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November 23, 2014

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4/22/02 Are You Too Ruthless?

Several years ago, I asked a very wealthy man for the key to his success. To my dismay, his response was: “You have to be an S.O.B. Business is not about friendships; it’s about making money. Soft people fail.”

I was mortified, because I believe you can succeed without being ruthless. While this man was wealthy, I’m not sure I would consider him a success because, today, his reputation precedes him. Those who have dealt with him know his tactics and how he treats people, and they go out of their way to avoid doing business with him. Still, he remains the S.O.B. he so proudly bragged of being.

Those who believe you must be a cutthroat to succeed in business may have never learned the laws of reciprocity. Most successful people I know understand that it’s more important to build trust than to get business done now. This philosophy results in more business over time.

Screwing customers and colleagues is definitely not required and, in the long run, it will cost you. People have long memories. True, anyone can make a lot of money by deceiving and lying, but there's a price to pay — you are likely to get only one sale. Selling a schedule that you know won’t work falls into the “screwing” category and will benefit you only once. In the long run, Machiavellian business tactics are self-defeating. Those people you suckered and robbed will remember you. In their own quiet but powerful ways, they will do whatever they can to see you punished. That may be as little as ignoring your next sales effort, to bad-mouthing you (or even worse). The same is true with employees or co-workers. You can exploit them for a while but, over time, they will get even with you.

The wise businessperson acts benevolently, understanding that the resulting trust and loyalty will pave a golden path of opportunity. With each passing decade, every dollar will come more easily because of the good will, trust and useful relationships developed along the way.

Unfortunately, in many Radio companies today, pressure to perform means an unintentional requirement to screw advertisers. A sales manager recently told a rep: “I don’t care if it works for the advertiser; get the order.” It’s a sad reality we face as an industry. Sadder still is the advertiser churn created by poor results when this occurs. The impact hurts the salesperson, the station and the good name of Radio. People don’t want to work for those companies because the pressure brings loss of reputation and self-esteem.

Being nice doesn’t mean you are weak. Being tough does not mean you are ruthless. But being cutthroat usually cuts your own throat. Are your advertisers and employees sharpening the knife?


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