Tag Archives: Leadership

What Are They Thinking (about Radio)?

93My Capstone Class students read several books on management during the semester. Some are on personal management, self-improvement type books if you will, because how can you manage others until you can first manage yourself.

One of the books we read is Barry Drake’s “40 Years and 40,000 Sales Calls – Thoughts on Radio and Advertising based on a Lifetime of Customer Contact.” I highly recommend this book as a MUST READ for anyone considering a career in broadcasting or is currently working in broadcasting or is curious about what such a career is like.

When we finished the book and our discussion of the book, we did a Skype session with the author, Barry Drake.

AMAZON Synopsis

Just in case you aren’t familiar with Barry’s book, I will share with you the Amazon synopsis:

“Barry Drake retraces the steps of his forty year broadcasting career to delight readers by telling stories and bringing to light things that have changed and so many things that have not.
Growing up in a media household, Drake saw the birth of television and the impact of local radio personalities. He picked up knowledge of business working in fast food and retail.
In radio, Drake began in the day of AM domination and participated in the rise of FM. Later he went on to head companies in radio and television.
40 Years 40,000 Sales Calls is loaded with Drake’s opinions on the current state of the media, radio in particular and what advertisers want. What makes this book unique is that the opinions all come from direct contact with advertisers. There is no B-school philosophy. Just real world knowledge obtained over forty years of real world work.

One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the book’s sales go to the Broadcasters Foundation of America to assist broadcasters who are in acute need. The Foundation does not endorse or subscribe to the views expressed in the book.”

So What Questions Float in Student Minds After Reading this Book?

You might be amazed as what goes through my student’s brains.  Let me share with you some of their questions:

  • How do the RAB (Radio Advertising Bureau) sales modules for the RMP exam compare to his own personal selling strategy?
  • Where does he think he’d be if he didn’t grow up in a radio heavy household (both Barry’s dad & mom worked in radio)
  • Barry said he fell in love with radio when he saw “the magical relationship between the radio station, the radio performer and the listener.” Now that we’ve entered the age of digital and voice tracking, is that relationship still magical in your opinion?
  • When you are selling to a customer what is the most important step in building a relationship with your customers?
  • How do you think broadcasting and broadcast sales will change in the next 10-20 years? Where do you think the radio industry is going?
  • Do you have any regrets in choosing a broadcasting career?
  • Do you see local radio becoming more popular than syndicated radio?
  • Did you ever want to switch careers?
  • What defines a leader?

I think you can see from just a sample of the questions my students had, we covered a lot of ground in that class session with Barry.

Barry Drake’s Wisdom

Barry says the biggest issue going forward will be competition for people’s time. Time will be at a premium in a world with unlimited media choices.

To be successful you will need faith. Faith in yourself, in your career and that everything will work out just fine if you dedicate yourself to your work with everything you’ve got.

You become what you think about, so focus your thinking on where you want to go.

Radio is “show” plus “business.” The business needs new ideas and innovation and that will soon be in the hands of graduating students.

Building Relationships

Barry said there are three things to building advertising relationships with radio station clients:

  1. Show that you care
  2. Bring lots of ideas
  3. Respect the value of people’s time

Leadership

A leader is anyone other people will follow.

A leader must have integrity.

A leader must do what’s right and what’s best for the enterprise, even though they realize not everyone will be happy with some of the decisions that have to be made.

A leader must earn their people’s respect every minute of every day.

Be aware of everything going on all around all of the time. Read all the trades, read the latest news about business and anything else that will impact your business and that of your radio station’s advertisers.

3 Things You Need to Be Successful

  1. Role Models are critical (Pick one for yourself, someone you can emulate)
  2. Find a Mentor (Have at least one. More is better.)
  3. You’ve got to have a horse to ride (In other words, you have to have an opportunity to apply your skills. Join a company you believe in, that has people you like working with and a mission you are ready to commit to.)

And in case you were wondering about that one student’s question about whether Barry ever thought about switching careers, the answer was:

“NO! Never once.

