Who’s Your Mentor ?

Greg Smith is an inductee into the Australian Radio Hall of Fame, and a Director of Radio Today.

A great Programmer has great judgement.

Programmers have to make many decisions in order to build ratings & revenue. They problem solve all the time. Their job is to take in all the relevant information & make informed decisions.                         

There are always at least two correct paths to take in any action taken but many wrong ones that can turn into disaster. So how do programmers hone their decision making skills & judgement calls? It simply comes down to knowledge & experience. The best way to get there is to find a great mentor.

In business & in life we all need mentors. Luckily in radio the experts & high achievers are pretty good with their free advice & guidance.

When I first started programming I was lucky enough to meet Jim Price, General Manager of KGB.FM & 13K in San Diego. Jim was an excellent GM. He understood Programming as well as Sales. Jim started as a DJ, became a Program Director, then got into sales, got promoted to Sales Manager & finally GM of the powerhouse rock station in San Diego, California. He was very generous with his time & I learnt a lot from him. Likewise, his Program Director, Larry Bruce (right).                                      

For me Larry was the great teacher. He taught me so much about programming, research & strategy. It was the start of a long association with both Jim & Larry. Larry gave me a copy of his callout music research system to take home to Australia (see below). It was a wonderful gesture. Larry was a programming consultant to Austereo for many years. He was also Nova Sydney’s first General Manager.

Paul Thompson (left), founding CEO of Austereo and DMG/Nova networks was inspiring to work with & learn from. Paul was terrific at selling the company’s vision.

I also kept learning from the very talented people I personally hired over the years. Brad March, Guy Dobson, Brian Ford, Jeff Allis, Paul Amos, Eriks Celmins, Sally Dobson, Keith Fowler, Dave Charles & John Parikhal as well as many others I worked with including Scott Muller, Daryl Missen, Dan Bradley & Rod Brice.

I was always hungry for knowledge. I got to spend time with great U.S. programmers & strategists like Guy Zapoleon, Tracy Johnson, Tom Owens, Marc Chase, Steve Stockman, Todd Wallace, Lee Abrams, Ken Benson, Garry Wall & Michael Lee as well as radio research experts like Jon Coleman, David Oakes & Steve Casey.

Who are you learning from? Make sure it’s not a misguided visionary. Never stop learning. Make it a habit to only seek out the best in their field. Forget the also-rans.

I once asked the CEO of one of the major Radio Networks who was mentoring his top executives. Apart from the programming consultant there wasn’t anyone. Finding the great mentor should be encouraged.

A female General Manager, who required direction & guidance, agreed with me that she needed a suitable mentor. I asked Cathy O’Connor, CEO at DMG Radio, whether she was willing to do it and graciously Cathy agreed. Sadly she never made contact with Cathy. That GM no longer works in radio.

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