Sometimes Change Needed to Succeed.
Scott and Brenda Bebout have been running the four stations in Tupelo Mississippi (WSYE, WZLQ, WWMS, WELO) that make up the Mississippi Radio Group for just over 6 years now. When they first arrived, it was bad. Revenue was down, morale was low and nobody had any pride in the products. They grabbed the challenge by the horns, incorporated a little leadership inspired by the great Lou Holtz and turned things around. Next week, Scott and Brenda are featured in our "Best Managers of 2011" issue which is released on November 21st. Here is a sneak peak on how their leadership skills took them to the top.
"We genuinely love this market, but the first year we were not so sure! There were many nights we would look at each other and say, "What on earth have we gotten ourselves into"? Ownership was great! Facilities were wonderful! We loved the town! There was one BIG problem. The majority of the people were not the right fit for our radio philosophy. Revenues were down. Morale was terrible. There was no pride in the products even though we have the only three 100,000 watt stations in North Mississippi with great formats! A good work ethic was hard to find. In other words, the people who called themselves the Mississippi Radio Group, were not those who could propel us to success. For the first few months we tried to "manage in" all the people that we had come to know. In the end, we had to make major changes in the staff we had inherited. That's a lot of change when the entire staff only numbered around 25. We can say with all sincerity that the people who are part of this organization now are the right fit! That is what we are most proud of! The people we see everyday are the right ones! The sales people now have tenure and have given us some of the best revenue numbers in the history of the company. The programmers have taken good stations and made them better and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done! The front office/traffic/business center is in great shape! From the front of the building to the back, we can now say we have the right folks in place…and we say it with a lot of pride! It was Lou Holtz who said, "Motivation is simple. Get rid of the ones who aren't"! That's what we did, and Coach Holtz is right."
The Path To Winning
"We feel like a successful Manager has to make the day to day routine of selling radio fun, while at the same time expecting and encouraging accountability. We are family here at the Mississippi Radio Group. Sometimes we celebrate a big sale, good ratings, a successful promotion, or a winning community event. Sometimes we celebrate one of our staff getting married or having a new baby. That happens a lot! There are other times when we have to close to the door and say, "You did what?!" Everyone makes mistakes and falls short and an effective team leader addresses those shortcomings honestly and timely, then gets back on the playing field! We both worked for an owner one time who said, "If I go into one of my stations and they are NOT having fun I can guarantee you that I'm not making much money." He was right."
Making Sure Your People Are Trained
"Along with having fun and holding people accountable we also need to help equip our staff with the right tools to be successful. That means sales people need to learn how to "think on their feet automatically" and be ready for most any scenario that they find themselves in out on the street. We continuously train our people to be the best radio experts possible. Programmers need to know that what they do drives our revenue and that they are as important and significant as the sellers are. Being sure that we equip the team with the right tools to make them successful assures us of our own success. By doing this our people know we care about them and caring about your staff and expressing that is a key ingredient to success in any market.
How they've Become Successful Leaders
Brenda: One thing is that I have a passion for radio that I want to communicate to our team. Hopefully they see that in our sales meetings and programming successes. It is critical for anyone's success that they are passionate about there lives and careers everyday and that it shows! Our team knows that my door is open all the time. Accessibility is important, whether it's about a job related challenge or question or whether it's about a personal situation in someone's life, I think they know that I'm there for them. I am also the station cheerleader! When something good happens to any of our staff, I ring the cowbell behind my desk! It's fun and giving credit where credit is due has helped my success in this great industry!
Scott: Working with someone like Brenda is a major part of my success. Not many husband/wives teams are successful for very long. Most of my "guy" friends know that Brenda and I work together and sometimes they say, "I can't believe you work with your wife"!? I love what I do and I get to do it with the love of my life! What more could I ask for? Success also comes when your team senses in you that you really are interested in their lives, not just at the station, but in there personal lives as well. This is true in Tupelo as well as our Georgia stations that I help manage. I don't pry, but if someone is obviously having a bad day I'll try to, at least, let them know that the door is open. Our meetings deal with much more than radio sales. It's hard to be happy at work if you are not happy at home and vice versa. With that in mind we deal everyday with helping people become better people. I'd be remiss if I did not say too that my success over the last 6 plus years has been because our owner is a man that really believes in me and Brenda. That motivates me to bust my butt everyday to assure his investment is in good hands! When Morgan Dowdy hired us he came to Tupelo from the Gulf Coast and said, "I've done my homework on you two, I've hired the right people to turn this place around. Now treat these stations like they're yours and we'll be successful". We have no intention of NOT living up to that kind of coaching! I wish other owners knew how much believing in there managers meant to the success of their markets!
Succeeding in 2012
#1) Stay focused on Client Centered Selling! This will be critical as other media opportunities become available. We MUST be in front of, have relationships with, and give excellent customer service to all local and regional/national clients!
#2) To continue to integrate social media opportunities into what we do in traditional radio. Traditional radio is alive and well in North Mississippi, but we must stay on top of other ways we can best service our clients and listeners!
#3) To be more community minded than ever before! Our local audiences and clients need to feel a connection to our stations now more than ever!! All of our products must have an emotional attachment to both clients and listeners!!
Reach out to Scott and Brenda and congratulate them on being great managers for radio HERE or leave your thoughts below.
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For the past three years, every other week I look for a familiar name or face in RADIO INK. Well I did this week. Congrats Scott & Brenda. It shows me that smaller markets can get big recognition.
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