Recently, I was speaking with a friend and a colleague that I have known for many years. The conversation segued into our careers. I wanted some feedback on mine.
Never one to hold back, he talked about my reputation in the industry, what others had said about me, and what he had observed first-hand. Most of it was positive, some of it was painful, but they were all things that I needed to hear.
That conversation is the genesis for my column this week.
I think one of the most important parts of personal and professional growth is to never stop learning and evolving. While I’ve been fortunate to lead many teams to success over the years, there are things that I should have done better.
Hopefully, if you’re in a position of leadership, you can take heed and not make the same mistakes that I have.
DON’T BE A HARD ASS
There were many times, usually early in my career, when I was just too hard on people. Anyone who has worked with me has likely seen or (in some cases) been on the receiving end of a verbal assault.
Why? Couple of reasons.
First, many of the managers I emulated in the business operated that way. They ruled with an iron fist and through intimidation. Hey, it was working for them…so that’s how I had to be, right?
Second, I’ve always been a perfectionist…which means that you drive others to perfection instead of having them strive for it.
So, the younger Ryan Maguire was more of a Gordon Ramsey kind of guy.
I remember one stop early in my career as a PD, I had heard an out-of-date promo air on the station. Upon quick investigation, I discovered that one of our producers had forgotten to change it.
This couldn’t stand.
I went into the production studio and absolutely tore into this poor kid, berating him in front of several other hosts that were in the room. After I had made my point, I stormed out.
A short time later, one of the hosts who had witnessed the tirade walked into my office and wanted to talk about it.
“You know, I think you’re a good dude,” he said. “But look man, you just said things to that kid that I wouldn’t even say to my dog. I just don’t get it. You don’t need to do things like that.”
I didn’t have much of a comeback to what he had to say. I still don’t.
Management through intimation doesn’t work. Besides the obvious issues you’ll likely have with the HR office, your colleagues are either going to tune you out or avoid you altogether.
Success comes through earning someone’s trust and respect, not giving them an earful.
DON’T BE A SUIT
I remember once going to a yearly managers summit for a company I had worked for. One item on the agenda was titled: Remember…you’re a suit!
The managerial philosophy that was being hammered home that day was to always remember that you work for the company and to never get too close to your subordinates.
Sadly, I bought into this.
There were many times that hosts or producers made a point to try and get to know me personally. Instead of taking the opportunity to open-up to them I was too often cold and aloof. I kept them at a distance.
I was their boss, not their buddy. That’s part of being a suit. Everything was business, not personal.
While I had good relationships with many of my former colleagues, I was still always seen as “the boss”.
The reality is employees KNOW that you’re the boss. You don’t need to act the part.
Cultivating a family atmosphere would have been a far better decision. When you know your hosts personally and they know you, it presents so many advantages.
The successes are far more fun, and the failures are easier to deal with.
Most importantly, I missed out on what could have been some very rewarding relationships that I could have had with some amazingly talented individuals.
TRUST YOUR GUT…DON’T COVER YOUR BUTT
Often, doing what you know is right isn’t always popular. Many times, I would have to walk into the GM’s office and lay out a plan that would be met with pushback.
“I never heard of this guy, why do you want to hire him?”
“I don’t agree with this. We should put this person on the air instead.”
“This is going to cost us too much money.”
“We’ll never be able to sell this.”
I’ve heard those phrases and many more.
The safe thing is to acquiesce and do what makes everyone feel happy and safe.
There have been several occasions where I wish I had put my foot down and stood up for my decisions more.
I recall one time that I had to decide on whether we should renew a show. I had already known in my heart and mind what I wanted to do. I had looked at the situation from every angle, talked to the people I knew were important, and felt good about my plan.
When I laid things out to the GM, they pushed back. They wanted to gather more opinions. We had meeting after meeting with colleagues, execs, and consultants. I recall at one point being in a room with seventeen different people, who were all asked to weigh in on the matter. Everyone got to have a say in the process. When we finally made our decision, my original plan had been tweaked so many times it was unrecognizable.
The reality is, I only had myself to blame…because I LET this happen. Instead of standing up for my plan I allowed myself to descend into groupthink.
