I Never Met Gene Romano, But He Did More For My Career Than Anyone
August 13, 2014
Sometimes the jobs you turn down are the catalysts for the jobs you end up getting next.
In 1991, I turned down a job to program 102-7 WEQX in Manchester, VT. I had a much better offer. Tell me if you agree. I had the opportunity to be the weekend overnight jock on 93-3 WFLZ in Tampa. Yep, I gave up full time to move far South, to work part time.
In 1998, I turned down a job to program B97 in New Orleans. They came back at me, and made me an offer I couldn't refuse.
In 2000, I turned down a job at WNCI in Columbus, Ohio. I ended up working at All Access for the next four and a half years.
In 2008, I turned down a job as the OM of both KMEL and KYLD in San Francisco. The job was great, the pay was not. But, it was this job that got me to New York City, and this week's article is about how a man named Romano, whom I never met, gets all the credit.
Turned Down For What
103.5 KISS FM, WKSC in Chicago was looking for a program director and I was in my fourth year at the helm of 96-1 The Beat in Charlotte, which, except for morning drive, had dominated the Top 40 battle since its launch. I was asked by a couple of CC bigwigs to listen to WKSC and give insight in writing.
It ended up being thirteen pages long, and I was thorough, not missing the good or the bad in any area, from music to imaging to talent, marketing, promotions, branding and beyond. As Rick Vaughn was named PD, I was certain my time and effort put into writing my findings was time NOT well spent.
But, about a month after Rick Vaughn took his post, I got an email from Dom Theodore, who had risen to a VP role at CC, but it wasn't an email from Dom, instead it was a forwarded email from another VP, Gene Romano to Dom.
With my thirteen pages attached to the email, Gene Romano wrote, "Well written, with great insights. This guy is sharp."
Remember when Jim Carrey in the movie The Cable Guy would become stalker-like when someone would call him 'friend?' Well, I almost moved to Pittsburgh after I saw that email and became Gene Romano's next door neighbor.
Ordering The Restraining Order
The next big gig that opened in the company was in San Francisco, where they were looking for someone who understood the culture of Urban, Rhythmic, Hip-Hop and Top 40; someone who could roost over, both, KMEL and KYLD.
I was in the running before the job was even posted. Dom Theodore began the interview process with me, then one by one, I began having discussions with Market Manager Dave Pugh, Gene Romano and many others in CC that I had never met.
Before I knew it, I was in San Fran, interviewing for the gig, and certain things about the gig were weird right from the get-go. For one, I was told I would be replacing two different people, yet one of the people I was told I would be replacing ended up taking me to lunch as part of the interview.
While that didn't sit right with me, I kept on and finished strong.
In the end, I was offered the job, but I kept turning it down, even as they were raising the dollar amount; as the person who called with the offer, was, again, the person I was told I would be replacing.
In the end, I said, "no."
No Is Not Rejection
Gene Romano wrote an email that said, "Maybe this wasn't the right situation for you, but there will be others."
Dom Theodore called and this was the first time he used the word 'buddy' with me. "Hey buddy, I'm impressed." He went on to say he didn't know too many programmers who would turn that job down in the radio climate we were in at that time.
If there's one thing I can say about my career, it is simply this: I have NEVER taken a job that I didn't want. NOT ONCE. I wasn't going to start at that stage in my career, either. So, I didn't.
Not too long after that, I found myself downsized in the January '09 cluster cuts that saw thousands out of a gig, as President Obama would begin his first day of his amazing eight-year run. (cough, cough)
And as fast as I got an envelope with my payout information, and got kicked to the curb, Dom Theodore called and simply said, "I know your phone's going to ring, but trust me, I got the perfect position for you. Be patient."
Eight Million Stories In The Naked City
And that's how I got to New York City.
It took a man named Gene, who didn't give up a good read simply because the job had already been doled out. His curiosity didn't fade, simply because he had risen to high places. Instead, he did something incredibly unselfish, while showing immense professionalism by not judging someone he had never heard of. Instead, he read my words, then in his, told it like he read it.
As long as there are people like Gene Romano in ANY company, there is hope for any of us who continue to perform in our daily routine with quality work, whether we think someone is seeing it or not.
Mr. Romano: On behalf of anybody who feels passed over, ignored, or unappreciated in the job they are presently doing, I'd like to say with all sincerity...THANK YOU!!