Friday, August 22, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Ashley Webster

Apologies for the delay since my last ‘Friend of Simplicity’ interview. It seems these interviews are popular and so I have another 12 or so lined up over the next few months.

Today, in the words of the old saying, it is really a case of ‘poacher turned gamekeeper.'

I am delighted to publish my interview with Ashley Webster of FOX Business TV. You can read more about Ashley by clicking here

I had the great pleasure of being interviewed, live to the US, by Ashley in January 2008 on Fox Business Network about some of my thoughts about simplicity.

I liked Ashley immediately and I have great respect for his professionalism. He helped me feel relaxed before going on TV for a live interview for the first time in my life. It could have been a bit scary but Ashley’s calmness, professionalism and experience was a great help – he actually made it easy for me. He is a real pro!

I was also impressed by the slick operation of the Fox Business studio especially the friendliness of the small team of people I met including Lauren Bedsole the Producer.

Ashley kindly agreed to share some thoughts with me - so here it is - I hope you enjoy it ...........

TREVOR: Ashley – thanks for agreeing to be the interviewee this time. Tell me a bit about your career in the media world.

ASHLEY: I started my career as a reporter/anchor for an NBC affiliate in Helena, Montana. From there I have worked in the same capacity at a number of different stations in California, Arizona, Wisconsin and Tennessee. After 20 years of working for local affiliates I joined the Fox Business Network in 2007 as the overseas markets editor and correspondent based in London, England.

TREVOR: When we did the Fox interview it felt like you and I were just informally chatting – and I mean that as a compliment to your skills. Is it just experience or do you have a different strategy with each guest?

ASHLEY: I have always enjoyed meeting and talking with people that is why reporting is the perfect job for me. When it comes to interviewing guests the best approach for me has always been to be relaxed and conversational. There is nothing natural about sitting in front of a camera and lights, so I try to make the experience as comfortable as possible and just let the guest talk about his or her subject.

TREVOR: You have the most fantastic view of London from your office. How do you like working in London versus the US?

ASHLEY: I am originally from Brighton, England and lived in the UK for 20 years before emigrating to the United States. Coming back to London after being away for more than 20 years has been a unique and rewarding experience. The studio has a wonderful view looking down on Big Ben and Parliament, so every morning I am reminded how lucky I am to be working in such a unique place.

TREVOR: As you well know I believe the search for simplicity is vital in business – what are you views about this and do you meet many people with similar views?

ASHLEY: Keeping it simple in business is vital. In business, as in life, it seems to be human nature to make things more complicated than they have to be. In business this can have disastrous consequences because without simplicity the function of the business can be severely hampered. I often meet people who agree but it seems big corporations are unable to make the necessary changes because there are too many people on the totem pole to get the changes enacted.

TREVOR: I was very impressed with the smooth efficiency of the Fox team – particularly Lauren Bedsole your Producer. It feels like you are a very effective and 'together' team. I assume teamwork is crucial in the broadcasting world with such acute and demanding deadlines. Am I right about that and how do you think team work is maintained in Fox?

ASHLEY: Teamwork in any environment is critical to success but working in a bureau so far away from the New York headquarters it is a necessity. We work under deadlines that often come around every 10 minutes throughout the day and it can be extremely stressful and without teamwork we would not be able to make it work. I think it’s a great example of simplicity at work!

TREVOR: What do you see as the main similarities and differences between managers in the US and Britain?

ASHLEY: Having worked in both countries I have noticed some differences in the style of management on either side of the Atlantic. Managers in the United States tend to be more macro in their approach, very goal oriented and expect a high level of devotion and accomplishment. I think UK managers are a little more relaxed and take a more hands-off approach but at the end of the day still expect results. I think this is as much a cultural difference as a work philosophy and both have their strengths and weaknesses.

TREVOR: Finally Ashley what is the future for Fox Business Network in Britain – will we soon be able to pick it up on our satellite TV?

ASHLEY: As a brand new network based in the United States it takes time to reach as many households as possible and this is an ongoing process. We hope the Fox Business Network will soon become a part of the regular UK channel options as soon as possible!

TREVOR: Thanks again for your insights.


spinhead said...

I particularly appreciate the insights regarding keeping things simple in order to meet deadlines. Isn't it amazing how we can tune into what's really critical as the drop-dead date rushes toward us?

Trevor Gay said...