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What I Learned About Being a General Manager

48I loved being a general manager of radio stations. It wasn’t the job that first attracted me to radio however; it was to become a disc jockey. From as far back as I can remember I wanted to be a DJ on the radio. My first radio microphone was made out of tinker toys. Then I got a Caravelle (pictured) transmitter for Christmas from Santa Claus and I took to the air waves.

I started in commercial radio when I was in the 10th grade in high school, getting my FCC 3rd Class Radio-Telephone Operator Permit. Due to my age at that time, I needed to get a work permit. The Massachusetts employment office that issued those types of permits for underage workers asked me what type of employment I would be doing. I told them, I’m going to be a DJ. They didn’t have a category for DJ in their book, so they wrote “Talent” on my work permit and sent me on my way. I never mentioned that I would also be taking transmitter readings every half hour standing next to a 1,000-watt broadcast transmitter. If I had, they would never have issued me a work permit, as that environment would have been considered to hazardous for a person who was only 16 years old.

As I look back on it, it almost seems ironic that I could have a license to operate a commercial radio station, but my mother would have to drive me to work and pick me up because I couldn’t get a driver’s license to operate an automobile.

In time, I would learn that what I really wanted to do in radio was not be the person who was the product, but the person who ran the whole enchilada; also known as the general manager. To get to that lofty office, I would need to leave the air and programming and go into sales.

Once in sales I quickly rose through the ranks to sales manager, station manager and finally general manager. Yes, at the ripe old age of 32, I was a general manager in Atlantic City, New Jersey; the world’s famous playground.

Lessons Learned

So what did I learn almost three decades later? A career is not a sprint, but a marathon. You never know everything you need to know. Every day is a learning experience. That your attitude becomes the attitude of your employees, so keep it positive.

Success

Like making a baby, you can’t speed up the process of success in life. It takes time. Repetition is key. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers wrote it takes about 10,000 hours of repetition and practice to master anything.

While Radio Ink Magazine named me one of the best general managers in radio before I left the industry to become a broadcast professor at a university, I would find that I would learn even more about my craft trying to teach it to others. So today, I think I’d be a much better general manager than when I took a sabbatical to enter teaching.

Love

They say if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. That was true for me about my radio career for over four decades and it’s been just as true for my teaching these past six years. But here’s the big take away: You can love your career, but it will never love you back. So you have to make time for the things that do love you back like your family. I may have been a hard working, successful radio general manager, but I never missed any of the special moments in my boys’ lives as they were growing up.

But the real credit goes to their mother. She made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom – the most important and difficult career choice on the planet – and the credit for the successful men both of my sons turned out to be, goes to her.

Marriage

Sadly, while I tried to be a good dad and a good radio general manager, I probably was lacking in the husband department. The mother of my sons and I would divorce. My life was not in proper balance. Don’t let this happen to you.

Stay Curious

When you’re starting out, you are very curious about how everything works. You’re like a sponge trying to soak it all in. Don’t lose that curiosity. Always pitch in and do whatever needs to be done. Always listen to the ideas of others; it might surprise you how much they know. Make every day a new day to learn and grow and be better than you were yesterday.

Management

When you manage people, unlike things, know that each one is different. Each person is an individual and there’s no “one size fits all” approach. Celebrate your people’s victories, benchmarks and life events. Empower your people to not need you. Compliment in public, correct in private. Compliment in a note, correct face-to-face.

Listen

You were born with two ears and one mouth. Listening is what you should be doing twice as much as a general manager. Just because you’re the GM doesn’t mean you have all the answers. You don’t. Collaboration is the 21st Century Skill Set. It’s been my experience that often the answers to the problems confronting my radio stations were inside my own workforce. As manager, it was my job to get the answers out of them.

My Boss is a Bastard

This is a tough one. You never really want to work for a boss who’s an S.O.B. But sometimes family obligations put you in that uncomfortable position of just having to tough it out until you can make a change. I tell my students when we go over case studies of employees working for a bastard that unlike now – when they are students with no other people they are responsible for – it seems like it would be easy to just walk away from a terrible employment situation, but when you have a mortgage, car loan, kids etc. you can’t. But what you can do is begin you job search and get out of there as soon as you can. Bad work relationships are toxic. Don’t stay in one.

