The popular General Manager lament of the last sixteen years has been, “Things were different before consolidation. Those were the days!” And so things were different.
Things were different before the copier. Why would we ever need an expensive thing like that?
Things were different before the fax machine. Wow! What’s wrong with Federal Express? Isn’t it hard to use that fax thing?
Things were different before email. Who needs email? Faxes are great. And this Internet thing is such a fad. Who can understand it?
So, yes, things were different before consolidation, for many a frightening event in a timeline of events that set in motion events that changed our lives. Like copy machines, faxes and emails, consolidation raised fear. Remember how you couldn’t figure out what a domain name was? What did we need all this techy stuff for, anyway? The principle of change through consolidation often conjures the same specter.
Employees worry about losing their jobs, their self-respect, and the esteem of their colleagues. The rules change, too. So does interaction with superiors and subordinates. Our colleagues often become our new bosses. The whole world turns upside down with the stroke of Acquisition’s pen. Your email has old acquaintances reaching out again, in fear of the unknown after years of acceptance of consolidation.
Looking back, those early days of consolidation were frightening to many of us. Today, conditioned by years of operating in an atmosphere of “Am I next?” many of the GMs who survived the first wave fear being the men and women they once were. In today’s business world, regardless of industry or application, strong managers must set aside their reservations and remember it is their responsibility to lead, to grow, and to create value.
One of the best radio stories that demonstrates this notion involves a General Manager in Baltimore, Maryland in the early days of consolidation. This GM was known for his management prowess, leadership, and decisiveness. Some of the most skilled managers and talent in the country moved to Market #19 just to work for him.
On the fateful day that he learned that his facility had been bought by a large broadcaster bent on consolidation, this GM called together his staff and promised that things would change for the better, providing that each employee remain confident and fearless, while performing just as he or she had for years before consolidation.
“Let’s achieve new heights based on the benefits of consolidation,” he said. “Have no fear. I’m going to be the same guy tomorrow that I am today.” He was, too.
A few weeks later, the Baltimore Orioles placed concurrent calls to every major radio and television GM, to offer tickets on the field to witness Cal Ripken’s record-breaking Game 2131 at Camden Yards. One catch: The tickets were ten thousand dollars. First come, first served.
Greatness is born of courage and leadership. Without courage, rarely can one lead. At that moment, this General Manager could have considered the political ramifications of asking his new boss for unbudgeted marketing money. He could have quietly thanked the caller and asked for some time to think about it. He could have put his own skin before the success of his station. Instead, he saw those tickets as a way to show his courage and his leadership and grasp an opportunity to make a statement to his new consolidation masters. It was a gargantuan risk. He committed to the tickets. Then he called his new boss.
The next evening, the ticket winners wore the station’s sport shirts to that special game. You can see them as Cal runs by the winners, sees the shirts, and stops and runs back to shakes the hands of those winners. In front of the whole world. In front of every potential listener. In front of every meaningful buyer of advertising. It’s all on the ESPN tape.
The GM later moved to another company in a top five market. He remained fearless, left that company after awhile, and started his own. He is still fearless.
In this round of consolidation, step up and be fearless. The copier is waiting.