As a manager, and especially as a Program/Content Director, if a show flops or the ratings on the station tank, you’re going to be accountable. It doesn’t matter how many people signed off on decisions or whose ideas got used. Win or lose, you need to stand by your ideas.
I’m not naïve. I realize that, even if I HAD put my foot down in certain instances, I still might not have gotten my way.
However, at the very least, I would have been able to look back at the situation and know that I did all I could.
5 Goals: Rob ‘World Wide Wob’ Perez
“I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA.”
This month’s subject of five goals is Rob Perez, better known to NBA Twitter as World Wide Wob. The content creator and producer for FanDuel shared with me five things he wants to accomplish or see happen.
1. I want to make FanDuel, my licensing partner in content creation, as happy as possible.
My goal is to drive people to their web site or app, and spread the reach of the brand. I’m sure there’s a more formal word for that, but I want to organically integrate FanDuel into everything I do.
I don’t want to just be a commercial — hey 20% off, or here’s a free bet — because people are drowning in those across various forms of communication. All the content I do is naturally involved, and if someone’s asking about who’s favored it’s a very seamless type of content integration in which I can include them and drive them to FanDuel if they’d like to put their money where their mouth is.
I would certainly love the opportunity to continue working with them — not just because they pay me to do so, but I do find value in working with a sportsbook of that size that is turning into a content company. Of course, they’re always gonna be a sportsbook. It makes them the most money. But, giving you additional reasons to engage with that brand, if you have an itch to bet on something, is what my job is.
I want to continue to be the face of the NBA for them, having a very casual conversation about the game itself — whether that’s off the court stuff, or all the coaching departures earlier this week. Integrating the FanDuel logo into all this feels much more real than a 30-second commercial between timeouts. I want you to enjoy the experience of the show, and gamble if you so choose.
2. NBA Red Zone.
I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA. It would work best on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sometimes Sunday, when there are 8-9 concurrent games.
That’s why I’m where I am today. I’m watching every single dribble of every single game. But, I would never expect any other normal human with responsibilities outside of NBA content creation to ever keep up with what’s going on between the Kings and Pistons while there’s seven other games on, one of which is nationally televised.
So, if the NBA ever decides to have a true commitment to their version of the Red Zone — they’ve tried versions of it on NBATV, but I’ve never seen one hopping between games every 15-20 seconds, hot switching any time there’s a play stoppage — I’d love to do it.
You’d have a Scott Hanson type host who is as integrated with the league as it gets. I hope maybe one day I have the opportunity where what I do on my own personal timeline merges with true rights partnership from the NBA. Just based on the feedback I get on my Twitter page, there would be demand for it.
3. Do another NBA variety show.
In the past, I had a show called Buckets that I did with Cycle and ESPN. It had sketches, pre-produced talk segments, and interviews. Think of it like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon’s shows, but applied to the NBA.
Inside the NBA is obviously the gold standard for an NBA talk show. But, those guys are going to retire at some point. What I do on Twitter Spaces, Twitch, and Periscope — I want the ability to blow that out with some more production resources.
Right now, I’m doing everything myself, from playing DJ to directing to taking calls to actually running the show and talking basketball and researching stats — I’m doing it all on the fly. While I’m certainly happy to do that, I know what we could create with a team around me because we’ve done it in the past. I would love to do a weekly variety show based around the NBA.
4. Some more work life balance.
My entire day for 11 months out of the year revolves around the NBA. It’s my job and I’m happy to. I love following it. At some point, I feel like I’m gonna get burned out, and I don’t want to ever get to the point where doing this feels like work.
It felt a little bit like work this year, and that might be because I’m on Year 8 doing this. [RG note: at this point, I mentioned how last offseason was so condensed after the bubble, and how the energy felt partially zapped out of sports with a lack of fans]. I’m gonna watch regardless because I’m a crazy person, but I think a lot of people would agree with you that the return to normalcy is helping with the engagement on a mainstream scale.
This offseason will be condensed again. We have the Olympics, which of course I’m going to watch because stars will be playing. Summer League is in August. There’s free agency and the draft. There’s barely going to be one month — September — where there probably won’t be a whole lot of NBA news or events.
