Tag Archives: RIF

Finding Success

114When I was growing up, kids when asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” would respond with things like: Actor, Postman, Astronaut, Scientist, TV Star, Pilot, Explorer, Teacher, Disc Jockey etc. The answers would be as varied as the career choices out there.

Today when kids are asked the same question, the answer for boys and girls is the same, RICH.

As if money were the only definition of “success.”

“There is only one success…

to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

-Christopher Morely

Defining Success

I really like the words of Christopher Morely. For time and money are inversely proportional. You can save time by spending more money or save money by spending more time. The choice is yours.

Success as most people talk about it sounds like a goal. Goals are dreams with a deadline.

Where does being happy come in? Shouldn’t happiness be included on your personal road to success?

You can have all the monetary success in the world, but if you aren’t happy, are you truly successful where it counts?

Success can be measured.

Happiness is limitless.

People will often tell you to work smarter, not harder. But the reality I’ve found is there is no short-cut to monetary success. The success secret is finding work that you love, work that makes you happy.

Adversity

Let’s face it, no matter how good your plan, life will get in the way.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

-Mike Tyson

Michael J. Fox certainly has had his share of success, happiness and adversity. Fox has been living with Parkinson’s for 26-years. Fox is working, laughing and defying the odds. Recently he shared his “6 Rules for Surviving Adversity.” When I read them, I thought they are perfect for anyone of us in the world of mediated communications. Since the passage of the Telcom Act of 1996, those of us in radio and television have seen massive consolidation resulting in RIF’s (Reduction In Force).

Here are the things Fox says we should keep in mind:

  • Exercise: “We’ve learned it will prolong your ability to operate positively in the world,” says Fox. I’ve learned that logic won’t change an emotion but action will. If you find yourself in a pickle, start doing things. Helping others will especially help you too.
  • Pacing: “It helps me think – the physical motion creates intellectual motion,” says Fox. And Fox isn’t the first person to discover the benefits of improved thinking by being in motion. Steve Jobs, I’ve read, liked to conduct meetings while walking. He said it helped both him and the person(s) he was talking with to think more clearly. Plus, meetings don’t drag on when people are standing or walking.
  • Acceptance: “It isn’t resignation, and it freed me to actively deal with and endeavor to change my situation (in dealing with Parkinson’s)” and Fox adds “My happiness goes in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” For many of us who were RIF’d or took on the work assignments of all those people who no longer work by your side, acceptance is critical. I remember losing my promotions department, my national sales manager and local sales managers and as each position was eliminated, it became the new additional job of the market manager. Until the day they eliminated my position. I know what it means to embrace acceptance.
  • Honesty: Don’t remain silent or ashamed about the position life has handed you. Fox says that once he went public about his condition with Parkinson’s “it was empowering to have people understand what I was going through – I immediately felt better.” Be honest about your situation and seize the opportunity to re-invent yourself and your life. Change is life’s only constant.
  • Optimism: “I hate when people say, ‘You’re giving them false hope.’ To me hope is informed optimism,” says Fox. I love that way of looking at life. You always have a choice to how you react to the things that happen to you. You can be angry, you can be sad, you can sink into a depression – OR – you can look at things with “informed optimism” and explore new opportunities.
  • Humor: “I laugh at [my involuntary movements and the scenes they create],” says Fox. “There are times I love these things.” Laughter IS the best medicine for anything that ails you.

Death is not the greatest loss in life.

The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.

-Norman Cousins

Norman Cousins used laughter to get well when everything else his doctors had been trying failed. He chronicled his miraculous recovery in a book “Anatomy of an Illness (as perceived by the patient).” It was the first book by a patient that told how taking charge of our own health is critical. Cousins used laughter, courage and tenacity to mobilize his body’s own natural resources. He showed how effective and powerful a healing tool the mind can be.

Do What You Love

Take a moment to reflect on all the things you were passionate about when you were growing up as a kid. Can you combine any of them, or age them, or make them fit into a 21st Century world? When you look to your past, you might just discover your future.

None of us were put here to do just one thing.

I’m sure you had many things you wanted to do with your life when you were young.

