10 Questions with ... Abe Thompson
April 14, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
After college I joined the staff of WVON in Chicago as a salesman. I was hired by WGCI in 1980 and the following year became Sales Manager. A year later I was promoted to VP and Station Manager. In 1986, I went to Detroit and took over the leadership of WRIF as an equity partner and GM. I returned to Chicago in 1988 as station manager of WVAZ.
In 1990, I ventured out and formed Focus Radio and shortly after purchased my first radio stations in Michigan and Northwest Indiana.
1) What do you think the key has been for you to be able to succeed in so many areas of media?
The reasons are that I think and I'm open, meaning that I wanted to look at things differently and also to change my views on things. I'm always looking to learn and grow and I've learned the value of doing things for what might appear to be not immediate compensation for them. In other words, I do things to see the value of doing them even though you might not get paid for them.
2) Your career has been so diverse, how do you think radio prepares you for other business ventures, like the health care industry or the Women's Basketball Association, you were a part of?
Well, being involved in radio, especially on the sales end, you meet so many different people. Also, you get a lot of information about a lot of things and also you end up serving as an advisor to so many people in so many different areas. And a lot of times those things pique an interest, so you go out and find out more about that industry.
3) Which direction do you see radio and broadcasting taking?
Who knows? Experts have different opinions about where different mediums will go, but no one really knows. Because radio is such a personal medium and because there are so many great people in radio and broadcasting, it will grow and with other mediums. It will co-exist and help elevate other mediums, just like other mediums will help elevate broadcasting.
4) Would you share with us your involvement with Chicago's City Colleges?
I am an adjunct instructor and I am Operations Dir. for the City Colleges Radio Station, WKKC. Oh, and I am having fun!
5) Could you talk about your transition from GM/VP to station ownership? What were the challenges?
GM/VP; do you have a problem or a budget shortfall or an HR problem? You call Corporate. And sometimes they send somebody to the rescue, but you have some other entity to fall back on. When you transition to ownership, you are the corporate. Ownership is having full responsibility of everything and not being able to complain about your boss ... because you are him! The challenges are that you are responsible for everything and you have a number of people relying on you directly.
6) How did you get involved with TV producing and film marketing?
Through friends and by being open to new things. Again, if you are open to accepting new challenges, things come to you. And, if you make a lot of friends and a lot of friends in different areas, different things come to you.
7) What are you most proud of?
8) What advice do you have for those just starting out in broadcasting?
Make friends, hustle, learn and understand that it is a business. The reason people hire you is because there is a presumption that you can contribute something to the bottom line.
9) Who have been some of your mentors and what things did you learn from each?
There have been a number, but two people come to mind. They are dear friends; one is Tom Burrell who is the Chairman Emeritus of Burrell Communications. The other is Herb Kent who will be 87 this year and is in the Guinness World Book as the oldest living, continuously working air personality. I think Herb has been working in broadcasting over 65 years. What I learned from them is that you should help people, be humble, you should talk and communicate, and value everybody.
10) What profession would you have chosen had you not gone into radio?
I did choose a profession; I thought I had wanted to teach. Then I got a job in sales and you know, people in sales make a lot more money than teachers. The sales job led me to meet people in the broadcast industry. I did not choose broadcasting, it chose me.
What new challenges are you looking forward to?
Any that come up.
Do you have a hobby or passion for something that would surprise some people?
I have a passion/ I plan to make the NBA All-Star team, but I sprained my ankle a week ago so I probably won't get a chance to do it next year. Seriously, I like to work out and I like yoga.
If you were giving a motivational speech to a group of high school students right now, what would you stress to them?
First, I would give them three formulas and I would stress those formulas. The first formula is P + P + P = S. That means Persistence plus Patience plus Perspiration equal Success. The second is P + P + P + P + P and that is Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. The third is E + R = O. That means the Event plus your Response equals the Outcome.