At Cumulus, Big Dickey Is Watching

In case you've heard it all when it comes to stupid consolidation tricks, here's one I'll bet you missed.

Cumulus is installing cameras at some -- possibly all -- of their local stations so Big Brother can watch the daily sales meetings from Atlanta.

One indentured Cumulus slave wrote:

"The 'official' reason is to allow the executives to 'participate' in sales training - even the Execs who have never sold a commercial in their lives. The real reason is that some of the managers were preempting or rescheduling sales training sessions to allow their sellers more time on the streets, or changing department head meetings to a time that was more convenient for those involved".

It's hard to know for sure what Atlanta is thinking but Cumulus employees sure don't appreciate what's been happening at their stations lately.

This is the direct result of CSOS -- the installation of the Cumulus Sales Operating System that was first introduced in January.

Here is what it is and some of the expected consequences:

1. Starting on the first of the year, weekly sales meetings became daily sales meetings.

2. Now Cumulus sales meetings can be monitored via a computer screen usually in a conference room via Skype where available.

3. The modifying of corporately mandated meeting times is not allowed so now all meetings are subject to monitoring without any notification. Obviously this will put a damper on any exchange of ideas or discussion that might be considered a criticism of Atlanta. One employee put it like this, "Yes, Big Dickey IS watching .. and listening".

4. While corporate in Atlanta may feel that spying on meetings can reassure them that all their salespeople are present, engaged and active, I have heard that some resent being treated like kids.

5. These new age sales meetings can run anywhere from a half hour to an hour and the local sales manager, GM and/or other managers run them.

6. The main thrust seems to be to introduce a different sales topic every day. For example, one day it might be "pets and vets" where salespeople would then be required to leave the meeting, get appointments and go on calls. Only one problem. Some veteran salespeople have upwards of 50-100 actual clients on the air every month so this "exercise" is taking time away from actually taking care of business.

7. Sales employees who now must also enter their own orders into a computer (remember, the traffic people were fired), also have to write copy in many cases and make sure the spots get on the air. Not easy when Cumulus has forced furloughs on its employees until the end of June when vacations are under way. Air talent is also distracted from production by having to voice track many shows.

8. I have found that the resource sales material that Cumulus gets from the RAB seems to be appreciated by some local salespeople. The meddling and spying -- not.

9. While many salespeople have no other option but to let Big Brother watch and take up their selling time with burdensome televised daily meetings, others wait patiently for the economy to get better because the indentured servants want to move on.

I used to teach the Dale Carnegie Course. Dale Carnegie training is excellent in human relations and in sales and management.

One sales idea they had was to hold brief meetings where all attendees are standing up. Everyone on their feet. Keep it short and sweet. Of course, that was before Big Brother was watching.

Look, I've got nothing against Lew Dickey. He's always been nice to me but then again I never worked for him.

This isn't about him personally. It's about his misguided management of a public company.

I'll bet if you were in charge of hiring a CEO for your company you would look to see how much experience they had actually working in your industry or a related one.

It appears radio consolidators have forgotten what it is like to be a line employee on a daily basis -- if they ever knew.

That's how ridiculous strategies to control everything from one location gets its legs. Keep in mind Clear Channel runs its Repeater Radio from Cent Com and a few news hubs. Citadel plays syndicator.

Anyone who ever worked on the line knows that more interference from corporate is a recipe for failure.

Warren Buffett -- you know that pauper from Omaha -- must agree. When he buys a company he actually buys the management of that company and keeps them working for him. Buffett is said to meet with the CEOs of the companies Berkshire Hathaway owns only one day a year -- and he takes them to lunch at his favorite steak house.

Hell, a lot of Cumulus employees would probably be happy to buy Lew lunch if he only met with them once a year.

Buffett, unlike Dickey (did I mention these two guys in the same sentence?), spends almost all of his time doing his job -- finding companies to buy so he can increase the stock price for Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

And Dickey is not the only control freak in radio.

What do you call Clear Channel's John Slogan Hogan and Citadel's Fagreed Suleman? At least Clear Channel has some good equipment and some systems in place.

One Cumulus employee dubbed his company Clear Channel Lite.

The "eyes in the skies" concept being embraced by yet another over the top radio consolidator speaks to why even the end of the recession will not save the radio industry from its leaders.

Loyalty is a two way street.

Consolidators have gotten away with budget cutbacks, mass firings, increased corporate interference and overworking its staff up until now because radio people are professionals who love what they do and care about their audiences.

These same Cumulus sales people who now have to endure Big Brother sales meetings are often working nine or ten hours a day. Some say they even work weekends.

Yet, these radio professionals take pride in their communities.

I know and you can confirm that they then use their own time to give back to the clients and communities that support them.

Isn't that the game plan that works best for radio?

Cumulus is the Dickey Company and the family can do with it what they want.

By all benchmarks, consolidation has failed:

By stock price.

By revenue.

By uprooting local radio for Repeater Radio.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, also a general in World War II said:

"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it".

It appears that thought doesn't burden the minds of consolidation CEOs who have concluded that not only does local radio not work for them but local management and sales can no longer be trusted to do what it excelled at for decades --

That is, before a "private" became the "general".

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