Made in HEAVEN

A ca­reer as a match­maker

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Front Page -

THEY say you shouldn’t mix busi­ness with plea­sure but Linda Prescott has made a ca­reer out of com­bin­ing work with love.

The pro­fes­sional match­maker has been run­ning Bris­bane dat­ing agency Ideal Introductions since 1996, unit­ing hun­dreds of happy cou­ples ev­ery year.

And with Christ­mas loom­ing, Prescott is head­ing into her busiest time of year.

‘‘It starts in the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber re­ally,’’ she says.

‘‘Peo­ple want some­one to take to the of­fice Christ­mas party – they don’t want to go alone.

‘‘Christ­mas is also a sen­ti­men­tal time.

‘‘It re­minds peo­ple that an­other year has whizzed past, an­other year of be­ing sin­gle.’’

Sur­viv­ing in the fickle busi­ness of love comes from tak­ing the dat­ing game se­ri­ously, and while Prescott likes noth­ing more than mak­ing a per­fect match, she also knows what’s re­quired to keep her com­pany afloat.

She has a strict set of rules be­fore clients are added to her books and, once there, they need to fol­low com­pany guide­lines or risk be­ing cast back into sin­gle­dom.

To start with, they must be sin­gle for at least nine months be­fore Prescott will con­sider tak­ing them on. Cof­fee dates are pro­hib­ited be­cause they’re too much like job in­ter­views and a three-date rule en­sures those who have a pleas­ant time at their first meet­ing must fol­low through with two more out­ings be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion about de­vel­op­ing a re­la­tion­ship.

She is­sues both men and women with a dat­ing eti­quette man­ual be­fore their first meet­ing so both know what’s ex­pected.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple just don’t know how to date,’’ she says. ‘‘Our man­ual is all about old-school val­ues – the guy is ex­pected to pay on the first date.

‘‘Many of our clients have al­ready tried on­line agen­cies and bars with­out suc­cess, so the peo­ple on our books have reached the stage where they are ready to meet some­one.

‘‘They don’t have big wish lists. They just want some­one who won’t muck them around and who is on the same page.’’

Clients must un­der­take an ex­haus­tive face-to-face in­ter­view with Prescott or one of her seven staff who ask a se­ries of ques­tions about the per­son, their re­la­tion­ships, their for­mer part­ners, their par­ents’ re­la­tion­ships and more.

‘‘We then pro­file what suits them in a part­ner,’’ Prescott says.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple know what they want but what they need is of­ten a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent.’’

Though she in­jects a fair dose of re­al­ity into ro­man­tic fan­tasy, Prescott’s tough love yields busi­ness strate­gies that work.

While other agen­cies have come and gone in Bris­bane over the past decade, Prescott has opened branch of­fices in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne.

She jug­gles 1400-1800 clients at any one time, with 30 new peo­ple join­ing the dat­ing pool each week at a start­ing rate of $220.

She’s at­tended more than 1000 wed­dings of cou­ples who met through her com­pany and 18 per cent of her busi­ness comes from re­fer­rals.

It was by ac­ci­dent that Prescott dis­cov­ered her tal­ent for match­mak­ing.

She left Clontarf State High School at the age of 16 with no real ca­reer am­bi­tions. She com­pleted a sec­re­tar­ial course be­fore tak­ing a job in a com­puter com­pany.

‘‘I started off sell­ing com­put­ers when I was 16 and, by the time I was 21, I was man­ag­ing the com­pany,’’ Prescott says.

It was once she’d left the com­puter in­dus­try for a stint in a dat­ing agency that Prescott found her per­fect match.

‘‘I’ve learned along the way,’’ she says. ‘‘I have in­ter­viewed more than 10,000 peo­ple and I’ve been match­ing cou­ples for 18 years.

‘‘I re­ally get re­la­tion­ships now. The re­al­ity is that if you can get 70 per cent of what you’re look­ing for, you are do­ing re­ally, re­ally well.’’

GUID­ANCE: Linda Prescott, of Ideal Introductions.

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