November 28, 2015

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9/4/00 Emmis Equals Excellence
“Eric, you were awfully hard on the boss in your editorial," chided a caller. "I’d be interested to know what you think is an ideal style of operation for Radio." (If you have not read the editorial — I Dreamed I was Lowry Mays...” Aug. 7, 2000 — I wrote about a nightmare: I dreamed about dominating the world of broadcasting and getting rid of all the good things in our business. But it was only a dream.)
Perhaps you think my position on corporate conglomerates is anti-business. It is not. I own and operate successful and profitable businesses. Someday, I hope to build an empire larger than those we’ve seen to date. I understand that running a public company isn’t easy, nor is employing thousands of people. I also understand the need for systems, standards and tight budgets. So, what would I do differently? What standard would I set?
The ideal Radio company would focus on profitability through excellence, not through cutting. Where do you go once you’ve cut all the meat off the bones? The meat in a Radio station is its people.
Radio brands are built on links with the community. Great Radio incomes are based on relationships with listeners and with advertisers. Radio has always been the local medium that reaches out and touches listeners and advertisers, and it is the master of face-to-face interaction. These core building blocks of a solid Radio brand require people, energy and creativity.
Happy, enthusiastic, energetic people who love working for you will go to great lengths to see you become successful. Unhappy, abused, unappreciated, never-good-enough people will sabotage your success and leave the second they can escape.
Successful companies focus on encouraging their people, fostering excellence, creating great environments and rewarding performance with good compensation and encouragement. These companies place no limits on what employees can earn, as long as they produce great successes in return. Bad companies make money by cutting deeper and failing to invest in their product and their people. There are many excellent Radio companies. Jeff Smulyan, the subject of this issue, is the poster boy for Radio excellence. Emmis Broadcasting continually is rated the favorite company to work for in Radio. They are known for their excellent people, vision and environment — an ideal against which all companies in Radio should be measured. Jeff Smulyan may be the best, most well-balanced operator in Radio. Emmis turns a handsome profit without destroying employees and audience relationships. In fact, Emmis soars as a sales, programming and promotion-focused company. (Yes, I do own a few shares in Emmis.)
I have serious concerns about where our industry will go without a focus on excellence. Yet, guys like Smulyan and a few others out there give me hope that Radio will not be cut to the bone. As long as there are guys like him in the business, there will always be excellence in our industry.

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