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Inside The Mind of a Great Manager

12-6-2012

Bruce Demps recently resigned from his regional VP position at Radio One, leaving on good terms after his job description changed.  Demps has stacked up a resume loaded with success stories at some of radios biggest companies, including Radio One, CBS Radio, and Clear Channel. He wins because he excels at one of the most basic leadership qualities, yet one so few are able to master: people skills. Former Clear Channel Senior VP Peter Ferrara, who worked with Demps for several years, says, Bruce understands his success is dependent on the success of the people around him. As a result, he always worked to help his people be their best. A lot of radio executives are good at solving problems, but Bruce was also good at preventing them. Because he took the time and showed genuine interest in each station, each market, and each person, he was able to be proactive rather than reactive. Today, we go inside the mind of this great manager to see how he did it.

RI: How are managers going to succeed in the next few years?
Retaining and attracting better people. People who can multitask and be more resourceful. The key there is being the kind of manager that great people want to work with and for. That's the challenge. Being able to do the things where people want to work with and for you, not because they have to or you are the only option - they want to be associated with you. If you don't have better people, you are dead.

RI: How do you find better people? 
Better people will find you if you are transparent, if you build people up, if you share your experiences and help people  grow, and if you care about them personally. They want to work for you. They seek you out. You have to get that message out. There was a time when the great managers had that. It wasn't like it was one out of every ten. It was probably more like seven or eight out of every ten. But, over time, just the stress and strain of beating your own best results, caused a few people to lose sight of the fact that this is still a people business. If you are going to win, it's going to be because of the people who want to be associated with you.

RI: What's on the revenue horizon for radio? 
I think 2013 is going to be tough to beat 2012. The political revenue that helped this year won't be in place. There is still some uncertainty about where we are going from an economic perspective. When we look at it, and I go back to comparing apples to apples, there is so many lines of business that are related to our local radio stations, where the revenue is being spent in other places today. Like in the syndicated space, it's amazing the amount of money that is being invested that never hits a local radio station's income statement. Just in the urban space, you can effectively reach the African American consumers by buying Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Yolanda Adams, Rickey Smiley, Coco Brother, Russ Parr and Michael Baisden because those shows are on the radio stations that you would buy in a top 10 market, or market 202. That revenue sometimes is not counted as part of how the local radio station perform. But, without the local radio stations, that revenue wouldn't exist.

The same thing in the digital space. We are taking the radio brands, the personalities, the goodwill of those stations that have been built up over many, many years, and operating our websites and other related products and driving people to our websites in the digital front, but it's local radio that's making that happen. But that doesn't always get counted back to the local radio station's income statement.

The discount deals programs is sort of like the things we used to do in radio, even the Groupon and Living Social, those are just old radio ideas. Our industry kind of created those things. Some of our best people are now driving the revenue on those fronts. We are not going to be able to compare 2010, 2011, to 2012, to 2013 without putting an asterisk next to each number, because we are not comparing apples to apples.

RI: What is your opinion of the radio industry? 
We are comparing ourselves, unfairly, to the past. It's like trying to compare the rail industry today with the rail industry that didn't have to compete with the air industry. You can't compare them. It's still a great business. It still has tremendous cash flow. The problem is the acquisition costs and things that happened when we believed we were always going to be able to grow cashflow double digits into the future. Those days ended, really before 2008, but in earnest in 2008. It's just that the bear in the corner has this insatiable appetite that we can't feed. When I look at some of the stick values for properties that are throwing off a couple of million dollars a year in cashflow, and people paid a hundred million dollars for them, how long does it take? It takes forever? They will never pay them off. Not with that station.

RI: What kind of toll does that have on the people trying to run stations?
You have to continue to beat your best- in some cases with fewer resources. They guy or lady who had a fantastic year, they get a pat on the back, and a bonus check, and maybe something to hang on the wall. But, next year, they've got to beat their best again. Then again, and again, and again. That appears to be the only way to make things happen.

RI: Between Infinity, Clear Channel and Radio One, who did you like working for more? 
I think my time working and learning from Peter Ferrara was maybe my best years. Peter was my Senior Vice President when I was an RVP. He was the guy who saw fit to promote me. I think I learned more from him than anyone else. I would have to say my Clear Channel days, when I moved from being a 7 station market manager and moved into the RVP realm. But, I always had an old saying when people would ask who my best boss was... when I was employed, I would always say the guy I work for now.

RI: Why did you resign?
I was in a position where I could say no. I worked really hard to be in a position where I could say no. A lot of guys have to say yes to whatever continues to provide them with a check. I was in a position where I didnt have to say yes to something that I didnt think was in the best interest of my family. So, because I wasnt willing to do that, the company got to make the next decision. We parted ways in a very positive and respectful fashion, and I wish those guys nothing but the best.

You can read more from Demps in the upcoming issue of Radio Ink magazine.
To subscribe, GO HERE. Reach out to Demps to congratulate him on an outstanding and productive Radio career Bruce Demps brucedemps@gmail.com




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- NyZCjzTSJeC
(3/6/2013 9:52:28 PM)
To this day, I say Bruce was the best boss I ever had!

- Kris Carter
(12/6/2012 11:47:56 AM)
I had the pleasure of knowing and briefly working with Bruce in Jacksonville, FLA. He was and has always been a class act. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to see him in action.

- Kinnon Thomas
(12/6/2012 9:51:00 AM)
I don't know Bruce but just reading the article I want to!

- ANGELICA BALDERAS
(12/6/2012 8:36:23 AM)
There is no question that Bruce cares about the people who work with him.

I reported to Bruce for a number of years, and I can't think of a single time when we spoke, where his first question wasn't "How's the family?".

He knew that if my family was good, chances were pretty good that I was too.

- Michael Oppenheimer

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