The Dickey Ding Dong School of Management

I've come to believe that Cumulus is a mean-spirited manager of employees.

Sorry to say, because I always liked Lew Dickey. He's smarter than he is acting and tougher than he looks.

That's my opinion and nothing more than that, but in light of some of desperate things Cumulus is now doing to squeeze blood from their employees, it's serves as a poignant example of how not to motivate good people.

Where Cumulus once had a cluster full of FM stations with live morning shows and live airshifts right through to midnight, they now have as few as three salaried jocks for all those stations.

We already know that consolidators double up by forcing program directors to be production and music directors. You know, to save money.

I get that companies like Cumulus are in serious financial trouble.

What I don't get is their increasing penchant for management by fear -- the "I Spy" mentality of this particular company.

What lit my fire last week was to see the way management is talking down to its employees -- it borders on abusive, in my opinion.

Look, I'm not espousing pie in the sky, touch-feely management. I know these consolidators are not capable of human relations beyond -- do it or your fired.

I'd sure like to have back some of the memos I've written in my career and the mistakes I've made. So it's not about being perfect. All of us are fallible. You see me owning up to them again -- here.

Not so with radio consolidators.

They are arrogant.

It's their way or the unemployment line.

I've worked for some tough customers in my career. Paul Drew was one of my favorite bosses, but I shook when I read his laser-like memos that could cut through you to your core. Dale Carnegie he was not. But I always got the feeling Paul cared about my career and how I could be air talent.

Consolidators care about saving themselves from their undeniable fate --bankruptcy.

Now they've taken their gloves off -- as witnessed by this latest example of mean management.

Let me set the stage.

There was a memo circulated recently purportedly written by Mark Sullivan, Senior VP for the mothership Cumulus.

The Cumulus Spy Meetings happen all day long at various stations -- typically lasting a half hour -- and are run through a Skype setup and video cameras allowing local Cumulus stations to beam the meeting up to "Scotty" so to speak.

From several accounts, the already low Cumulus morale has not improved since "I Spy" began its engagement in local markets. Employees are walking on eggshells trying to keep their jobs, support their families, maintain health care, send their children to college.

Raises are out -- but you already know that.

Some consolidators are asking employees to take pay cuts -- even talent that is responsible for 50 or more percent of their entire stations revenue.

One Repeater Reporter at Cumulus told me, "When Lew (Dickey) writes them (memos) they're several pages long. Recently in a conference call he told everyone that in this economy he could sell their lenders on Cumulus and get them to amend their deal then why can't we sell our local stations. I'm paraphrasing, I don't know the exact wording he used, but the gist of it was that we suck and he's a genius".

But here's a sample of the Sullivan memo in preparation for his series of "I Spy" phone conferences and my opinions -- Dale Carnegie is turning over in his grave:

Have you reviewed the salaries of your top AE’s from 2007, 2008 and year to date 2009? Are your top AE’s seeing their incomes decreasing at the same rate as our billing in your market? In other words, are they feeling the same level of pain that the company is feeling?

Since when is "pain" a motivator for employees? Imagine trying to get more billing out of a station by arguing that top salespeople should have decreasing incomes to match the stations -- and by extension -- the Dickey's loss of wealth.

Do you have an “activity standards” in place for all aspects of CSOS? Phone (Jam) Session requirements (dials, contacts, appts), Weekly Planner requirements (number of Stage 3 and Stage 4 calls per week), etc…?

Hell, Stage 4 sounds like cancer and to me that's what this form of mean management really is -- except the patient is Cumulus and it's dying.

Do you have a New Business Activity Requirement (standard) in place for each rep? I would recommend that each rep be required to generate 4 new pieces of business per month (place a minimum order size for a qualifying new account).

Does this guy know about the recession? I'm just asking because you'd think by his tone that his salespeople don't want to sell ads and make money. That's just not the case.

Do you have CONSEQUENCES in place for your New Business Activity Requirement? I would recommend that you pull a billing account each and every month a rep does not achieve their New Business Activity Requirement. It goes without saying that a rep should not be invited to stay in our organization if they fail to achieve their New Business Activity Requirements for more than 3-4 months consecutively.

Management by threat -- pull an account if you don't make your goal. Are these guys nuts? Could Joe Torre tell his players, strike out and I'll give you fewer at-bats or I'll cut your income? It defies imagination that you could motivate good and talented people by brow beating them and threatening their livelihood. This approach is tantamount to whipping a race horse mercilessly when the jockey knows it can't win.

In your weekly sales training (category and basic sales skill training) are you role-playing with sellers?

Mr. Sullivan, this is on you. If your salespeople need to be rehearsing role-playing, you failed your job in adequately training them.

Do you have Regular, focused recruitment efforts in place in your market (On-air ads, job fairs, referral system, etc…)? Managing proper activity by nature means you will have turn-over. You should always be recruiting.

To quote President Reagan (in his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter), "there you go again".

Fear. Fear. Fear.



Do you have a rate growth plan in place for your top 30-40 accounts? We have all suffered from rate decreases. This needs to stop ASAP. If you have not put together a plan to stair step up rates on each of your top accounts (30-40) then you need to do this immediately. Jon and I can help you with this. The work of our Rate Task Force is going to be very productive but will take time. We need to attack our rate problem today.

That's the ticket -- raise your ad rates on your best advertisers. I know Lew is a Harvard grad but they never taught us this one at Temple.

My God, I feel awful for those Cumulus employees who are forced to suffer fools and who have to sit through this verbal abuse.

What a long 30 minutes the "I Spy" meetings must be.

Here's the bottom line.

Radio is in the dumpster not because its people all of a sudden forgot how to do their jobs.

Consolidators are failing because they haven't done their jobs well -- managing money, their debt, making good strategic decisions, seeing the future clearly.

And, as witnessed by this latest abortion, apparently are not up to the challenge of leading people to succeed.

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