'If people rely on you, you set yourself apart'

Karren Brady is the chief executive of Birmingham City Football Club. She's a celebrity ambassador for the Make Your Mark campaign, the force behind Enterprise Week (www.enterpriseweek.org.uk), which is under way now. Her website is www.karrenbrady.com.

What did you want to be as a child?

A journalist or a writer.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

Something in sales, because I was always a good talker.

What was your first job?

At school, Saatchi & Saatchi and LBC Radio came in to do presentations and both offered me a job. I was a bit of a live wire; vivacious, interested and with lots to say. I went with Saatchi, where, for a year, I was a very junior nobody, but LBC was still chasing me so I thought I'd move there to learn more about sales and marketing.

What was your job at LBC?

I was a junior sales executive selling advertising for Asian Hour, which ran from 4am to 5am. I pounded the pavements and rang people up, which was how I met David Sullivan of Sports Newspapers. He wasn't interested in advertising at all but I told him if it didn't increase his revenue, he wouldn't have to pay me.

Did you have the authority to promise that?

No! But what was the worst that could happen? I'd pay it myself or get sacked.

You then joined Sports Newspapers. How did you become a director at 21?

I made myself indispensable, doing strategy, sales and editing. When David added Birmingham City FC to his business empire, he put me in charge. I'd never even been to Birmingham!

Did it matter that you had no football background?

No; it's a business and my job was to appoint people.

How did you work your way up?

I was very focused from a young age. At school I knew I wasn't the most intelligent girl but I had the energy. If people get to rely on you, you can set yourself apart.

Do you consider yourself successful?

Yeah, I'm happy. There have been key moments, like being invited for lunch with the Queen.

Your interview tips?

I like people with knowledge. Roy Keane famously said: "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." I look for enthusiasm, determination and people who can articulate what they can offer.

And your CV tips?

Keep it short and to the point. I hate it when people write: "I have a full driving licence." So what?

What motivates you?

Running a good business, and the fact people want to own a share in us.

Who are your heroes?

I like Sir Alan Sugar and Sir Philip Green, people who are self-made like me.

How do I get to be where you are?

Persistence and determination. If you want to work at a football club, get a work placement, offer to work for nothing. But don't be pushy.

You were once voted the world's 98th-sexiest woman. Was that important to you?

That didn't mean diddly.