But then we’re going back to the normal schedule from before the pandemic, which means Media Week will be the first week of October. There’s one month off before it all starts again, and I’m hoping I don’t get burned out by it.
Being on the East Coast, it’s impossible to follow the NBA 24/7. I don’t know how people with kids and families do it. Getting back to the West Coast is a personal goal of mine, which will happen this summer when I move back to Los Angeles. These hours will allow me to get back to a more normal life.
5. I want the Knicks to win a championship in my lifetime.
Just being a die hard Knicks fan and not seeing a title in my lifetime, that’s a personal goal. I’ve put so much work into watching every effing game since I was eight years old with Patrick Ewing and John Starks in the NBA playoffs.
I was young, but I was old enough to know that I wanted to stay up for those games. I was emotionally invested. I would even get to the point where I was putting towels underneath the door so my parents couldn’t see that the TV was on. They thought I was sleeping.
Of course I want my team to win a championship, and I don’t want to die without seeing that mountaintop. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a Red Sox or Cubs fan and going all those years without seeing them win, then having it happen. I want to experience it once.
Whatever it takes to get there. I have too many gray hairs on my head, and every single one of them I can attribute to a single Knicks game from the past decade. Being a fan while trying to create objective NBA content will always be a challenge, but being a Knicks fan will always take precedent over a career because it means that much to me.
Forget the Email, Just Smile & Dial
“Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam.”
Back in August of last year, the pandemic was still front and center, acting as a roadblock for business. Retailers were in business and at the stores, but what about the advertising buyers? Where were they?
Well, the ad-buying community, corporate employees, and most white-collar workers were still at home. So were most of us in radio sales. So, when it came to prospecting for new accounts, some of us gave up, most sent emails, and a few brave souls hit the phone. Earlier this year, I wrote about the sales trainer John Barrows and how he got to the top by cold calling 400 prospects a week! That’s not cold emailing. That’s cold CALLING. And to be exact, if Barrows was working a 10 hour day on the phones Monday through Friday, he would dial at least eight prospects an hour.
Does that send a chill down your spine? Or does it make you want to run to your keyboard to avoid rejection and send some more cold emails? Back in August, when most of our ad buyers were at home, not near a business phone, Jeb Blount and Anthony Iannarino were recording a podcast about why you should hit the phone, not the email. Both sales consultants and authors thought we could improve our connect rate immensely by working the phones over email.
Both authors agreed that we need to have conversations with people about our stations, personalities, shows, and the sports world! We can hire an automated CRM service to send emails!
Now I am all for some well-crafted custom emails sent to targets that do not answer phones or listen to voice mails but not as the first activity in a sales sequence. Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam. Our job isn’t to create awareness for buying sports radio packages; it is to make the sale!
We are consultants offering custom solutions to the unique challenges your clients have. And consider that if you pick up the phone and connect with the advertising buyer and get the appointment, you won’t need an email!
Both consultants agree that you don’t need email to warm up a client when using the phone to get the appointment! I recently tested this theory myself and decided that with the pandemic subsiding in most metropolitan areas and more buyers going back to the office, I could start hitting the phones more.
It worked. I got more appointments faster and wasted less time. I even got help. I had a business owner who I reached out to via email with a custom approach. I offered a few excellent ideas on how I could help him. Crickets. I let 2.5 weeks go by before I picked up the phone to dial the business and ask for him. They told me he was out on vacation and asked me if I had personal interaction with him. I explained no I was looking to connect with him on an advertising idea. The receptionist said you need to talk to Jane, the ad buyer. I was connected immediately.
I left a voice mail. The next day I received a return call indicating interest in my idea, and we set the appointment. Now, why didn’t I try that in the first place!
If you want a custom phone pitch that I wrote out for myself, send me an email at email@example.com. Now it’s time to smile and dial!
Media Noise – Episode 33
It has been a busy week at BSM. Demetri Ravanos talks about Domonique Foxworth and the future of commentary on ESPN. Kate Constable stops by to discuss her column on Sarah Spain and the sometimes ugly realities of life as a woman in sports media. Finally, Brian Noe and Demetri discuss Le’veon Bell’s Twitter rant and how depressingly relevant it is in the radio business.