It’s About More than Work

New managers sometimes have a hard time understanding why everyone isn’t as dedicated as they are to their job. But often, the reality is, your employees have lives outside of their workplace and those lives aren’t always smooth sailing. Each of us has a finite emotional capacity. So if their home life is stealing more than 50% of their emotional capacity, it leaves less capacity for the office. So if one of your best employees is suddenly under-performing, explore what’s going on in the rest of their life and how you, as their manager, can help them through this rough patch in their life. People will never forget how you made them feel when they needed your help and understanding the most. Even better, when that rough patch is over, you have one of the most empowered and dedicated employees now on your team.

Does Everyone Share the Same Mission?

Every company has a “Mission Statement.” Most are too long and rarely remembered, let alone embraced and understood by every employee. And that’s a BIG problem for you, the general manager.

There’s an old story about President Kennedy visiting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration complex when he stopped and asked a person cleaning the floor what his job was. The person said their job was to put a man on the moon. Now that’s a focused workforce.  What would your people say they do in your radio station if someone were to ask?

Don’t wonder what the answer is, ask your people. Get everyone on the same page.

Facebook

The world we live in today has blurred the lines between our work life and our home life. Our computers, tablets and smartphones now mean we are always available to our employer and always able to connect with our social networks. So should you ban Facebook? I was asked do to that once by one of my employees. My response was “no” I would not ban Facebook. And here’s why: First that person got all their work done and done correctly. That person was available to me at any time 24/7 if I needed something fixed regarding our program logs. If I could invade their home life, if necessary, then their home life could invade my work place.

The good news is recent research has shown that employees who take social network breaks online are more productive than those that don’t. Everyone needs to take a break and refresh to continue to perform at the highest levels they are possible of achieving.

Sales people are known to take a break after a lot of “No’s” and hit some golf balls at the driving range to refresh and get back to closing sales.

Personal Ethics

You know right from wrong. Never let any work place or manager compromise your personal ethics or values. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. And if that “duck” doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Take a stand. Speak up, especially if you’re the manager because your people only have you standing between them and the top management of your company.

Failure is Learning

Want to learn more, fail more often and more quickly. Sounds counter-intuitive but research has proven that failure is all part of the way we learn. We only eliminate the unsuccessful paths by finding out if they lead us to success or not.

I had the opportunity to visit the Thomas Edison laboratory in New Jersey. A sign in the lab where Edison had invented the light bulb had this Edison quote: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Don’t fear failure. Learn to take risks.

Management vs. Leadership

In the end, what you really want to become is a leader. What’s the difference you ask? Peter Drucker says it best:

Management is doing things right;

leadership is doing the right things.

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What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Embrace Complexity

42The world we live in today is a complex place. The KISS operational style seems like it would be a good idea. (KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid) But maybe not.

Turns out in a complex world, being agile is more importance than being efficient. Being efficient kills innovation. Innovation today is the primary driver of building value and creating value is one of the basic reasons for any organization to exist.

Managing Complexity is a 21st Century Skill

People who can manage complexity will be the leaders of the future. Managing a radio station was complex due to the fact that radio has two customers, which want totally opposite things. One customer is the radio listener. This customer wants information and entertainment. This customer usually isn’t fond of commercials. The other customer is the radio advertiser. Anytime their ad isn’t dominating the airwaves and driving consumers into their store is a moment the radio station isn’t doing its job. To add to this complexity are the talented people needed to service both of these customers. Air personalities that attract listeners and sales folks that service advertisers.

Consolidation & Complexity

As the radio industry began consolidating after the Telcom Act of 1996, the traditional thinking of protecting margins was amplified. This resulted in reducing labor costs. RIFs became commonplace (RIF = Reduction In Force). For those that were left wages became stagnant, little money was invested in training and the number of people left in the workforce was reduced to a bare minimum.

