Several weeks ago, I was honored to start my 50th year in the radio broadcast business. That’s a long time with good and not-so-good experiences. There were wins, losses, and lots of in-between. Most of all, I have never stopped learning and, because of that, I am thankful to have absorbed some of the best in this business over the years.
In a book I was reading recently, the author repeatedly referred to mentors in his life as individuals who would belong in his career “Mt. Rushmore”. This, of course, got me thinking, after all these years in the business, who I would place on mine. This could be for those who offered the most useful knowledge that still is part of what I do today. Not a massive list but a group that passed on very specific attributes that have had a profound effect on my career.
Ed Bouchelle: The General Manager for most of my tenure at 98Q in Vidalia, GA. Ed taught me, from day one, how to see opportunity in adversity; to see failure as an opportunity to learn. Ed’s daily mantra (which also adorned his desk) was “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. My introduction to that quote, by the way. His “let’s make some lemonade” quote is something I still whisper to myself when confronted with a problem.
Dan Vallie: A legendary programmer, consultant, and founder of the National Radio Institute. Dan and I worked together at EZ Communications when I was program director for B97 in New Orleans and he was VP/Programming for the company. Prior to being there, I was an “everybody’s buddy” type of manager. I was always very close to my staff on a personal level. I thought that if they liked me, they would get the job done. Through some very trying moments (for me and Dan), he showed me how to balance my relationship with the staff. He allowed me to see that “like” and “respect” are two very different feelings and yield two very different results.
Bill Steding: my General Manager at Bonneville’s KAAM/KZPS, Dallas. Everything I learned about the business side of the industry, I learned from Bill. It was the first time I was an integral part of departmental budgeting and goal-setting. Bill’s example of treating the department’s money as if it were my own really built my radio business sense. And, at that time, I may have been one of the first program directors to graduate from the RAB’s Wharton School of Business CRMC program.
Dan Bennett: my General Manager at all-talk KLIF in Dallas. Dan hired me to bring music programming sensibilities to talk radio programming with 6 live, local talk show hosts. What I wound up walking away with was a much better understanding of individual talent coaching. I had 6 live, local major market talk show hosts under my supervision. Dan was a master at motivating talk hosts to be at their best. Most of the talent coaching techniques I use today came from Dan.
Dave Paulus: my last, and longest-tenured, GM at Max Media of Hampton Roads, Virginia, and current management consultant business partner. If anyone could have appeared in my career at a better time, it was Dave. He taught me the sensitivities and attributes of everyday leadership – trust, communication, respect, and fun. Had a hand in building two excellent cultures in Norfolk and in Nashville. There’s a definite reason we are in business together!
Mike McVay: longtime consultant and my direct supervisor at Cumulus Media while I had oversight of all Westwood One Full time syndicated country programming from Nashville. Mike taught me how to navigate the corporate radio world since it was my first stint with one of the “big 3”. I learned diplomacy, respect, and humility for sure, thanks to him!
Finally – the person who would be at the forefront of that career at Mt Rushmore would be my big brother, Lonnie, a long-time business consultant. He has served as my personal cheerleader, confidant, and career coach still to this day.
You’ve heard the phrase “Gratitude changes attitude”. It’s true, and John’s legacy story is one of the reasons for this project. Acknowledging those who influenced your career is a powerful force that positively affects the legacy storyteller. John’s long, storied career affected hundreds, if not thousands, of broadcasters who would put him on their Mt. Rushmore. Who would be on yours?