(by Wayne Ens) Radio advocate and Radio Ink Chairman Eric Rhoads once posed the question “What’s the one big thing radio needs to succeed?” Examining the success of other long-term sustainable business models, the answer becomes simple.
Entrepreneurs from Henry Ford to Bill Gates to Steve Jobs became billionaires even though their “business plans” were not focused on creating huge profits. Instead, their business plans focused on innovating to create value.
Henry Ford’s goal was to make the automobile affordable for average Americans. Prior to Ford’s creating the assembly line to streamline production costs, only the rich could afford cars, which before that were built by hand, one at a time.
Bill Gates set out to solve average people’s problems by creating user-friendly software that could be used to create small “personal” computers. And Gates continues his path to creating value today as one of the world’s leading philanthropists.
Steve Jobs said, “We started out to get a computer in the hands of everyday people, and we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”
The list goes on. From the founder of the first pirate radio station, Radio Normandy, to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, success was defined by innovating to deliver value, and the revenue and profits followed. None of these entrepreneurs were intimidated by the “big guys,” and in fact, they relished the challenge of being upstarts against big corporate competitors.
Sustainable success seems to be the result of delivering value at the grass roots or, as Steve Jobs said, the “everyday people” level.
Most radio stations in North America were started by entrepreneurs passionate about delivering value to their communities, their listeners, and their advertisers. Admittedly, many of these entrepreneurs were eccentric weirdos and poor businesspeople by MBA standards. But when the investment community saw how much money these “poor businesspeople” made in spite of themselves, they said, “Imagine how much money we could make if we ran these stations like businesses instead of pet projects!”
When corporations lose focus on delivering value for everyday people, and focus on delivering value on the stock market through EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), the passion that drove the startup’s success gives way to measuring short-term quarterly results.
By the way, measuring business success by eliminating very real costs like interest, taxes, and depreciation is tickling ourselves to hear ourselves laugh. It’s the high interest burdens that are the very downfall of many large corporations.
So the “one big thing” Eric was looking for appears to be staring us in the face.
We need to go back to having eccentrics who are passionate about innovation and delivering value running our radio stations. I believe a funny thing happens when you start delivering value at the grass-roots level rather than focusing on keeping Wall Street happy: You attract better, more passionate employees!
Millennials who have seen their parents lose their jobs after being loyal to a corporation for years want more out of a career. They are passionate about working for organizations that innovate to deliver value.
Those broadcasters who were thought to be poor businessmen and –women understood that their biggest assets went home when the lights went out. We need personalities who are passionate about serving and entertaining their communities, on air and off.
And in a media world that has never been so cluttered and fragmented, we need to attract and train salespeople who are passionate about increasing advertisers’ return on investment.
Relating to everyday people from a faraway ivory tower is unrealistic. We need innovative, passionate leadership in every market rather than cookie-cutter solutions across every market.
So what’s the one big thing? People passionate about creating value.
Let’s hire some passionate, unconventional weirdos to lead the charge in every market — people who couldn’t care less about EBITDA and who will tell Wall Street to sit tight until the money starts rolling in.
Wayne Ens of ENS Media Inc. facilitates top-of-mind awareness surveys and seminars and produces SoundADvice, the radio e-marketing system, He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org