The problem is, when you have low paid, poorly trained and overworked people, your operation lacks new and innovative ideas that can improve the business. When the only ideas that are introduced come from the tippy top, they rarely connect with the challenges seen at the front line.

Zeynep Ton writes in her book The Good Jobs Strategy about a discount retailer that took a different approach to their operation than most companies when the great recession of 2008 struck the world. Rather than cut wages or reduce staff, Ton says they asked their employees to contribute ideas. The result was that this company managed to reduce prices to their customers by ten percent while increasing their market share from 15% to 20% from 2008 to 2012.

Herb Kelleher writes in his book NUTS! about how Southwest Airlines created a culture where employees are treated as the company’s number one asset. Southwest does a number of things to benefit its employees, including such programs as profit-sharing and empowering employees to make decisions. This empowerment during the period when oil prices hit a high of $145 per barrel in 2008 saw the Southwest pilots taking the initiative to plot more efficient flying altitudes and work with ground crews to get in and out of the gates quicker to control the Southwest ticket prices and not lay off any people while maintaining a positive profit margin. These actions did not come from the corporate home office but from employees in the field.

What to Do When You Have Maximized Efficiency

Let’s face it; the ability for any radio operator today to squeeze out any more profit through efficiency is over. Radio consultant George Johns puts it this way: “Radio today is in the no business, it has no money, no time and no people.”

So what’s the answer? Collaboration.

The radio companies of the 21st Century will need to develop the ability to make collaboration a competitive advantage. The game has changed from what you own and control to what you can access. Access happens via platforms. Radio needs to create platforms that bring consumers and producers together, much like the Apple App store does globally, but locally for their service area.

Radio needs to find a way to attract listeners by causing them to be fearful of missing something if they’re not listening while directing them to local places via platforms they control that can fulfill their wants and needs on demand.

In other words, radio needs to “think different.”

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Real Possibilities

AARPBefore I get into the meat of this week’s post, I first need to walk you through a bit of a preamble. Also, this week’s post is a continuance of last week’s post about Millennials vs. Baby Boomers, so if you missed it, you might want to read that first here before you read this week’s. Now please bear with me while I set-up the story for this week’s post.

I’ve been a card carrying member of AARP since I turned 50. When you hit this milestone birthday, don’t worry the folks at AARP will find you and solicit you to become a member.

When I became a member, AARP stood for the American Association of Retired Persons. But at age 50, I was a long way from actually retiring.

AARP was founded in 1958, so this organization could be classified a “Baby Boomer” just like me. And just like me, AARP has changed over the years. It officially changed its name from the American Association of Retired Persons to just AARP. AARP no longer requires members be retired but they must be at least 50 years of age.

In 2013, AARP launched its “Life Reimagined” program that sub-labeled the “RP” part of AARP to mean “Real Possibilities.” You see, AARP realizes that today people aren’t thinking about retiring when they hit 50 as much as they are thinking about tackling a second, or maybe a third career or endeavor.

At my university we started a wellness program in 2013. I was a charter member. Our university self-insures employees for healthcare and one of the ways to control costs is to incentivize employees to be as healthy as possible.

My university office is on the third floor of the Mass Media & Technology Hall building. We have three elevators in our building. I never use them. I prefer the stairs for two reasons: 1) they are much quicker than the elevator and 2) I use the stairs as a part of my wellness fitness program.

When a student says they’d like to meet with me for a moment in my office after class, I often find them a third of the way up the stairs when I reach the top floor (I take stairs two-steps at a time). They are also huffing and puffing. I just wait for them to catch up.

Now here’s the point of this week’s post…

Millennials Don’t Know What Age “Old” Is

Millennials are today’s media buyers. Millennials are today’s creative’s. Millennials are today’s planners. Heck, Millennials are probably the people running the place too. So if they have a warped concept of age, it is going to affect their advertising placement decisions.

Millennials now populate today’s media properties. They are the programmers, air talent, sales management, sales people and possibly the senior management.

I just met the director of Cox Digital Media in Las Vegas this past April and he is 28 years old.

