Larry Wilson is Radio Ink Magazine’s Radio Executive of The Year. The issue, in which Wilson appears on the cover, is out this week. The Alpha Media CEO is in the midst of creating his second large radio company, which will consist of 252 stations in 54 markets once the deal with Digity closes (which is expected soon). His first big company was, of course, Citadel which he sold to Forstmann Little back in 2001 for $1.2 Billion. Wilson and his team created a culture in radio that many people loved to work for at Citadel and that has carried over to Alpha. Here’s an excerpt from our cover story with Wilson where we ask him to tell us why people love to work for him.
RI: Why do you think people want to come to work for you?
Wilson: I recently met with one of our new people for the first time. She joined us from another radio company. I stopped in her office and she said, “I just can’t believe how much support you give everybody.” And she’s at a high level; she’s a sales manager. And she said, “You give so much support to people, and it’s a fun place to work.” That’s one reason. Here’s another. Our management team was on the phone with a few banks one time and we told them, “We’re going to have to cut this call off around 4 o’clock because we have a Halloween party for our employees and their children.” These bankers were like, “You have a what?” They never envisioned that you could have that kind of thing, but that’s the kind of stuff we do. When people do a good job, we’ll have breakfast for them and the management team will cook for them. It sounds corny, but it’s a family. If somebody’s got a problem with their child being ill or there’s another problem, as soon as I find out about it, I’ll be the one on the phone with them to see what we can do. I’m just not sure the other companies in radio do those kinds of things. There are a lot of great companies in radio, but we really work at the relationships. We expect results. If you don’t get results, you can’t be with us. And we want superstars. You need to be a superstar to come here. But once you do that, we work very hard to make this the best place to work in the industry. Whether we are or not, I don’t know, but we’d be up there. We work very hard to make this the best place to work in the industry.
RI: So what kind of person do you have to be to work for Alpha?
Wilson: We’re looking for people that have a real sense of urgency and people that can build relationships. They talk about programmatic buying. That’s fine and good, but for me this
business is about relationships. I went and called on a client in Peoria, Illinois — Alwan Brothers. It’s a high-end gourmet place, mostly meats. These Lebanese brothers and a cousin own the business, third generation. We’ve become friends. I’m always buying stuff from them. At Christmas time, I ship their steaks to a lot of our folks. It’s about relationships. It’s about local direct business. That’s the lifeblood of what we do. The transactional stuff is important, it’s there. If you’ve got the ratings, you get it. But if you don’t, you’ve got to beg for it. On local direct, you have to have those relationships. If they’ve been advertising with us for a long time, it’s one of the last things they’re going to give up, because we get results. If we don’t, we tweak the package to make sure we do get results. It takes people that want to work hard and can relate well with others.
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