May 1, 2012
As his Success Tips column in All Access illustrates, Dave Robbins has be one of radio's great "eternal optimists" - on top of being a successful programmer and radio executive for past 20-some years. On top of his current duties overseeing CBS Radio's Orlando cluster, he's also spearheading the radio group's HD efforts. Despite the criticism several radio parties have heaped on the new technology's rollout, Robbins remains steadfastly bullish on its - and radio's future. Here's how we sees how we all can succeed:
Judging by your Success Tips column, you seem to be possessed with optimism; your glass always seems half-full. Were you always that way, or did you evolve into that perspective through experience?
Success itself is the by-product of doing something you love to do. The day you learn "You become what you think about" changes your life forever. For me, it was about age 15, realizing that every human could truly achieve anything they would want to accomplish, if only they had the proper attitude, surrounded themselves with the right team who had successful traits, and applied the principles of success.
Life can be unlimited; this is a choice we all make. I was very lucky and blessed to have learned this at an early age. Many learn this lesson much later in life, and some never learn it. You learn from everyone you come in contact with if you allow them to teach you.
You often mention the opportunities you can derive from your own failures. How do you find those opportunities ... do you analyze your failure objectively, or do you let your emotions drive you to succeed?
Everyone experiences failure. Without it, there is no growth. Life is literally unlimited opportunity -- if we decide we want to seize it. There is no such thing as "complete" failure, because we always succeed in producing a result. We may not like the result, but we produced it, so it's our result good or bad and we live with our results in life. So failure is only a temporary condition. There are two ways to process failure. Either you believe failure is PERMANENT or TEMPORARY. The truth is: We are always in control of our own destiny and therefore, our own level of success or failure.
To me, failure is nothing but a word that means "opportunity to course correct now." An airplane is off course 99% of the time, but arrives at the destination through constant failure (course) correction. Failure, if used as a learning lesson, becomes more powerful than the actual failure itself. Use failure as a tool.
Obviously, there are scores of people in this industry who have been laid off due to consolidation and not due to their own efforts. What's the best way to bounce back in terms of adapting the proper mindset?
Having been in that exact position before, it is very simple. You are the president and CEO of your own personal services corporation. You are a business professional. You offer your services, for a fee, to clients who need and want your service. Get a reputation for delivering more than what you are paid to deliver. Lift up others and create success. What you appreciate will appreciate you. What you depreciate will depreciate you.
Those who you are leaving deserve your thank you for what they have taught you in life. If you can get to that place, you will move ahead successfully. The faster you can get there, the faster the doors will open for you. If a window in life is suddenly closed, a door immediately opens.
Do you recommend the laid-off to get on the ball immediately thereafter, or should he or she sit back for a while to take stock of oneself and the future, and then take action with a more reasoned approach?
Everyone is uniquely different, but they should do the most important thing possible at every moment. We talk a lot about having written goals in life. If they have set and written life goals and are following those goals, then the answer is right in front of their eyes. They should do the most important thing possible at every moment. That might be to get on the ball right then and start making contacts, or the most important thing might be to take a break for a while. We all know intuitively what is right for us deep down. If they have goals that are solid, simply move to the next objective. If they don't have goals, stop down, reflect, and put together goals. Then move to the next objective.
Your career has seen you move from one market to another. What's the best way to pull up stakes in one place and settle in your new "home" as quickly and efficiently as possible?
Remember that there is no such thing as "Goodbye" ... there is only "Hello." Your energy remains behind inside those who you have enriched. The people who matter will carry on your tradition and memory. The people you worked with you will see again; the great relationships, the fun times you are leaving ... it's not a sad time, but a happy time.
Excitement is in front of you for the new location! The next adventure begins and departure means growth. When you arrive in the new location, it is all about being a sponge and learning to appreciate the local customs.
I'm sure you've laid off staffers in your time, even if you haven't been part of a group-wide reduction. But how do you, as management, counsel those who survive the "Black Friday" ... to maintain or reinvent a positive workplace?
Things happen for a reason. The workplace is a part of something bigger than all of us. The workplace will always be a positive, safe and stable place. You enlist the team to be the ones to make it better than ever.
Did you ever think of leaving radio? What went through your mind and what made you decide to gut it out and stay?
Radio becomes more and more interesting every year; this industry is only just beginning, and that is what is exciting to me personally. There is so much to accomplish, so many cards that have not been played, so many opportunities that leaving is not an option, we have many goals to achieve!
What's the best way to balance your business and personal and family interests?
Be where you are. If you are at your job, be there 100%. If you are at your home, be there 100%. Life is about finding balance. You will be more effective as an employee if you are balanced in your home life as well as your work life. My mother used to tell me to stop and smell the roses because she could see that to me, career was not work, and that was difficult for her to imagine. The description of work is something you do but would rather be doing something else. Be where you are.
When does one know that they're devoting to much to one side and not the other ... and if so, how did they regain a proper balance?
Imbalance is in all of us. It's having that little extra sense that you are becoming imbalanced and then correcting back to the center. If you are imbalanced and you are aware of yourself, you will know it. If you are not a "self-aware" person, there will be others who will tell you they are seeing imbalance. After a few of those, chances are they may be correct.
