Freelance journalist Andrew Cave is a business interview writer and the author of ‘The Secrets of CEOs’. In today’s Focus, he talks to FeaturesExec about his most memorable interviews, his passion for music and what he’d do with £1,000.
About your journalism:
What do you write about?
I’ve been a business and financial reporter for most of my career and cover all areas of business, finance and industry but a particular focus is personal interviews with business leaders. I write the weekly chief executive business profiles in the business section of The Sunday Telegraph and interviewed more than 200 chief executives worldwide for my book: “The Secrets of CEOs,” the latest edition of which comes out on June 15.
Where are we likely to see your work?
The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Telegraph. I also write regularly for CorpComms magazine about the public relations industry and contribute to a wide range of magazines and corporate titles.
What’s the most memorable interview you’ve done?
Gosh, that’s a tricky one. In the world of business interviews, you tend to be judged as much on who you secure to interview as the writing itself so you have to endeavour to excel at both but the most powerful people aren’t always the most interesting. The mavericks are the most fun. Oracle chairman Larry Ellison was fascinating; Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary is always very entertaining and Jeff Bezos at Amazon.com is just plain wacky. Ben Verwaayen, the former BT Group CEO who now runs Alcatel-Lucent and Michael Spencer are extroverts who are great for amusing anecdotes, while Sir Martin Sorrell is very stimulating and Resolution Group chairman Clive Cowdery is simply a most interesting guy. Then there are outstanding CEOs like Tesco’s Sir Terry Leahy that you just can’t help but admire. The off-the-wall ones may be the most memorable though. I once interviewed Caprice about her lingerie business in a room full of frilly knickers! And in the interviews for “Secrets of CEOs,” one chief executive of a major UK insurance company confided that he regularly brings an actress into HQ to teach him how to act out the role of being a chief executive.
Which business people in the world would you most love to interview?
I guess I’d probably say Steve Jobs, like most other business journalists.
He is probably the most iconic business figure of our times and when somebody never does interviews, it does increase the stakes somewhat. Having seen Warren Buffett in action a number of times at his Omaha “Woodstock for Capitalists” beanfeast of an annual meeting, I think a one-on-one with him would be very entertaining too. I’d also like to interview Bono about his business interests and a pure management interview with Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho about the way they actually manage people would be very, very interesting.
About you and PRs:
Where do you source ideas for articles?
I have a long wish-list of people I’d like to interview but welcome calls from anyone with an idea.
How can PRs be useful to you?
I’m always happy to receive offers of interviews or ideas about potential
subjects. It can take a long time to get some interviews and sometimes one
needs to be inventive. Attending site visits and conferences can be a good
way of getting access to people, so it’s always good to hear about
opportunities there. And I’ve interviewed a number of chief executives in
their cars on the way to airports.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
By phone, email and texts is fine. I’m finding an increasing number of PR’s
also use social networks like Linked In to make contact, which is fine too.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Because I’m freelance, I’m pretty flexible in being able to make a lot of
these events so I do find them useful for access and to make connections.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Wanting a list of questions emailed to them before an interview is probably
the big one. I never have a list and find that if the questions are
prescribed like that, you usually miss the story. I usually say that I’m
happy to discuss the general topics and am also happy to chat afterwards if
there are any sensitivities.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
No idea. When I was asked by my career teacher at school what I would do if
I couldn’t be a journalist, the only thing I could think of was working in a
record shop as I’m passionate about music. That’s probably still the case,
though there aren’t many record shops left these days.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
Well, my Man Utd season ticket is up for renewal very soon…
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’m a pretty voracious reader of anything I can lay my hands on. Obviously,
on the business front, biographies are pretty helpful to my work. The one I’m
currently working my way through is “Cold Steel” about Lakshmi Mittal.
The New Secrets of CEOs: 200 Global Chief Executives on Leading was published on June 15 by Nicholas Brealey Publishing.