesley Alexander have worked together for 15 years and in that time have built up one of Scotland’s top PR machines. Here they talk about their relationship and what makes them tick.

Flora on Lesley

I first met Lesley in 1988 when she came for a work placement to the company where I was a director. She had backcombed blonde hair and pale pink lipstick – it’s true, I have the evidence! But she obviously made the right impression and we took her on.

To be honest, I don’t really remember much about her placement but six months later, when we had a proper vacancy, we tracked her down to IBM and offered her the job.

Although she didn’t work directly for me at the time, the account team loved her and she was always busy and looking to do the bit extra which makes the difference.

When I decided to set up on my own in 1989, someone else was meant to come with me but let me down at the last minute. In her usual perceptive way, Les was on the case in an instant and said, “I’ll come” and that’s how we ended up in our tiny office in Ashton Lane. We had a lot of laughs in those days. We were so scared that we would miss that all-important new business call, that if I went out to see clients Les wouldn’t even go to the loo and I often came back to find her with her legs crossed!

On our first Christmas, we decided to treat ourselves to an answering machine and that was the first time we had been out for lunch together in nine months! Even then, I think it was only to Di Maggio’s on the other side of Byres Road.

The next big hurdle came when the business started to grow and we needed an account manager. Les used to show the poor candidates in for the interview, having already had a chat with them, making awful faces behind their backs.

The lovely Julie Tallantire joined us in 1990 and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the 14 years we have been together we have never really had a row – that’s not to say we don’t annoy each other from time to time but it’s never that serious and we each know when to back off.

Personality-wise, I think we are quite different. I am more likely to put things off and procrastinate, whereas Les will have it done and dusted in 10 minutes.

She moved house recently and had the whole place decorated and the garden sorted in three weeks. I moved four years ago and still haven’t unpacked some of the boxes. That said, she has the messiest desk I’ve ever seen – I once put a stuffed rat under it and she didn’t find it for a week. Although we don’t live in each other’s pockets, we do socialise outwith the office and have been involved in all the big events in each other’s lives – probably the nicest thing she has ever done was to ask me to come with her and her mum to choose her wedding dress.

Has she got any failings – well, put it this way, if Les ever offers you a lift anywhere – walk!

Lesley on Flora

I first met Flora in the spring of 1988 when I went to her office for an interview for a summer placement. When I walked into this black ash, black leather office (it was very trendy at the time) and met this monochrome-clad chic-looking woman, I was suitably impressed. The vision of me with peroxide blonde permed hair must have been hard on the eye but, despite appearances, and a distinct lack of talent in the shorthand department, I got the job.

For four blissful weeks I worked with Flora and her account team, organising McEwan’s LA cycles races around the country and generally being a gofer, before heading off to IBM for a year-long placement.

A full-time job arose with Flora and she asked me back (now a respectable brunette) before the year was out. Six months later she set up on her own and I went too. Although I did go to Turkey on holiday for two weeks, literally as she opened the office, and she still hasn’t forgiven me.

This was an ideal opportunity for me. Working one-on-one, you learn so much. There are no hiding places and you just need to get on with it. Flora has been described as “the mother of PR” and gave her advice freely. She still does, while allowing me the space to develop my skills and find my own way. She can give a different perspective or a level of objectivity when required. When times are difficult, Flora has a “brace up, matey” attitude and this, together with her forthrightness, has definitely rubbed off.

It has been, and still is, fun. Flora is very quick-witted and has a great sense of humour. We’ve also had some comical work moments over the years. In the first few months of setting up, a potential client insisted on coming to our office for the pitch. After a brief moment of apoplexy, we transformed our one office into a boardroom by bringing in Flora’s dining room furniture and pretending we had the whole building. We won the pitch.

Our relationship does, however, go beyond work; Flora and her husband Sandy are firm friends. Friends and family are very important to her, and she certainly knows how to throw some great parties. In 14 years, we’ve never had a serious fall-out. Occasionally we can drive each other to distraction, normally propelled by both of us being fairly stubborn, but it’s always sorted out over a few drinks and we laugh about it afterwards.

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