Finding Radio’s “Why?”

I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek.

In his book “Start With Why,” Sinek proposes that the best and most innovative companies and leaders have a strong sense of purpose, or “why”. And much of the success of the most innovative companies is due to their leaders abilities to inspire through clearly communicating the “why” of the organization.

This inspiration then leads the team to develop systems, products, and processes (the “hows” and “whats”) to grow the company – while always remaining focused on the “why”. I know we reference Steve Jobs a lot here, but after all this page is about “disrupting” an industry, and Jobs is the poster child for disruption over the past several years. Jobs was a “why” guy – his sense of rebellion and desire to build products that empower the individual is what created the cult-like following of Apple.

There are very few broadcast groups today that have a clear sense of “why”. I can tell you that the experience of working at Jacor Broadcasting in Tampa Bay was a perfect example of this principle in action. Our CEO Randy Michaels is a “why” guy, and that kept the entire company motivated to do great radio. What was the “why” at Jacor? Very simple – a creative environment where creative people can create. I remember a line similar to this in the one-page company policy manual. I’m not kidding – it was one page. And it talked about ensuring that we had a playful environment to foster creativity.

And Randy is the perfect leader for a company dedicated to creativity. You actually looked FORWARD to corporate coming into town, because Randy would light the place up. The creative spark inside Jacor is something that I have only rarely seen since, and it’s because most radio companies have lost their “why”.

I don’t know of too many companies in our industry that clearly articulate their “why”. Perhaps its because they don’t really have one. Sinek points out in his book that when once-successful companies go into decline, it’s usually because they lost their original sense of “why” and just focused on the top and bottom line (the “whats” and “hows”), and the slide continues until they either a) recapture their “why”, or b) go away.

I’m concerned that without a clear sense of purpose, most of today’s big operators¬†have already chosen B.

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