Marc Rayfield has been in radio since 1990, more than half his life. His first job as a manager was as the Local Sales Manager for WIP in Philadelphia, shortly after it launched as the second sports radio station in America (behind WFAN in New York). His last two positions with CBS Radio were running the New York and Philadelphia markets. A huge responsibility.
Rayfield was moved to New York in 2015 when Andre Fernandez took over CBS Radio for Dan Mason. When the Entercom/CBS merger closed, Rayfield did not stay on with the new company. With over 25 years in the business, many running successful major market operations, we reached out to Marc who graciously granted us this extended interview on management and leadership
Radio Ink: Why do you believe you’ve been a successful manager for so many years?
Marc Rayfield: I’ve always sought to hire the best possible people; in fact, those who want to take my job. This approach has served me well. I am an agent of change who also believes in taking the long view whenever possible. I am very emphatic. I care what our customers and co-workers think.
Radio Ink: Did you have mentors along the way? Who were a few of them and why/how did they help you?
Marc Rayfield: I still have mentors that I speak to on a very regular basis. No man (other than my father) has had more impact on my life than the late, great Roy Shapiro, the former General Manager of KYW Newsradio. He taught me to be honest and principled. JoAnne Harmelin, founder of Harmelin Media, the nation’s largest purchaser of media outside of New York, is a second mother to me. She is brilliant, moral, and like Roy, treats people with great respect. She is also the humblest person I know and my most trusted advisor. Dick Vermeil also serves on my personal Board of Directors.
Radio Ink: Your last two markets were Philadelphia and New York City. How difficult is it to manage and lead in markets that big, clusters that important?
Marc Rayfield: One must know what they are getting themselves into when managing large markets, and be able to handle pressure while remaining unflappable. I am a people person who believes that the best way to build consensus is to form internal partnerships by creating a team environment. You cannot win by yourself.
Radio Ink: What would you say was your biggest accomplishment in radio, proudest moment?
Marc Rayfield: There is no single accomplishment. I managed to remain employed and in fact get promoted numerous times by a lot of different people with diverse personalities and strategies…from Jim Thompson to Dan Mason to Mel Karmazin to John Sykes to John Fullam to Joel Hollander to Dan Mason (again) to Andre Fernandez. I am also extremely proud of the many outstanding managers that I’ve helped to develop. That’s a part of my legacy.
Radio Ink: What do you see as radio’s biggest challenge over the next five years and how does the industry overcome that?
Marc Rayfield: Radio has chased too many talented people out of it by setting unsustainable, sometimes short-sighted goals. It has to practice what it preaches by recognizing that the world has changed and not only do many advertisers and consumers have lots of options, so do talented employees. As an industry, we are certainly facing economic pressures that did not exist only a decade ago, but we can no longer cut our way to prosperity. We must be bold and unapologetic, and senior folks must embrace the new media platforms that they don’t understand. The world is evolving whether they are on board or not.
Radio Ink: When employees know a deal is in the works – it’s been announced – such as the one you just went through – what is the key to keeping them focused? After all, it’s your job to keep everyone motivated, the ratings high, and the revenue flowing.
Marc Rayfield: First, you cannot be disingenuous. You must acknowledge that their concerns have validity. People are frightened by the unknown. Second, it’s important to communicate as best and as often as you can. In the beginning of the year, we started an employee board of directors that met each month to discuss issues of importance to the rank and file. We started something called the Breakfast Club. Every week this year I had an off-site breakfast with a different employee, the only criteria being that they could not be a manager as I interfaced enough with them already. You can learn an awful lot from the guy in the mailroom or a traffic person.
Finally, it’s important to be visible and available. I am by nature a people person and enjoy interacting. I know that when my office door is closed, people are thinking bad thoughts, so I really keep it closed as little as possible.
Radio Ink: We know you are not retiring. But tell us about what you’re going to miss the most about working at CBS?
Marc Rayfield: First and foremost, I am happy for the opportunity to lead these historic brands and now for the chance to spend time with my wife Nikki and my daughters. For 26-plus years, I gave CBS Philadelphia and New York absolutely everything I had. Without getting into specifics, I came to New York at a time of great uncertainty. I tried to navigate that as best I could. When I arrived, five of our six brands were struggling. Four have shown dramatic improvement (flat or positive) and a fifth is on its way.
I’ve served as the chairman of NYMRAD and we’re well on our way to making dramatic changes designed to regain control of our destiny and reposition ourselves as a medium to be reckoned with. We’ve got to stop apologizing and show some true leadership.
I’ve also made some great friends along the way. I rarely lose my friends. These relationships will last forever.
I do plan to be back. I’m not sure when or where it will be but I am certain that when I find the right partner, I won’t be there to come in second place. I want to work for another 15 years. My tank is overflowing!
Marc can be reached at [email protected]