The Best Run Radio Group

Can you name the best run radio group that has the following characteristics?

1. Never had a layoff. Could have made more money by running a leaner staff or cut back in hard times, but chose never to layoff an employee.

2. They honor their employees constantly through financial rewards, special perks and/or recognition under the theory that without happy employees the end user will not be happy.

3. When their people get sick, the company takes care of them. They continue to have their health coverage and insurance, but when something out of the ordinary happens the employee gets cut some extra slack because the group thinks these employees are worth it.

4. If employees experience either grief or joy, the group is there for them.

5. Stock shares are offered liberally to employees so they can have a stake in the company's growth.

Is the group I have just described Clear Channel?

Or maybe Cumulus or Citadel?

Most consolidated radio companies have had layoffs – some have had lots of layoffs. Layoffs are the getting fired.

It’s hard to find a radio group that takes care of its people when they get sick. Hell, it’s hard to find one that offers full company-paid benefits.

When employees or their families experience grief (forget about joy), it’s hard to conjure up a story of support and understanding – let alone the reassurance of continued gainful employment.

Stocks – forget about them!

The five characteristics of the best radio group described above do not belong to any radio group, but they do belong to another type of company.

That sector is also in a troubled business plagued with problems, employee turmoil and low share prices.

That company is -- Southwest Airlines.

Forgive me, but I quoted some of the advantages of working for Southwest from a recent New York Times articles by Joe Nocera on the retirement of Southwest founder Herb Kelleher.

You might want to give radio groups a pass because even in Southwest’s own industry, aviation, few other companies have enjoyed the benefits – there, I said it – of working for people who have a proven record of caring about their employees.

Maybe that’s why labor relations are so good at Southwest.

Maybe that’s why Southwest has made a profit for virtually every year it has been in operation – and that is saying something when you consider the sorry history of the aviation industry.

It’s worth reflecting on industries beyond the music media business to look for clues on how to turn it around.

Radio’s consolidators are universally not loved – in many cases, they are not even liked.

Clear Channel isn’t the only radio group that apparently doesn’t care about its employees on the same level as Southwest – name another one, any one.

While Southwest’s Kelleher is greeted warmly with love and respect by his employees, he also returns the love by remembering their names and the names of their loved ones. Southwest even has hallways with pictures of – not their founder, but their employees and even their pets.
Talk about warm and fuzzy.

When Kelleher stepped down as Chairman after 37 years a few weeks ago, employees were openly weeping.

Needless to say when the Mays boys get their last paycheck on the back of the radio industry they helped weaken, few people will be in tears – unless they bought CCU stock at $90 and held it until the Lee and Bain bail out when it will sell for just $36.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but it will be.

Radio doesn’t have a Herb Kelleher. Think about it.

There is no one in power who understands that the assets they are operating are not towers and transmitters, but people and outstanding managers. All the rounds of financing, all budget cutting and layoffs – just about everything they have tried – has failed by every standard.

There are a few smaller radio companies – generally not considered the major consolidators – who are still somewhat people-friendly. If you work for this handful of good radio groups you are indeed lucky.

So, the best way to turn the industry around is not more of the same old strategies, but an age of enlightenment.

If radio is only transmitters and towers, then it’s over – all over.

The next generation is not going to access “radio” in that manner. Your Stone Age CEOs and COOs think that’s the business they are in because they made the move to borrow the money to buy these assets. It will take a Renaissance man or woman to act on their belief that “radio” in the future is programming delivered by developing technology in forms not previously imagined.

It would take the Age of Enlightenment once again to wake up the dummies who sit on the boards of directors of these radio groups who wouldn’t know Yahoo from Yoo-Hoo. YouTube from Boob Tube. Twenty-four hour radio from podcasting.

And it would take a real shrewd dude to understand that the answers that they are seeking as to how radio can find a place in the digital world are as close as their PDs, managers, talent and account execs who are presently in their employ.

The Best Run Radio Group hasn’t stepped forward yet and isn’t even on the horizon. Time is running out.

It has nothing to do with the past.

It’s about the future – if there is one – for a once proud business that seems determined to run itself into the ground on the backs of its employees instead of launch into the future on their broad shoulders.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. IMPORTANT: First you must check your mail or spam filter to verify your subscription immediately after signing up before daily service can begin.
Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.