Profile: Driving hard - Andy Francis, director and co-founder, Performance PR

Three years into its life, automotive and sports specialist Performance PR has arrived in the eyes of the wider PR community, having captured accounts for top car brands Citroen and Mini (PRWeek, 11 March).

Just don't expect co-founder Andy Francis to change his 'nose to the grindstone' ways. 'I started my PR career in the Ab Fab era, but I've never done the lunches,' says the self-professed workaholic.

'My role is just hard graft and getting clients from A to B in their media strategies. You shouldn't have to rely on "my best mate, editor of such and such" to get coverage,' he says, talking at his agency's South-West London office. Performance, whose other clients include Warranty Direct and Michelin Race of Champions, earned its spurs working with SMEs and entrepreneurs, where 'you're often spending the owner's money'. Francis argues that established brands should be treated in the same way.

While he is grounded in his attitude towards PR, Francis places no such restrictions on his ambitions for his agency: 'I've always wanted to grow and make that next step. When I left Jardine PR, I knew I could not work for somebody else again.'

The 32-year-old father-of-four shows no fear of failure. A Leicester University history graduate, he set up Performance with business partner Charlie Raincock in 2002 - a time of cutbacks in the automotive industry.

'In life everyone comes to crossroads. If you call it a gamble to go left instead of right so be it, but I wouldn't call myself a gambler,' Francis says.

He simply does not see the barriers that scare most on to a more conservative path. At school, Francis refused to attend lessons in the run-up to his A-level exams. 'I felt I wasn't getting the support from teachers to really push me. I don't think that's rebellion, it's just being strong-willed. You're only answerable to yourself in life,' he says.

Francis insists he has always had to work a little harder than others to achieve success: 'Sometimes I do get jealous of people who plod along with life and have time to enjoy themselves. But I'm not that person.

'From Monday to Friday, my role is to go out earning the bread. The weekend, unless I'm really busy, is my time. That's when my sons get their share of Daddy's flesh.'

This claim is not entirely accurate, according to Accident Exchange CEO Steve Evans, who has been a Francis client since his Jardine days.

'He's often there on a Saturday after he's put the kids to bed. He's often there on a Sunday too,' he says, describing Francis as 'massively positive and proactive about following things through'. Evans adds: 'He's got his feet on the ground and doesn't come with a glorified view of branding.'

Just don't ask Francis to waste time with filing. 'I'm the most disorganised person in the world - my inbox is running at about 8,000 emails,' he says. He adds, somewhat surprisingly, given his client experience, that he is no petrolhead.

Francis says Raincock - a committed Manchester City supporter, putting him at odds with his own support of United - often reins him in. 'We are chalk and cheese,' he admits.

At present Francis is concerned with bedding in his new big-name clients and moving Performance to larger premises: 'The next goal is developing the sports side.' Performance helped broaden the appeal of cricket in 2003 with a lifestyle campaign for Twenty20, the game's most radical marketing manoeuvre in 30 years.

'Certain sports are still not PR-aware. Cricket could go further,' says Francis, adding football to the list. 'Footballers have almost outgrown their clubs but their PR is still largely handled by agents,' he asserts.

In a fit of passion for sport, Francis threatens to spill all his strategies for growth, but his competitive side pulls him back: 'I probably shouldn't have said anything, it might give other agencies ideas.'

RESUME

1994: Account manager, Trisha Topping Associates

1996: Senior account director, Jardine PR

2000: Freelance PR consultant/journalist

2002: Director and co-founder, Performance PR

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