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Ramsey Interview


RI: Twenty years, you've been on the radio. Can you believe it?

Dave Ramsey: It's wild. It's hard to think about, but it's actually happening.

RI: What were you thinking when you realized, "Oh, my gosh. It's been 20 years"?

Dave Ramsey: A couple of things come to mind. One is, yes, it has flown by. A lot of times, things do. You look up and your kids are grown and those kinds of things. The other thing is, when I look back on this, it was harder than I thought it was going to be. We've worked really hard.

RI: The radio job, specifically, you mean?

Dave Ramsey: The whole radio business; syndicating the show, learning the business, and getting better on the air. All business is got to get in there and go win.

RI: Specifically about your radio career, Dave: Do you remember something that sticks out most in your mind that got you thinking "I nailed this. It's going to work. We are going to pick up stations. We are going to get rolling,"? Was there a specific time or station or affiliate that you really knew it was starting to kick in

Dave Ramsey: I think there are several different milestones as you go along. Certainly, when we got to 50 stations the first time... we looked at that and thought, "Wow. Maybe this is going to work." Then, when you get to 100, you think, "This is going to work. Somebody is going to pay us for this." Then every time you hit another one of those milestones, 200 stations, 300 stations, 400 stations, then start creeping up on and then break through 500. Each one of those times you do that, you go, "This is probably going to work out."

RI: How have you kept it going, and the listeners engaged, and the show evolving over 20 years. Obviously, I am guessing you have to keep changing so that you are fresh. What is it about you that you keep growing this and being a success at it?

Dave Ramsey: You know, the advice we give really hasn't changed. I am hopefully a little bit better about listening and getting into the situation and giving quality advice and leaning into it. I think I am better at that and I think that's kept it fresh. We have become a little more comfortable on the air dealing with someone that's emotional, whether they are angry, or they're sad, or there's been a tragedy, or something like that. Each time you do that, it just creates compelling radio.

RI: How important is the radio show and has the radio show become how you've grown the rest of your business?

Dave Ramsey: Initially, when we first started, it was everything. Most of our leads for anything we did came out of radio. Now we have entire divisions to our company that don't even know I have a radio show. We've got a high school curriculum in 15,000 high schools. Most of those high school students aren't even aware I have a radio show. I get into a lot of situations like that these days. We are less dependent upon radio than we used to be, across the company. It's still, certainly, one of my first loves.

RI: I was just going to ask that. How much do you love getting on the air every day and talking to people?

Dave Ramsey: I really do enjoy it. It is part of the rythym of my life after 20 years. When I take a week vacation with my family, when I get back I am ready to be back. I am ready to get back on the air. I miss it. We come on the air at one o'clock Central Time, wherever I am, when it comes around one o'clock, my brain just starts running on radio.

RI: You are all about pampering the affiliates. Talk about how you do that and how important that is to what you do for the show.

Dave Ramsey: As the largest independently syndicated show, that is not owned by coroporate America in any way out there, we didn't have a choice. We had to do something that set us aside. Not only did we have to get on the air and be excellent, not only do we have bring ratings, not only do we have to bring revenues to local stations, we figured out we had to build strong, endearing, and enduring relationships with our affiliates. There is not any question that we are the king of that. We are integrated into every area of an affiliate that we can get into. It is all just to help them, because we figured out if we help the person that works there personally, if we help the person that operates the station operate the station better, if we help the sales team make sales...we just want to be the company that is known for really jaw-dropping service, and we've been able to pull that off.

RI: What else do you want to accomplish as a successful business person? What goals have you set?

Dave Ramsey: I think the next huge goal that's in front of me, that we just starting nibbling around the edges of, is how to over the next 20 years, the next 15-20 years, transition this brand. Because, I am not going to make it. No one is. We're not going to make it out of this thing alive. We have to figure out a way that the people we've been able to help continue to get served. What that looks like in radio, what that looks like in speaking, what that looks like in books, video, and teaching, and all those kinds of things, means we are going to have to bring some other faces onto the scense gradually, and really high quality things into the marketplace so that brand transition and, literally, company succession takes place gradually over the next 15 to 20 years.

RI: Will you try to make sure the radio portion of the business stays alive? I know you've got a Spanish language edition of what your business is about. What is your long-term business plan for that?

Dave Ramsey: Well, we don't have that figured out, truthfully. The only way that radio will make sense is if someone can come along that can grow into, gradually being very, very talented on the air. There are so many shows that tried to do replacements shows, the next generation tries to get on the air after the first generation was a hit, and they just don't pull it off. We are not going to do that. We are going to do it in a way that hands it to someone that it works, or we will have a different strategy that won't involve radio. We are not going to do it unless it's excellent and it wins.

RI: Last week, you spoke in Dallas, to, as usual, a standing-room-only crowd. What did you want to try to get across to the radio audience?

Dave Ramsey: We were walking through the five key priciples of any organization that wins. The values, the things that matter to them. That was a successful day. We enjoyed that. I had a blast. I think the people in the room had a blast. We certainly got good reviews on that. But the whole idea that you just can't do everything transactionally, that relational people are the ones that win in any organization over the long haul. You can get away with ignoring relationships and ignoring integrity, and breaking all the rules, all in the name of a transaction. But, eventually, that crap comes home to roost.

RI: Talk about that Friday show. What can we expect to hear from the anniversary show?

Dave Ramsey: We are excited about this Friday show. Blake Thompson and Lara Johnson, our producer and associate producer have worked for several months on this show. We've got a ton of celebrities of different kinds from the political world, the television world, the radio world, the Country music world, and whatever else, are going to visit with us; some of them in person, some of them over the air. And we've gotten several callers lined up that heard some of the first shows that have been with us for 20 years. They will be able to share some of their stories and how their life has changed and been impacted by the information that we put out on the show. It's going to be a great day. We have a huge tent out here for the whole thing. We've got the food trucks, live music and bands are going to be here. It's a circus kind of an atomosphere. Out team is really excited.

RI: That's great. I understand they're streaming it live as well. That will be a lot of fun to watch.

 Dave Ramsey: Yeah, we are video streaming it. Our whole camera crew is doing a full production. That's going to be awesome.

RI: Do you have another 20 years in you?

Dave Ramsey: Oh definitely. I am not out of energy. I still love what I'm doing. As long as God gives me energy to do it and I am still having fun, we'll keep doing it. It is just hard to not get energy when people are being helped.

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