A radio personality does a lot more than just his or her air shift these days. How much time do you expect your talent to spend on social media and other platforms - how can you tell when they're not doing enough, or have found that all the side work is starting to impact their show?
Much like the imbalance, the great air talent knows when something is getting off-track. The best are self-editors; they are harder on themselves than anyone else could ever be. They know when to be somewhere and when to be somewhere else. If you (as a PD) are constantly in a position where you are time-managing your talent, you have the wrong talent, and they are probably not up for the assignment ... yet.
You've seen generations of young talent come into your workplace. How are today's beginners different than the ones you hired at, for instance, WNCI?
I am really impressed by this "Millennial" generation ... more so than any previous. These kids are bright, have always grown up with technology, and don't seem to be as materialistic. They are highly innovative. They also are not afraid of change because the world has been in constant churn since they were old enough to remember. So their values are on accomplishment and not on stability. I love that about them. They are fast. We have many in that age group running around the station; I just love them; they seem to understand Universal Law but yet still know that accomplishment is key. And most are smart enough to be highly promote-able. We will see them do fabulous things in the future.
How do you convince a promising newcomer -- who's also interested in digital technology and online interests -- that radio offers something that the others don't?
Radio IS digital technology. We are social; we integrate across all digital platforms seamlessly; we are online. Radio is part of that, and the truth is that is how newcomers see radio because they are not tainted or blinded by competitive hang-ups. It's not an "Us Versus Them" scenario. It's a "We Are Them" scenario. They see it ... and they get it. If they run into radio people saying there is this competition, they back up and don't really understand. It's a disconnect for them.
Are you concerned that this business isn't doing enough to attract the truly innovative types into this business?
No, I think the new generation sees radio's future for themselves. Many are interested in radio because they can see how it fits in with other media, including social media. While many who have been in it can't see it, the kids know the power of radio and can see it on so many different platforms and levels in the future, and how it is a solely digitally integrated medium. They are the ones who instantly grasp how cool HD is, what it does with the additional HD channels, and the digital proliferation of radio across streaming, websites, cell phones, you name it. They see it already.
You're overseeing CBS' HD efforts. In general, what kind of potential does HD have?
The ability to extend the great brands we have is a goal, and HD plays a big role going forward. Today, you can hear any of our brands in at least three or four ways. Take WBBM/Chicago, for example, legendary radio station ... in the 1980s on AM only ... now on AM, FM, HD and online. It goes where the audience is. Great brands will extend to additional media.
The potential for HD is excellent and evolutionary. It may be difficult to visualize today all the things that Digital FM HD can do. Think back to 1992 and someone trying to explain to you at that time what an iPhone is and what it could do for you as you are standing there holding your analog cell phone. There will come a day in the future when you will not be able to buy an analog radio, as everything migrates to digital. This is partly because digital broadcast is so far superior in so many ways, uses less energy, and is so much more green-friendly.
There are those who believe radio is putting the cart before the horse with HD, getting it into cars before creating an abundance of quality content. Agree?
This is the same question broadcasters have faced before in the 1920s, and then again in the 1950s with FM. The answer is no. Want another timelier example? Before there were content aps, there was the working iPhone. Then suddenly thousands of aps began springing up. If you recall the cell phone migration from analog to digital, it didn't happen overnight. Remember, it was just 2006 that the earliest HD2 stations started broadcasting full-time. Now we are experimenting with HD4 and beyond.
I am happy to see the work that Ibiquity is doing to get the devices into cars is starting to pay off. When we launched the first full-time HD2 format in America (WUSN HD2) in 2005, I did not think there would be this much in-car HD penetration this early in the game.
What steps do you believe radio has to take to make HD a viable an attractive option?
The steps are already underway. It is very exciting to see what Ibiquity is doing to get radios out there in even greater numbers. Content will follow available audience numbers when it comes to major platform rollouts. We saw the same thing for FM across the 1960s. For many years it was the medium that no one cared about. Then it became hot. And remember that when FM launched, people did not have the number of choices that are available today. So, HD radio will be the same going forward. It will get progressively better until critical mass is achieved and radio penetration reaches high levels. Radios in the future will all be digital.
You certain seem to be a radio "lifer." Could you ever envision a time when you'd call it a career?
What is really cool is seeing the future of radio being so bright, and I want to be a part of all that future excitement! They'll have to drag me out of the industry; I still feel in wonderment of it ... learning from someone every day. All the digital integration and growth is the best thing I have ever seen for this industry.
Could you ever see yourself doing something else?
I am doing WHAT I love to do WHERE I love to do it. As long as I am doing that, I will be successful. I am very blessed, lucky, and appreciative of many folks who have made that a reality. We do not win in a vacuum; we win with people, with others who share the vision.
After accomplishing so much in this business over a span of decades, what kind of challenges or goals do you have for the future?
It all starts with the #1 goal: the people. We want to have the very best talent onboard in all departments. The best of the best. When you have that working for you, you can't go wrong -- success is guaranteed. The more champions on your team responding to a great leader, the closer you are to a total championship team.