I know the feeling Joel ...acute deadlinea are like hanging - they concentrate the mind :-)

Clearly Ashley and his team have to be ready at very short notice to go 'live' in front of the camera to do their business .. it is a very competitive business to grab the news first I suspect.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reminder to keep business simple. As a manager (of 1, we're growing!) in the rapidly changing IT world and in a shrinking and aging labor market (VT has a net outflow of young people), Simplicity Is Crucial to keeping my employee sane in an otherwise insane world! The same goes for this older wizard.

-Rick in VT

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Rick - good to hear from you again - hope you are keeping well. It is good to see someone with Ashley's connections and experience confirming your thoughts and certainly mine about applying simplicity in business. We need to keep reminding others Rick – otherwise it’s you and me against the world - take care :-)

judith ellis said...

Thank you for this interview, Trevor. Some years ago when I couldn't figure out how to best handle a very complicated situation at work my brother Tim (who is also a pastor) reminded me that business is about people and that is where I should begin.

Tim advised me to listen more to the person with whom I was having difficulties. I would then have clues on what her needs were beyond the task at hand. Perhaps she just needed to be heard and even flex her muscles a bit. No sweat.

I value the importance in the interview about conversations. While interviewing requires listening, it would be good for all of us to listen more in our daily lives, professionally and personally. This I really try to do.

Thanks again for the interview.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that Judith – I appreciate your comments. Listening is perhaps the best attribute in communication. Ashley is an excellent listener and he made me feel great. He genuinely seemed interested in what I was saying. Your brother sounds a great role model too. I have always tried to be a good listener and I sincerely hope I am getting better at listening as I get older. I hope you are still available for one of my interviews in the next few months.

Thanks again Judith.

judith ellis said...

At the time of your Fox interview, I had just recently learned of your blog. I actually got up early (we'll I'm usually up rather early but without the glaring blue) to hear your interview. It was a good one indeed. Thanks to you both.

Trevor Gay said...

I remember very well Judith - you were the first person to contact me and say the interview came across well - I don't know of anyone else who actually watched it live! - Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Working with colleagues who are spread across the world, I'm continually reminded of how 'simplicity is the key'! Since I have to bear in mind that some of those reading my messages will be just struggling out of bed & others will be trying to think of a coherent response after a full day at the office, it's always best to avoid regional jargon (or even long words!) & unduly complicated explanations.

Ashley's interview was a true inspiration - thanks for sharing it!

Trevor Gay said...

Many thanks Anonymous – appreciate your comments. I have been arguing simplicity is the key since Adam was a boy it seems. Some people agree with me – I’m pleased you are one of them.

Ashley is a terrific professional and a very nice man. Glad you enjoyed the interview and hope you will visit the Blog again.

nick said...

Interview session in simplicity. Just about the career.

Trevor Gay said...

Cheers Nick.

John O'Leary said...

I'm starting to notice some of the connotations of "simple" and "simplicity." "Simple" does not equate with "easy" - at least for those trying to maintain simplicity in their organizations, workflow, etc. Yet it should translate as easy for the customer. This occurred to me today in ordering something from Their website is a model of simplicity AND ease for the customer, but I bet it wasn't an easy task for the company to get there.

Good interview by the way!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John – good to hear from you – hope you are well.

Absolutely – the best examples of simplicity are when the end user experiences a simple process. Amazon is a terrific example as is and many more like them. What goes on behind the scenes to make it simple is complex I’m sure.

My visit to Fox Business studio in London in January was a prime example of simplicity too. I got off a train at Euston, London – a taxi met me and took me to the studio. I talked with Ashley for 10 minutes before we went on air live to the US. We did the interview which lasted about 5 minutes followed by a quick de-brief with Ashley and Lauren. A taxi took me back to Euston station. The whole process took no more than 45 minutes from the time I got off the train to the time I got back on the train home. Perfect simplicity but the efforts behind the scenes were complex.

John O'Leary said...

While I'm promoting I just realized I can buy food on! I'm already using them for household products and appliances. 60 seconds to purchase anything...well maybe 90 seconds if I'm indecisive.

David Wike said...

Maybe a bit late to suggest it now Trevor, but it might be a good idea to make the interview available again on Simplicity blog, particularly for newcomers who may not have seen it first time round.

I recall that is sparked a debate about appropriate dress style, as you were in your trademark short sleeve shirt without a tie. It would be interesting to hear Ashley’s honest opinion on that. Next week I am running three very short workshops with 14 and 15 year old school children about to go for their first Work Experience week. I feel obliged to wear a tie, something normally reserved for weddings and funerals, to set a good example.

