Alex Cadelago is the Market Manager for Cumulus Media in Houston. Last month in Orlando, Alex won Radio Ink‘s Radio Wayne Award for Market Manager of the Year. Cumulus VP Dan Bennett is Alex’ supervisor. “What makes Alex Cadelago a great leader is first and foremost his character. He is honest and trustworthy and people want to follow people like him. His leadership proves that despite having just one station, standalone properties can win and win big with a leader who makes no excuses and finds the way to compete with big clusters.”
Here is our extended interview with the 2018 Radio Ink Radio Wayne Award winner for Market Manager of the Year, Alex Cadelago.
Radio Ink: What were you thinking when you heard your name called last week?
Alex Cadelago: It was definitely a surreal moment. I was overcome by intense feelings of pride and joy. Immediately followed by the thought, “Don’t trip walking across the stage!”
Radio Ink: How long have you worked in radio?
Alex Cadelago: I’ve worked in radio a little over 17 years. I began my career in 1992 as an AE for Infinity Broadcasting, working for KXYZ 1320AM, a Spanish-language Sports, Talk, and News format in Houston. After four years as an AE, I left the radio industry and worked in the automotive and later commercial furniture industries for a total of nine years. That included a few years as a small business owner.
I returned to the radio industry in 2005 when I joined the sales team of a station Radio One recently launched in Houston. The station lived a short life, flipping to a Gospel format less than two years later. I was one of two staff members out of 25 to “make the cut,” so I stayed on board and transitioned to an Urban station in our cluster. A few months afterwards I pursued an opportunity with ClearChannel. CC’s leadership team was looking for an experienced rep with a Hispanic background that had leadership traits and a level of business acumen that would translate into an LSM. I was offered a position as an AE and promoted to LSM within three months. I led our sales efforts towards a record-breaking year with $6 million of growth versus the prior year, on a single station. CC was in the middle of transitioning to a private company during this time and ultimately KLOL-FM was sold to CBS radio.
Day one at CBS was April 1, 2009. I was promoted to GSM effective that day and led our team through the “assimilation” process into a new culture. This was a huge learning experience and I benefited from it greatly. In 2013, I was promoted to DOS of our six-station cluster. I maintained my day-to-day GSM duties over KLOL-FM and soon added GSM duties of KILT-FM as well. After 18 months in that position I accepted an offer from Cumulus Media to become their Market Manager in Houston. I’ve been in that role for nearly four years now.
Radio Ink: Why did you choose radio as a career?
Alex Cadelago: Radio is in my blood. I’m a second generation radio pro. My father was a GM with Infinity Broadcasting and a lead morning show host in the Hispanic market for over 30 years. My mother started her career on the agency side and later transitioned to radio where she was in sales for over 15 years. Both were obviously huge influences in my life but I was enamored with radio and fell in love with it on my own at an early age. The opportunity radio offered me early in my career to make a good living and provide for my family were very appealing. However, what was most appealing to me was the positive impact radio had on people’s lives, especially in times of need. Through my parents, I was fortunate to witness and take part in serving the community countless times.
Radio Ink: What is the key to successfully managing so many people?
Alex Cadelago: Leading multiple business units goes hand in hand with successfully managing so many people. I believe the true measure of a leader’s success isn’t the personal accolades he or she has won. It’s the performance and collective success of the teams they’ve led. I’ve had the pleasure of leading several winning teams and coaching many wonderful, successful people in my career. I take great pride in each of those team victories and having helped many people attain personal goals and advance their careers. Regardless of what your title is, help your coworkers develop and grow personally and their successes will become your successes. Whether it’s one station or six, treat people as people, not numbers. Treat employees and coworkers as people first, business partners second. I am Alex Cadelago the father, the husband, the son, first…then “Mr. VP/GM.” I view each of my coworkers in the same light.
Radio Ink: What motivates you to walk into your radio station every day?
Alex Cadelago: My motivation in life begins with my family, which includes five children. They often make fun of me, “Q2 this, Q3 that, percent over budget, PPM, yada yada Dad.” If I happen to catch them tuning in to something other than terrestrial radio, “I know Dad, it doesn’t put clothes on our back, a roof over our head, pay for college and so on.” Needless to say they keep me on my toes and I strive to make them as proud of me as I am of them.
I am also very fortunate to have an incredible work family. It gives me great pleasure to work alongside the talented group of people we have at Cumulus media. This begins
at the top. Our leader, Mary Berner, has changed our culture into one that is very positive and collaborative, in a short period of time. Under her leadership, we’ve had the
autonomy to make key decisions that impact our business at the local level. In Houston specifically, I am blessed to have the most talented, hardest working, passionate team,
I’ve led in my career. They inspire and challenge me in new ways every day. I appreciate and love them very much.