Millennials Describe What Old Age Means to Them

Well AARP did some research into this question of what Millennials think “old” is. Then they asked them to show them what they thought “old” looks like. Then they introduced these same Millennials to some real “old” folks. Best of all, AARP recorded everything on video.

Watch the four-minute long video and then continue reading.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYdNjrUs4NM

See the problem now?

If you are wondering why more radio stations aren’t programming to Baby Boomers, or if you are wondering why more media buyers aren’t buying the BIG MONEY demos, now you have a better understanding of the problem. They think you and I have one foot in grave, instead of one foot away from the summit of Mount Everest.

Corvette Buyers

I live a short distance away from the only place Chevrolet makes the Corvette in the world. The average age of a Corvette buyer is 59. Boomers and people even older are the people who are buying Corvettes. They are NOT the Geritol-set.

We Are Part of the Problem

We call them Millennials, Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers etc, but another way to look at these generations is as tribes. Seth Godin has written extensively about this concept.

Seth says that sooner or later tribes begin to exclude newcomers. So each of these groups operates in their own little silo because it is easier than to keep breaking in newbies and because it could threaten the existing power structure.

Consolidation

The consolidation of media hasn’t helped either. RIFs (Reduction In Force) mainly dismissed the highest priced employees (Boomers) and left an organization of low cost employees (Millennials) all in the pursuit of increasing Shareholder Value.

Recent studies have shown that private companies out-perform public companies. The reason, they operate on the Peter Drucker principle that the only valid purpose of an enterprise is to create a customer. Privately owned radio companies also out-perform their publicly traded radio company counterparts. Same reason.

Turns out delighting customers is simple, clear and measurable, moreover it is the genuine path to successfully operating any business.

Leadership

The first question of a leader always is: “Who do we intend to be?”

NOT “What are we going to do?

BUT “Who do we intend to be?”

In other words, says Max De Pree of Herman Miller “What are we here for?”

Napoleon put it this way “Leaders are dealers in hope.”

Tom Peters says “The leader is the person who inspires us, sends us on quests to places we had never imagined.”

Think Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and so many more just like them.

To paraphrase the title of Lee Iacocca’s 2008 book:

“Where have all of the radio leaders gone?”

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Building Trust

trust-building-big-sizeA couple of weeks ago, I wrote about “Why I Fired My Top Salesperson.” And it all came down to a single reason, trust. I can’t think of one thing a successful leader needs to do more in a business than establish a culture of trust.

 

Leaders influence people. Trust is the foundation upon which the ability to influence others is built.

 

Simon Sinek puts it this way: “Being a good leader is like being a good parent. You catch glimmers of hope when you catch them doing something right, but you really don’t know if you’ve done a good job for like 30-years.”

 

Trust is comprised of two basic components: character and competence. Character means you make decisions that go beyond your own self-interests. Certainly, in firing my top salesperson, that wasn’t going to help my month or quarter. It wasn’t in my own self-interests for the present moment. But knowing that the long-term good of my radio stations was the value I was protecting, and maintaining the trust of the people who I worked with every day, made doing the right thing clear albeit difficult. Competence doesn’t mean having all the answers. Competence means having the experience and knowledge to make decisions that positively impact the performance of the enterprise and the courage to ask for help when you need it. (I always tell people I have an awesome contact file full of brilliant people to call when I need help.)

 

When your people trust your character and believe in your competence, they will follow you wherever you lead them.

 

Being a trusted leader is done with love.

 

I attended Weight Watcher meetings for the first time in my life this year. Like everyone else on the planet I wanted to drop a few pounds, but I also wanted to see if I could pick up any new information about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. What I learned was that change occurs by what you consistently do every day. That message was shared by others in the room that had lost lots of weight, all taking the same journey and it was shared with love. Simon Sinek also says when we are surrounded by people who believe what we believe and we feel loved, trust develops.