But a good example of what? And what do I talk to them about; what do I get them to do? I have only 20 minutes with each group and there are 40 students in each one. Perhaps I should ask them to think of examples of complicated things made simple or simple things made complicated. Perhaps while they have their week in the workplace I could get them to open their eyes to what is going on around them and ask them to look for the complex and consider if there is a better way to do things.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks David – I will try and re-post the interview as you suggest.

As regards the dress code issue my opinion is well known to you. I think the person must feel comfortable to do their best. I also think approximately 99.99% of the adult population is well capable of making the decision about respecting the audience and dressing appropriately. I actually don’t think it helps anyone to have protocols that are too strict on this. No tie and short sleeve shirt suits me. Interestingly enough, last week I asked a CEO about my dress code for a meeting at which I was doing an important presentation to 31 senior people. The CEO said she was very happy for me to wear no tie and a short sleeve short. Brilliant!!

I know others disagree with me and such is life... we will see what others say.

John – 90 seconds to complete your order?? – You are slipping …by the way do they do fish and chips to order :- )

Marilyn said...


Yes, I agree, you should wear on camera or in person what you are most comfortable in, that makes a good impression. None of my headshots contain a stiff suit, helmet hair, or small earrings, or a conservative pin on the jacket, all items that professional women often wear for headshots. What you wear conveys an image, just like what you say. Television interviews are first and foremost visual. As the spokesman for Simplicity in business your interview hit the right notes, and showed the audience that simple isn't necessarily easy.

David--those teenagers you're hosting--I suggest asking them what their dreams for the future are. What would they invent or change, that would make life interesting for them? You have the golden opportunity to tune into their immense creativity. I envy you.

David Wike said...

Trevor – 99.99% of statistics are made up … probably. While I agree with you, well 90% of the time, I wonder what you think about schools having a uniform policy.

Marilyn – some good ideas there, thank you. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Marilyn – I go for comfort every time and that is not meant to be disrespectful to my audience I hope.
Had I not shaved for a few day and been wearing Eagles t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms – which is often my office attire at home – then I would have been disrespectful. I hope I was smart-casual!
David – Schools and uniform policy ... great question … does the uniform make the student more successful or a better person is I guess the immediate answer from my heart. On the other hand I see sense in having a dress code of some sort for schools. It is not something that worries me unduly. I worry more about the standard of teaching and whether the children come out of the system of education as good people. What they wear has little significance to outcomes as far as I can tell. Richard Branson and Bill Gates were never the smartest dressed kids at school I bet!

David Wike said...

Good response but … if you take that logic a bit further, would it be OK for Manchester United players to take to the pitch wearing whatever they wanted as long as it was red? They would be equally good players, but what would Fergie say?

Trevor Gay said...

That’s a good point David and I guess behind what you are saying is something about building in discipline to peoples thinking. This is fine in my book and in my career and in my personal life I’ve worn suits and ties – believe it or not – but for occasions when it ‘seemed’ appropriate. I guess my worry is that too much rigidity results in too little creativity in my book so we have to be careful about being too rigid and firm by insisting on a dress code when frankly it doesn’t matter one jot. I like the Sir Alex analogy and putting it another way I would pay to go and watch The Eagles whether they wore suits or jeans and their music would sound great either way … Actually on their recent ‘Long Road Out of Eden’ tour that Annie and I saw launched in London at the O2 arena The Eagles did wear suits and ties for part of the act … but the ties came off pretty quickly ….

John O'Leary said...

Trevor, I'm sorry to say I missed the Eagles this time around, but my friends gave them great reviews - and were impressed by John Fogerty and KT Tunstall who opened for them.

Trevor Gay said...

Maybe next time John - you won't be disappointed!

I dont know whether you have seen Steuart Smith who now shares lead guitar role with Joe Walsh. Most fans now believe Smith is the fifth Eagle - he is a briliant guitarist - better than Walsh and that takes some doing.

John O'Leary said...

I haven't seen Smith, Trevor. But I'll watch for him. Walsh was/is of the greats. Still enjoy those old James Gang tracks. Check out "Funk #49" on iTunes if you haven't heard it in awhile.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John - you will be impressed with Smith - in one review I read it said he outshines Walsh as lead guitarist - that is some going!

Seeing Walsh at 60 gives us all hope - he is real comedian and so zany ... I think I read recently he has not drunk alcohol for 15 years ... or maybe I just dreamt that!

judith ellis said...

John - Great point about simple and simplicity earlier and great Amazon example. You're the man next to, of course, the man whose site this is. :-)