Ben Thompson is the CEO and owner of Big Radio in Beloit/Janesville, WI. Ben is 30 years old. His first on-air gig was at the age of nine when he became the Kid With A Riddle on his dad’s morning show. Ben will be featured in our December 16 issue when we name radio’s 30 and Under Superstars. Here’s an excerpt from our interview with Ben Thompson.
Radio Ink: Who mentored you and how did they help you succeed?
Ben Thompson: I was very fortunate to grow up in the radio industry. Growing up in the halls of a radio station you really learn, or are mentored, by everyone. Many of those people are still with us in our Monroe and Freeport stations. They’ve known me since I was 10 years old. Some companies claim that they’re a family, for me that isn’t just a line that I use to build morale – I’ve known most of them since I was 10 years old, so they’re more like my aunts and uncles than they are employees. That said, you never stop learning. I learned so much from all the people I worked with at Magnetar. It was my first job out of college so I thought I knew what I was doing, but then you get thrown into working with the caliber of people I did, and it’s humbling, to say the least. I just tried to soak up as much information as possible from as many people as possible. Fast forward to the present day and I’m mentored by every single person at the radio stations. I learn from them constantly because we have the best people. I’d put all 60+ of our people up against any other radio group in the country. They are why we have been so successful. I’m so grateful to them and thankful to have so many great mentors.
Radio Ink: Tell us specifically what you do now.
Ben Thompson: At Big Radio we have two types of clients, listeners and advertisers. Our mission is to provide the most engaging, informative, and entertaining programming to our listeners, while also providing the best results we can for our advertisers. As owner/CEO of Big Radio, it’s my responsibility to make sure all 60 of our full-time people, and 30 part-time people, are super-serving both our listeners and clients to deliver our mission. Specifically, I’m not behind the mic as much as I used to be, but I’ll still fill in on the air when we get short staffed during vacation season. I’ll voice promos and commercials occasionally and I’ve helped with traffic, and music logs before. I’ve even produced high school sport broadcasts back in the studio when we’re short a board op.
On the financial side, I meet with our lenders when we need financing for specific projects or expansions. I monitor our Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable to make sure we don’t run into any cash flow issues. Currently we’re building a new office in Janesville to consolidate our operations in that market, so I’m helping with the selection of equipment, studio layouts, office layouts, and even paint colors for the walls. I help brainstorm overall station promotions or just campaign ideas for a single client. I’ll go out with the sales staff to meet with clients. I go out to as many station events as I can to mingle with our listeners. I work with the programming staff on any improvements we can do, whether that’s a further expansion of our 7-days-a-week local news coverage (we have an eight person news team), or how we can work more live and local programming into our station’s lineup. In general, there’s nothing at the radio station I would ask someone else to do that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. The only job at the radio station I haven’t done is high school sports play-by-play. In a pinch, I would do it, but it would be a very interesting broadcast to say the least!
Radio Ink: What advice do you have for managers and executives in radio that could help them recruit more young and talented people?
Ben Thompson: Put them on the air. Nobody gets into radio to set up and tear down gazebos and stand at remotes handing out swag. Even if it’s voice tracking an overnight weekend shift, coach them if the need it, but it all starts with getting them on the air. The talented ones will get it in their blood and will never want to leave. If all they experience is being part of the street team and organizing the station vehicle, they won’t experience the fun part of the business and we’ll lose them to another industry.
Reach out to Ben and congratulate him on being chosen as one of Radio Ink‘s “30 And Under Superstars” at [email protected]
Our “30 And Under Superstars” feature will only be available to print subscribers. To subscribe to Radio Ink Magazine (which makes a great holiday gift, by the way) click HERE.