My Favorite Radio CEO

I know what you’re thinking.

That I’m going to name John Hogan or Farid Suleman as the lesser of the evils just to titillate the masses and coerce them into subscribing to my daily feeds.

Now, how could I do that?

What I’d like to do is describe some of the characteristics and strategies that I think a radio CEO should adopt in the digital age. I often blister these poor (or should I say rich) incompetents with criticism. Why not step up and offer some positive things so they can criticise me. Turnabout is fair play, after all.

One caveat.

Don’t take any of this advice. I want to do it and I want to be paid $11 million a year for it like Farid.

Sorry, I’m getting carried away. That's selfish. So in the spirit of good karma, please take it and go use it if you like.

• Work for $1 a year

What? What? CEOs do it in other industries. You know, they ask their people to deal with pay cuts, firings and budget reductions and they lead the way by taking the biggest hit. See, this is what is missing in radio and why virtually all of the group CEOs are not well respected. The pain starts at the top. Do this and maybe the rest of your team will follow.

• Fire corporate people that someone reports to

How dare you fire the morning guy who just turned in number one ratings in one of your markets (this happened again recently, by the way). After cutting your salary to $1, get rid of the corporate people who I define as the ones someone reports to. So if you are employing anyone who exists so that someone reports to them, they’re history.

• Make all managers report directly to the boss – you

So, if you own six stations in a market – have six managers who have clearly defined missions (more on this later) and direct accountability. The only thing you need is the financials that show what he or she is doing is in fact working. If they can’t get it done, plug in a manager who can. Everyone works separately and they make their goals or else you replace them. By the way, I hardly know anyone who would argue with this kind of accountability. What they can’t stand is running a station that they aren’t really running.

• Meet with your managers once a year

And don’t be a cheap SOB and make them pay for lunch out of their station budget, either. Take a page out of the richest person in the world’s playbook – Warren Buffett. Buffett buys the assets of companies – no, not the widgets and hard structure – the people and management. He meets with his company CEOs once a year – that’s it – reportedly for just a few hours and then he takes them to a restaurant in Omaha and they have lunch – on him. This will work in radio because the not ready for prime time players who act as CEOs are so far removed from the street they don’ know what to do next. Check their share prices if you've got any doubts.

• Offer a one-page employment contract

Hire a manager for a year. Give her or him a one page list of what you expect – measurable goals and a judgment date. If they meet these goals to your satisfaction, promise them a renewal with an increase in pay specified in advance (you could always make it more). Be specific. If they don’t, they know what’s going to happen. You have the right to replace them. If they succeed or overachieve you may also offer longer term renewals but you have to honor them and stay out of their business.

• The Manager hires the PD and Sales Manager

I know, this happens already. Ya think so? I hear of too many hiring’s that were misrepresented because corporate was either not told or not willing to live up to the handshake some poor sucker made. The manager should always decide who his or her program director and sales manager will be. They serve at the station manager's pleasure. And do the same thing – one page employment contract with goals and judgment dates above.

• No corporate initiatives – ever

Now, I’m really pissing you off. Sorry, didn’t mean to, but your current system doesn’t work. Even my precious Internet, mobile and podcasting initiatives that I would implement in a nanosecond must come from the local level. I know this hurts you and will cause great pain – to you. Corporate should see itself as advisors. That’s what I try to do with my clients – advise, not consult. Inspire (hopefully), help them determine their game plan – become a resource -- not a replacement for local decision making. This would work for corporate just as well. Boy oh boy, imagine all the savings when you eliminate those corporate Internet positions (I'm being sarcastic here) and let the local manager and their team answer your mandate for the digital future.

• If it works in New York, forget about it

Or San Francisco or Davenport or anywhere. Another great mistake of radio CEOs is taking something that might have worked in one market and then ramming it down the throats of some poor manager trying to keep their job, make their house payments and send their kids through college. No need under my plan. Your job as “advisor” not “corporate dictator” is to introduce success stories to each other. You hired the best person for each station and act like it – let them decide.

• One manager per station

If you’re unwilling to do this I’m taking back all my ideas and I quit. Look, what is it going to take to get it through our heads that each station needs a top dog? You’ve been trying this three for one deal for twelve years and it hasn’t been working. Each station deserves – no, requires – its own full-time manager and if you still can’t recognize that then you are indeed going down with the ship. It’s an unbreakable rule – a demand – one manager per station. (Yes, and one PD per station and guess what I’m going to say about the number of sales managers per station).

• Help your stations sell

You’d be wiser to encourage but not demand local managers to continue to train their sales people. Radio salespeople are under trained. Corporate should offer solutions and the local manager should be free to opt in. And if the local manager wants to triple the sales staff, encourage it.

• Don’t contact, call, email, text or visit your managers

I know what you’re going to say – I’ve spent too much time in academia. Right. I want to be more like the CEOs who can’t get their share prices up over a few dollars. Not. Hear me out. Your time is best spent by coming up with corporate strategy and hiring the best people who can carry it out. Stop calling them. Stop with the weekly or monthly reports. You have your yardstick for judgment day – that one page contract with what you expect. Send memos to all managers with things that have to with resources – ideas. Don’t micromanage.

Hey, I’m just getting warmed up. I know the people who are reading this and saying “amen” are the ones actually running radio stations.

The ones who need this advice the most – the wannabe Jack Welch’s of the world – are probably saying, “I never liked him anyway”.

Bottom line: radio is broken and it is falling behind in the chain of media available to future audiences.

Top down management is a failure. Hands-on grass roots management is the answer to radio’s problems.

The digital future will not come from New York or San Antonio.

What to do with radio’s future will not evolve from five regional managers. That system didn’t work in good times and it won’t work now.

One more thing.

I often ask for some of my compensation in salary and stock. This is a good idea for you. If you give someone a chance to make a difference, see if they are willing to bet on it with some of your stock.

Hmm. Let’s see.

So, if I can turn around Citadel with some of these concepts, let’s say I get $50 a week for salary. And lots of stock – priced at 94 cents as of Friday. When it hits $2 a share I’ve more than doubled it.

I'm rich!

We’ve had some fun with this topic but keep in mind that in every way – radio works best when it is local.

Local terrestrial radio.

Local new Internet streams.

Locally-generated podcasts.

Local WiFi strategy.

Oh, and I guess I’m also saying – management in control locally.

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.