And finally, remember the words of a great broadcaster, David Frost who said:

“Don’t aim for success if you want it;

just do what you love and believe in,

and it will come naturally.”

 

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Radio’s Non-Compete Contracts

69Have you ever thought about how Silicon Valley became such a powerhouse in the world of technology?  Back in the 80s, my home state of Massachusetts was home to world class research with institutions such as MIT, Harvard and the Route 128 corridor. So how did Boston cede its leadership to California and Silicon Valley? Employee non-compete contracts that held employees bound to these vertically integrated firms.

Meanwhile, taking a different approach companies such as Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems were embracing their people to job hop. They encouraged open technologies and building alliances.

Cross-Pollination of Ideas

In her book Regional Advantage AnnaLee Saxenian writes that these same phenomena took place in all kinds of industries all over the world; that being that these companies in California allowed cross-pollination of ideas to occur by the movement of people between them.

Ironically, radio enjoyed this same kind of cross-pollination up until 1996.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996

President Clinton signed sweeping communications reform in America with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The radio industry consolidated almost overnight with a handful of major companies owning virtually all of the best “beachfront” radio properties.

The radio business, is not about just having a license to broadcast, but is about transmitted power and – like the real estate business – location, location, location. Unfortunately, that’s not how the FCC looks at license assignments.

Federal Radio Commission

The first regulatory body for communications in the United States was the FRC (Federal Radio Commission) and it divided the country into five equal regions and assigned the same number of radio services to each region. Why was this a bad idea? Because most of the people all lived in one or two regions of the country at that point in time and so more radio service was needed in them than in regions where it was mainly wildlife.

History Rhymes Again

I fond of saying that history doesn’t repeat but usually rhymes and in the case of radio’s number of AM or FM licenses a single company can own in a metro area we are repeating the same mistakes made by the FRC.

It’s not about number of signals but the power of those signals and location.

Cross-pollination of People

Part and parcel with the Telcom Act of ’96 was the loss of cross-pollination of people. If a person was RIF’d (Reduction In Force) by his company, he was under a non-compete to walk across the street or maybe some place else in the country as the same companies were now competing against one another all across this great land.

Before the Telcom Act, a single radio company could only own 12AM-12FM-12TV stations in the entire USA.  After the act, pretty much as much as they could afford to buy (with certain limitations).

BEST PRACTICES

Worse, these huge new radio companies would introduce across their footprint the concept of “Best Practices.” This is a code word for putting a knife in the heart of innovation.

Innovation requires risk.

Wall Street investors are basically risk adverse.

Playing it safe becomes the rule of the day and anyone that can’t play by the new rules is quickly shown to the exit doors.

Innovation requires three things according to the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida. Those are talent, technology and tolerance.

Consolidation and the new goal of “increasing shareholder value” would chop the talent pool while replacing people with technology. And the tolerance for anything new was likewise reduced to nil. Welcome to “playing it safe” radio; sterile, predictable and boring.

The Day I Tore Up My Employee’s Non-Competes

Back when I was in Atlantic City, I had an employee walk across the street to a radio competitor of mine. I wanted to pursue this employee because I had them under a non-compete contract. My new owners said that if a person didn’t want to work for them, to just let them go. I said then if they didn’t intend to enforce my employee’s non-compete contracts why did they keep them in place when they bought my stations from the previous owner. The president’s response to me was, “darn if I know.” I said then I’m going to tear them all up and he said, “go ahead.”

Life Without Non-Competes

I have to tell you, as a young manager, the realization that everyone at my radio stations could walk across the street to competitors was scary.

However, something wonderful happened.

People who now worked for me knew they no longer were working under non-competes and they now worked for me because they wanted to. It also made me realize that I too needed to provide a style of management that made people want to stay with me more than going someplace else. That, I would learn, is the best way to run a business.

Even better, having this type of work environment saw lots of talented people waiting in line to come work at my stations.

Make Radio Great Again

Radio became the force in America it is by being open to risk, new ideas and innovation. It kept the things that worked and jettisoned the ones that didn’t.

In other words, before radio was encumbered with huge debt brought on by consolidators, it invested in its future.

Radio can only win the future by investing in it.

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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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