 

10,000 Hours

 

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book “The Tipping Point” that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at something. You can’t rush trust building anymore than you can rush how long it takes to make a baby. Babies are born when they are good and ready. And you can’t build trust via email, Facebook, Twitter or any other form of modern day communication. You build trust when people come together through human contact. It’s why webinars lose one of the main benefits of seminars, that being people coming together and meeting one another. (Besides, I don’t know about you, but I’m always doing at least two other things when I’m on a webinar.)

 

Again, when we’re surrounded by people who believe what we believe trust develops.

 

Be Like Ed Koch

 

Ed Koch was a three-time mayor of New York City. Mayor Koch was famous for asking people everywhere he went “How Am I Doing?” He got in their faces and asked. Over and over and over; Mayor Koch asked “How Am I Doing?”

 

You build trust by being consistent.

 

The best teachers teach by sharing their mistakes and what they learned. People don’t connect with perfection. People connect with people who’ve been there, screwed it up, learned from it and shared the experience. Real courage is being able to share your mistakes with others and like who you are in the process of doing that.

 

When you reveal yourself in this way, you demonstrate what you believe and value.

 

In other words, you build trust.

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3 Leadership Lessons

Being a leader today is not for faint of heart. Gone are the good old days of simply planning your work for your business and then working your plan. Today, leaders need to solve problems and think creatively. They need to, as Wayne Gretsky so eloquently put it “skate to where the (business) puck is going to be, not where it is.”

Leadership today is all about inspiring people and empowering them to believe in themselves, their company and the path that lies ahead.

Whether that business is a radio station or a university (where I now work), the task is the same.

Lesson #1: Don’t run your business poorly

Leaders lead by example. People will follow more what you do than what you say. If you misuse your expense account or run your personal mail through the office mail machine, others will follow your example regardless of what the “official policy” is on personal use of the mail machine or what qualifies as a legitimate business expense.

In a radio station, sales people aren’t programmers and program people don’t sell. So sales people don’t have a say in programming decisions and programming people don’t set advertising rates.

Leadership means getting the people who are skilled at what they do to “Just do IT” not somebody else’s “it.”

I worked for a radio station owner who had a favorite phrase, “Money makes honey.” He knew that you needed to have money coming in the door to pay for everything his radio stations did and so he took the sales aspect of running radio stations VERY seriously.

Walt Disney put it this way “I don’t make movies to make money; I make money to make movies.”

Lesson #2: A Unified Vision is Key

 I used the words “unified vision” for a reason. Most folks would have said “mission statement.” I am not a fan of mission statements for a couple of reasons. They are often crafted by committees. Like the old joke about what’s a camel, it’s a horse created by a committee. So most mission statements are too unwieldy and no one can remember them much less carry them in their heart as a guiding star.

Leaders like Steve Jobs create a vision for their company. Steve’s was to create “insanely great products.” He didn’t say make the world’s best computer, iPod, tablet or iPhone. He just said whatever Apple is committed to making, it would be insanely great.

Lesson #3: Your Product is Job One

 In higher education, the product is the quality of your teachers, facility and the success of your graduates. In radio, it’s the quality of your air personalities, content, facility and the success of your property to serve the community, advertisers and listeners.

American broadcasting executive, Randy Michaels, once said at a conference I attended “you give me a poorly programmed radio station with a great sales force and I’ll lose you money, but if you give me an excellent programmed radio station with a mediocre sales force, I’ll make you money.” Randy was always clear that the way to make money in radio was making the radio product job one. (Sounds like Walt Disney, doesn’t it)

Look at any successful company and you will see that the product comes first; always.

The challenge in a digital world is that things are changing more quickly than at any time in history. Innovation isn’t a luxury; it has to be an integral part of your business plan. The only constant is change.

The trick for both radio and higher education is to innovate without tinkering with the core product in the process. You also don’t fear cannibalizing your core product either.

Again, Jobs didn’t tinker with his iPod while developing his iPhone, but never worried that his iPhone and later his tablet would cannibalize his iPod and MAC in the future. (Note: the era of the iPod ended in 2014 with the introduction of the iPhone6. Over 400 million iPods have been sold.)

But when you have instilled in your people a unified vision like to make insanely great products, you have sowed the seeds of success into the very fabric of your organization.

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