That's one of my favorite lines that a certain radio CEO has said to me over the years, when explaining the true role that consultants play for his company. No doubt about it, it's harder to point out the uncomfortable truth than it is to stroke clients from rating book to rating book. Our philosophy around here has been just that - call 'em as you see 'em. Most of the time it works well, but there have been those moments when it has caused us to get turfed.
I remember 10-odd years ago, I was consulting a station whose GM knew less about Classic Rock than my pre-school kids. Of course, her station wasn't performing well, the competition was growing (it was back in those dreaded Arrow days), and on one of those hugely populated conference calls, she took off on me. Asked how the format was going to evolve in the next few years, I responded that Classic Rock is... Classic Rock; that it probably was going to sound a lot like it did today. The key was (still is) keep the station fresh, don't let it become nostalgic and stale, and keep the production, contesting, and jocks sharp, community-minded, and passionate about the music. Not good enough. Our contract was not renewed when it expired shortly after the call. But the truth was told. There was never anything wrong with the popularity of the base Classic Rock library.
Fast-forward to today, and Ford CEO and company namesake, Bill Ford, wants someone to "call his baby ugly." He's gathering his entire management staff for a sojourn "Up North" as we fondly call it here in Michigan to tell him - point blank - what he's doing wrong, and what he needs to do better.
We don't do enough of this. Perhaps all the answers aren't "inside" our companies, and naysayers claim that radio has become a business of insular thinking. But the other side of this tricky coin is that no one knows the operation better than those who work within it. They see the inefficiencies, the lost opportunities, and some of the definite potentials.
I'm going to bite that bullet and follow BIll Ford's advice later this year. After 23 years of running Jacobs Media, I'd like to think that there is room for improvement. The good news is that as a privately held small company, there's no Board of Directors to report to. And that's the bad news, because my "advisors" are simply a loose network of industry friends who try their best to help keep Jacobs Media (and me) on track. My employees are a great resource, they're heavily invested in the company and its future, and I'm confident they can make a contribution. Maybe Jacobs Media isn't the only radio-focused company that might benefit from this exercise.
And by the way, that GM who fired us because we told her the truth? Out of the business, as is her former station. Sometimes, the truth hurts.