Eric Mastel has taken what we are told was a struggling cluster for Cumulus and turned it into one of the company’s top performers. You can’t do that without getting people to follow you into battle. One employee tells Radio Ink, “It was in a downward spiral after several management changes.” And then Mastel showed up, and each month, under Eric’s leadership, new records have been set. Employees tell Radio Ink everyone understands Mastel cares about his team, not simply the sales performance, but their growth and development. Eric Mastel is one of the managers on Radio Ink’s Best Managers list, which comes out on October 24. Here’s our extended interview with Mastel on how he’s motivating his people to win, and overcoming radio’s challenges.
Radio Ink: How important is a degree of local autonomy in making a station successful today?
Mastel: That is a great question, as we are licensed by the government to serve the best interests of our local communities, therefore local autonomy is critical to success for both ratings and revenue. However, there is a caveat, depending on the experience and success of local management, more or less autonomy needs to be commensurate with prior experience and success while balanced with the overall health of the company.
Radio Ink: How are you attracting millennials to radio?
Mastel: Millennials or more commonly known as the generation of “participation trophies” and sporting events that did not keep score, having life experiences in which everyone is a winner. We know that will never work in the “real” world. We have budgets to achieve and metrics for performance. Millennials make up the largest generation in the workforce, so developing the skills necessary to “work” with them is vital.
Motivation is very important and very different. We need to spend time learning what motivates each employee. It may no longer be money for money’s sake. Millennials are working for very different reasons. They want to know that there is a purpose behind the job, such as giving to charity and helping to improve the world, traveling, environmental concerns, and paying student loans, just to name a few. What is less important are things like buying a home, saving for retirement, or planning for a family. This is a very different generation indeed.
Once the reasons for work have been established, millennials want to know that they will receive constant ongoing training and very regular (constant) feedback. Lastly, and possibly the most difficult for baby boomers to “get their arms around,” is a schedule. The old 8:30-5:30 regimen just does not cut it any longer. Millennials are very task oriented. I get to the office at 6 a.m. and a few employees show up just after me and start work. My sales manager comes in a little later and stays later. In essence we are “open” from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is always a manger present, and I find more work gets accomplished, not necessarily due to longer hours, but by creating a goal/task-oriented environment.
Radio Ink: What is the number one challenge you face every day as a manager in 2016, and how are you overcoming it?
Mastel: Maintaining a “live and local” presence with limited resources. The entire staff is dedicated to radio. They know how important radio is for the local community. Providing information and entertainment is the backbone of our industry. A recent example of the staff dedication to our industry occurred during hurricane Hermine. The roads were closed in many places, and people were advised not to go out unless necessary. Prior to 6 a.m., the morning of the storm, staff from various departments — sales, promotion, business, engineering, and of course programming — assembled at the station. The engineers made certain we stayed on the air, the programmers went live, even during syndicated or tracked shows, and the others became news hounds and provided information to be broadcast. The resulting feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment was extraordinary.
Radio Ink: Tell us what your biggest/most proud moment at the station or cluster was over the past 12 months.
Mastel: After coming off a fantastic 2015, with top-line growth in excess of 5% over prior, we experienced two down books. The most recent book showed extremely large losses. It is only a two-book market, so this could have been incredibly devastating. My staff rallied and began to analyze the book with a very “Sherlock Holmes” determination. The Nielsen anomalies were highlighted, the reports written, and the presentations made to the top 125+ transactional clients. Due to the fantastic relationships the staff has with their clients, and their deep non-wavering dedication to their cluster, we achieved a YTD top-line growth in excess of 8% over the same period prior year. I could not be more proud of their accomplishments, success, and the fact that no program directors were harmed.
Radio Ink: What is it going to take to get radio revenue growing?
Mastel: Industry cooperation on the local, not merely the corporate, level, through the RAB. When we can adequately position our industry in a uniform and consistent way, put our clients success ahead of earnings per share, and stop living in a month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter existence, growth will take care of itself.
Radio Ink: How are you balancing all the work hours and a personal life?
Mastel: It was said that, “If you love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I am certainly that person. From working in radio to investing in radio and owning stations, I really don’t see a work/life balance for myself. This is simply what I do and how I do it. In regards to other staff, I think the new Federal Overtime Laws effective December 1 will take care of that.
Congratulate Eric on a job well done during his nearly 30 years in radio at [email protected]