Radio Ink: What are your top three challenges and how are you overcoming them?
Alex Cadelago: Continuing to expand our business and increase profits amid declining (flat to best) market conditions are challenges many of us in the industry face. Our strategy to help offset declining market conditions begins by focusing on what we can control: direct business, live endorsements, and automotive shares. We’ve made a concentrated effort to increase our shares in each of these areas. Direct business is what I refer to as the “Hustle Meter.” Market conditions and declining ratings don’t control how many calls you make per day, only you do. We’ve more than doubled the percentage of our local business that is direct the past two years.
The connections our personalities have to local communities is one of our industry’s biggest strengths. As a result, live endorsements deliver the best returns for our clients.
We focus on selling endorsements for all day parts, not just drive times. Increased client results equals increased revenues. Although much of the automotive industry is tied to
agency-controlled business, a large percentage is direct, at the Tier 3 level. Establishing relationships with local GMs in the auto market has been another focus of ours and
we’ve increased our auto shares for three consecutive years. Two additional challenges we face are becoming the station of choice for the Millennial and Gen-Z generations
and making this segment of the population feel they are part of our brand.
The most unique thing we do to make Millennials/Gen-Z feel part of our brand is accomplished through cause-oriented contesting such as KRBE’s “H-Town Wins” contest.
We utilize our airwaves, texting, and all our online and social media assets to encourage listeners to register for the contest. It’s a four-week contest which airs Monday-Friday,
with four daily, $500 winners. Each winner is awarded $250 for themselves and $250 to donate towards the charity of their choice. The feedback last year was amazing! It was
heartwarming to hear multiple winners donate their entire $500 prize towards charitable causes. The contest was so successful that one of our local clients heard the
promotion and called us asking how they could participate. They matched our $15,000 minimum of donations with an additional $15,000 of their own. This wasn’t a promotion
we put to market to sell, their call was completely unsolicited.
Our internship programs and Roula & Ryan’s Radio School are also effective ways to reach these generations. KRBE’s internship programs are similar to other stations in
which college students receive school credit for their participation. However, we offer internships for our morning show and it’s always a serious competition to be part of the
Roula & Ryan morning show. Likewise with the Roula & Ryan Radio School, which targets the younger segment of the Gen-Z population.
Every summer we host the Roula & Ryan Radio School at KRBE, targeting middle school students between the ages of 11 and 13. Twelve lucky winners join our morning
show for an entire week. Monday to Thursday of the week includes interactive classroom sessions facilitated by our jocks and live participation during our morning show. The
students produce their own “prank calls,” often targeting their parents. A graduation ceremony is held on Friday and family members are invited to attend. These children
experience the true feel of a major market, Marconi-winning station.
Radio Ink: How do you educate yourself so you are always on top of your game?
Alex Cadelago: I read as much as I can, surround myself by people who are smarter than I am, and have confidence that they will learn as much from me as I will from them. I’m surrounded by smart, talented leaders at work. My boss and mentor, Dan, has been a great resource and helps me stay on my game. I lean on past generations as well as our current one. I often reach out to my “godfathers in radio” — mentors from the early stages of my career — to brainstorm promotional concepts. An innovative idea doesn’t have
an expiration date. I also bounce ideas off my three oldest children who are 24, 22, and 19 years old. They represent a large segment of the population we target every day.
Radio Ink: Tell us what’s made you the proudest about the people and stations you’ve led over the last year.
Alex Cadelago: We’ve had one hell of a fun ride the past few years but the past 12 months have been filled with recognition. The proudest moment was accepting KRBE’s first-ever Marconi award, September of last year, for CHR Major Market station of the year. A few months ago we received nominations at the WWRS for Station of the year, PD of
the year, and Morning Show of the Year. Next week we hope to bring home the first-ever Conclave Radio Award for Station of the Year – Major Market. This would be
another tremendous honor for us to receive. We have a rock star team; the best in the industry in my opinion. Our deep passion and love for the industry, tremendous work
ethic, and high level of talent, are the reasons our team performs so well. It’s truly a pleasure and honor to be the leader of our Cumulus Houston team.
Radio Ink: What advice do you have for other managers out there today fighting the good fight for radio as you are every day?
Alex Cadelago: As broadcasters, always remember “no one is bigger than the mic” and that our first priority is to serve the community. As leaders, be passionate and positive, treat people as people not numbers, and be accountable for your team’s actions not only the minutiae of your own. It’s a very exciting time to be in our industry and we should be confidently positioning radio-first as the ROI leader that it is. Good luck to all in 2019!
Reach out to congratulate Alex on winning the 2018 Radio Wayne Award for Top Market Mananger at [email protected]