The Bosses' Prerogative
October 22, 2013
Recently I received an e-mail from a jock concerning office politics and his attempt to understand what was going on. Radio stations are like small towns and sometimes there are things going on in the background that help the station or only further the needs of one person. Looking back over my career I can remember examples in both categories, but I will wait and share in my reply to this email.
Jock: I would like to keep my job so I will not tell you what station I am at and please do not reveal my e-mail address. What I will tell you is that I work in the state of Ohio. Sam, the owner of this station does things that are underhanded and cheap. There are paydays all of us wonder if our checks will clear. There have been times they did not. I would go to another station, but I've had no luck finding anything anywhere else. I do middays and program and check this out, I was doing a remote and met an apartment manager of one of this town's biggest complexes. We got to talking and she said she had been trying to call the station to find out about advertising. I took her card and told her someone would be calling.
My remote was at a flower shop and the lady was there for a long time because I watched her walk around looking at flowers and asking questions. Before she left, she came back to me and said she liked how I did things and wanted to know if I would be interested in doing her commercials and living rent-free in exchange for advertising. This sounded great to me, but I told her I had nothing to do with sales, but when someone called her, she could pitch the idea to them. She thanked me and on Monday I gave her card to the sales manager and told her everything she had said. Okay, let me explain something, the sales manager is the owner's girlfriend and has never worked in sales or radio. She is constantly making major mistakes with clients and we have actually lost some long-standing clients. To make things worse, we do not have a GM; the owner does the job. The business manager is his brother's wife. I know this all sounds crazy, but it's the truth, and truth really is stranger than fiction.
Anyway, in a few weeks I get commercial copy for the apartment complex and I was glad things had worked out. The next thing I know I am doing a remote at the complex for some sort of renter recruitment drive and naturally the complex manager lady is there. As soon as she spots me, she runs over and tells me how much she liked the commercial I did. I thanked her and told her I hoped the station gave her a good deal. She said yes and that they loved her idea of exchanging time for free rent. Now I was getting excited because my lease was coming up and I figured since she had requested me for this remote, I was also going to get a chance to move as part of my endorsement. She kept talking and said she would be advertising on our station over the next two years and that the sales manager and her family were really nice. I asked what she meant, and then she told me they had just moved and it was part of the deal for advertising on our station. She also let the cat out of the bag that she had requested to do the promotion she originally told me about which would have had all been part a personal endorsement. However the GM had said you already were living some place, but would still personally endorse our complex in commercials.
Sam, I could not believe what I was hearing, so the sales manager made a deal for herself? What kind of crap is that? If I had another station to go to, I would. Is there anything I can do about this? Should I take this to the owner?
Coach: First of all tell me a little more about the station owner.
Jock: Not much to tell, he inherited the company from his father and his mom lives in Florida.
Coach: Let me be clearer, I meant anything with how he runs things at the station.
Jock: I told you sometimes our paychecks don't always clear the first time when we deposit them. Oh, and a few weeks ago, he fired the lady who I had hired to provide local news in the mornings. She is a reporter for the local CBS TV station and was doing news for us because she wanted radio experience on her resume. I am embarrassed to tell you we were only paying her $40 a week. The owner fired her because he said we could put the $40 dollars. She was good and firing her was nuts as far as I was concerned. The way he fired her was cruel; he left her a voice message on her cellphone.
Coach: There are two sides to every story, but you have told me enough to surmise your situation on the barter trade-out. There are three things I know: The owner is cheap, shady and has boundary issues with business and personal. Before I tell you the rest of what I think, let me share this with you. I once worked for an independent owner who had two daytime janitors on payroll and thought station contest materials such as concert tickets and CDs were his private property. This guy thought nothing of sending his cronies or their teenagers to my office for a free make-your-own prize package. It got so bad I had to have promotions hide things around the building so we could legitimately tell the owner we have given out what we had. Key words: "We had," I never mentioned any other locations from within. The two janitor thing was strange for such a small business, especially since the only duty of one was to wash vehicles. I still think it was some sort of bootleg business arrangement because there were a lot of cars washed that did not belong to station personnel. However, regardless of my personal feelings, it was his business. This brings me to my opinion on your situation.
It is the owner's choice to do what he wants with barter and trade-outs, but the whole thing could have been handled a lot better. So here is what probably happened with the apartment. The owner signs off on everything and it was probably his idea to move the sales manager, his girlfriend, into the apartment complex as part of the barter/trade out. There is nothing you can do but keep on keeping on or find another job. And by the way, nothing is free; the apartment would have been compensation for your endorsement and therefore considered taxable income. I am not sure this will make you feel any better about the insanity at your station, but you need to know there are situations the same or worse than yours. Believe it or not, shady things go on at large corporations, too. I heard an alleged story from a close friend concerning the son of a company owner who was receiving a six-figure salary and never came to the office; allegedly it all comes out during an independent audit for an upcoming merger. The best suggestion I have for you is to do your job, write and keep track of monthly reports, and watch your back. It would not surprise me if you came to work one day and found folks from the State Attorney's office examining the financials.