(By Bob McCurdy) You can learn a lot if you “ask” and just because you might not have a fancy title doesn’t mean you can’t “ask” people who happen to have one.
The habit of “asking” was one of the best habits I developed early on. Despite being an untested rookie, I was smart enough to reach out to successful people around the industry who could make me better.
One such individual was Al Pariser, who was VP of Research at Arbitron New York in the late 1970’s. I learned an awful lot about radio ratings and statistics from Al during our lunch phone conversations.
Same with Katz Radio’s VP of Research. Bill Schrank would spend his time on the phone answering my radio and research questions that enabled me to separate myself from other local sellers in town.
Throughout the years, I kept up this habit of learning from smart people.
Figuring that I would be able to position and sell my stations more effectively if I understood the nuances of programming, I reached out to Lee Abrams, father of the legendary Superstars format. I also spoke regularly with E. Alvin Davis, a respected programming consultant who became a great mentor and Mike Joseph, the creator of the Hot Hits format. They all took me under their “wing”. Jeff Pollock also answered questions and addressed my staff. These were big time, established industry pros, who all expanded my understanding of the art and science of programming. Many in sales at the time thought a radio salesperson being a student of programming a waste of time. I did not. It helped me close business.
In the early 2000’s as I began to penetrate upper level client, CMO and planning execs there was a guy I knew I could learn a lot from, so I reached out to Erwin Ephron. In 2003, American Demographics Magazine honored him as one of the five most influential media people of the previous 25 years. Erwin became a good friend and valued mentor. The man made the complicated, simple and taught me a ton about media and media planning. I have re-read his articles multiple times. He was a genius.
Over the years, I also reached out to dozens of creative, media agency and advertising execs to get their perspective on various subjects in which I was deficient. Although they didn’t know it at the time, they comprised my own personal “informal board of directors”. If ever I was unsure about advice I was about to give or a stance on a subject I was about to take, I would often reach out to those on this “informal board” to get their expert perspective.
The thing about creating an “informal board” is that it does requires some work. They don’t magically materialize, you need to cultivate them over time. Same with mentors and since the present impacts the future, today is a good time to begin creating a more prosperous tomorrow by beginning to build your own “informal board” and cultivating a few mentors.
You’ll have a more successful career if you do.
Bob McCurdy is now retired and can be reached at [email protected]