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Gary Rozynek

1-25-2013

Sometimes youre lucky enough to meet someone you wish you had met sooner. I think this is the result of their personality, spirit, intelligence and demeanor. It happened by accident when I called Gary Rozynek to solicit an opportunity for my client. I was covering the Mideast region for The Dave & Jimmy Show when I canvassed the state of Ohio and worked my way down to market 226. I had contacted a competing station and after asking the AMD/PD if he wanted to replace himself with my client, (Ive never been shy), I contacted the owner of the second CHR station in the market which turned out to be one of Garys stations.

Gary was kind enough to return my call and we began chatting as if we had known each other forever. He was very knowledgeable about the business and had stations in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, and Ohio. After talking for a short hour, we agreed to stay in touch and learn more about each others business. Soon we found ourselves calling each other to learn what each of us knew about a myriad of situations, markets, revenues, ratings, and all that is radio. And, thats the way it began: I met Gary Rozynek, found a friend, and developed a business relationship that I cherish. Learning about Garys entry into radio was one that I respected because he does what many wish they could: he works honestly and judiciously at our business to make it better. Gary is a model of what is great about radio and the people in it.

These days Gary is the President and CEO of Maverick Media.
Now, here's Gary's story in his own words

It was May of 1978. I had just finished tossing my mortar board high into the air and shouting in glee, reveling in joy with 10,000 of my peers at Indiana University's Assembly Hall, with diplomas in hand, a proud member of the Class of 78. My plan was to put my BS in Real Estate to use as soon as I got my license and set out to make my fortune as the next real estate mogul of Indianapolis.

First things first, though. I accepted a short term job as a waiter at a very trendy restaurant in a fashion mall. The tips would cover my bills at the three-bedroom ranch I rented with four of my college buddies. I settled into my new career and began building my network. A successful realtor had to have a vast network of contacts to tap into to do the deals, right?

I always participated in sports: cross country, basketball, and baseball. A college buddy called and said his brother ran a local radio station and they were in need of players to fill out their softball team roster. I said great and soon met Jeff Smulyan, the General Manger of WNTS, a religious outlet.

I quickly took notice of Jeffs leadership skills and his ability to set the tone for the squad. He insisted on filling out the lineup card and neatly inserted himself in the cleanup spot and playing first base. He was a solid field general and I could see he had talent. I looked forward to each summer playing with this merry band of warriors.
Fast forward to June, 1981. The country was heading towards a recession. Business bankruptcies were accelerating. Interest rates were pushing 18-19 percent; this all under the Carter administration.

My real estate career wasnt exactly flourishing. I posted three consecutive years of earning $12,000 per year. Still waiting tables at the restaurant, I was paying my bills with tip money. My big break was imminent. After one of the softball games, Jeff shared with me he was launching a brand new FM radio station in Indianapolis on the 4th of July. It would be a contemporary station called WENS and located at 97.1 on the dial. He was clearly impressed with my track record selling houses. I was flattered, but politely told him I knew nothing about media sales. I did say I enjoyed listening to the radio though.

Jeff was moved by my passion for radio. He offered me a job in sales and told me I could still wait tables if I needed additional income. He said nobody he hired knew anything about radio except his Program Director, Rick Cummings. He told me, Rozzy, you are going to have more fun selling commercial time than showing a three-bedroom colonial with a leaky toilet. He added, You will love the playlist. We are going to play a lot of Beatles!
I immediately accepted the position. I was energized. I was now in the entertainment industry. Wow!

On July 5th I reported for duty and found myself going on my first sales call with Jeffs partner and lifelong friend, Steve Crane. He had left a prestigious law firm in Chicago to also join our team in broadcasting. His favorite artist was James Taylor.

Driving on I-65 North to our first appointment in Steves 1975 Toyota with no air conditioning on a steamy summer day, we discussed how we would manage the call with the Senior V.P. of Advertising at American United Life, a huge insurance conglomerate. Steve said, Dont worry. Jeff gave me a list of questions to ask about their needs. He said to listen twice as much as we speak." Words of wisdom that have stuck with me forever! I also felt lucky to get that level of training and support from day one -- another strategy I carry with me in my company today.
When the fall ratings were released, WENS debuted with a 7.0 share 12+. We were now the fastest-growing radio station in America. As Jerry Maguire would say, Show me the money!

I soon relinquished my waiter duties and dedicated my career to helping advertisers build and grow their businesses through our wonderful medium. Sales management was up next, and I embraced the challenge of leading, developing, and teaching future sales superstars to leave their mark on our industry.

To this day, I enjoy telling my story of how I was the first salesperson ever hired at Emmis Broadcasting. I have loved my 31 years in radio doing many different things and I am still learning and growing every day!

Lisa Miller is the President of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago. She's also one of Radio Ink's Most Influential Women in Radio. Miller can be reached at Lisa@millerbroadcast.com or 312-454-1111. So, how did you get into radio? We'd love to hear the story about why you're passionate about radio.

Read more "How I Got Into Radio Feature's" HERE




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