Whether it’s how you arrived at the position you hold today or how well your station or company performed in the last financial quarter, we all owe a lot of any success to the contributions made by other colleagues, our mentors and our business associates. MFM award winners exemplify this. Here are some of their suggestions for achieving excellence.
What would you consider the most essential ingredient for a successful company or career? Given the impact of digital on the media business, your first thought may be making the right technology choices. Or, simply possessing the business acumen all management choices require.
But when you drill a bit deeper, you realize how much we rely upon the wisdom of others in developing that acumen. Whether it is how you arrived at the position you hold today or how well your station or company performed in the last financial quarter, we all owe a lot of any success to the contributions made by other colleagues, our mentors and our business associates.
This realization is one of the reason I loved the title “Profiting From Each Other” for the article about the 2015 awards recipients we honored at our annual conference earlier this week. It was written by Janet Stilson, editor of TFM —The Financial Manager magazine for our May-June issue. Stilson, who has interviewed the industry’s top executives over the years for a number of trade media, reminds us much of the profit we enjoy — both literally and figuratively — is due to others.
While our conference attendees were able to hear from these exemplary leaders directly, Stilson’s article provides our broader membership with the opportunity to profit from their example and advice. And because we can all benefit from their experiences, I wanted to share some of Stilson’s findings via this column:
Maintain a positive outlook — “I tend to be an optimist,” Avatar Award winner Don Benson, president-CEO of Lincoln Financial Media Co., told Stilson. “I think about what things can be, instead of getting too obsessed with the moment.”
Benson applies the same spirit of optimism to managing staff members. “I try to spend more time capitalizing on the strengths of our people — maximizing what they’re great at, rather than over-focusing on their shortcomings.”
He goes on to make this poignant observation: “It’s really interesting to me that the people who are the most challenging to manage are often our best performers. You have to try to determine what strikes a chord with your people — what motivates, engages and generates excitement for each of them. And that’ll vary from person to person.”
Bring value — When she joined the management team at Gannett earlier this year, our 2015 Distinguished CFO Award winner Alison Engel, former CFO-treasurer of A.H. Belo, brought her experience as a crucial member of the team that separated the company’s newspaper assets into the A. H. Belo corporate entity.
Gannett will be tapping into her valuable expertise as it undergoes its own restructuring, which will create separate corporate entities for the company’s publishing assets and its broadcast and digital properties. Post-restructuring, Engel will serve as CFO for the publishing group, which will encompass the flagship USA Today, 81 local U.S. dailies and Newsquest, a U.K. news provider.
Robert Warner, our 2015 BCCA Member Contributor Award recipient also provides the example of how to bring value to a new organization through past experiences. Warner had served as director of credit and collections at LIN Media Group before the company merged with Media General Inc. and prior to that was credit manager for Stanley Black & Decker. Warner is playing an integral role in extending shared services for credit and collection across the combined company and his “department is growing by leaps and bounds,” says Joe Werternberger, Media General’s shared services controller.
Be a “transformational leader” — That’s the term Christine Larkin, VP-general counsel of A. H. Belo, used to describe Engel’s management style. It all relates to her desire to treat people the way she wants to be treated. “If I don’t know something, I say, ‘I don’t know.’ I just see so many people who try to fake their way through things,” Engel says. “I’d rather people be disappointed that I don’t know things than to try to bluff my way out of something.”
Transformational leadership also extends outside of your organization. Take the example of Robert Rollins, 2015 recipient of the Peter F. Szabo Award, named in honor of a great MFM and BCCA supporter. Several years ago, Rollins, Raycom Media’s corporate credit and collections manager, spearheaded the industry’s response to a major advertising agency that threatened to impose an onerous requirement on its media providers. By getting BCCA involved, Rollins prevented a damaging practice from ever taking root.
Replace “us versus them” with “we” — You may think that the notion of frenemies is relatively new, but there are many people who have helped to pave the way toward broader collaboration. One of those individuals was Jack Zwaska, a former MFM board participant and executive director of the Television Music License Committee. We continue to honor Jack for his example through an award that bears his name.
It what may appear a bit ironic, this year’s Jack Zwaska Award recipient is someone who often sat across from him at the negotiating table — Deborah Houghton, the VP of broadcast and cable licensing at the performance rights organization SESAC Inc. Jack always tried to see what the person on the other side of the table needed. He didn’t have a scorched-earth policy; Deb Houghton is cut from the same cloth.
She has bridged the gap between her licensing group and the MFM and BCCA community in many ways, including by arranging for SESAC to sponsor the last lunch of the annual conference featuring a special musical performance. This year marked the 21st year that she has spearheaded that event.
Participate in industry affairs — Don Benson’s industry work includes serving as chair of the NAB radio board as well as the Radio Advertising Bureau’s board and the Arbitron Advisory Council. “He’s championed a number of things that have strengthened the American radio business,” said Jeff Smulyan, chairman, president and CEO of Emmis Communications.
Many people may feel they don’t have the time participation in industry affairs may require. I would encourage you to follow the examples of Allison Engel, Bob Warner and Bob Rollins. While the years 2011 to 2013 were very demanding at Belo for Engel, she shouldered the added responsibility of helping to lead MFM as a member of our Board of Directors. Similarly, Warner and Rollins found time to help us develop EMCAPP — the Electronic Media Credit Application — during very busy times at their respective companies.
Our association’s 2015 Membership Award winners are additional examples of individuals who have made time to get involved in industry groups despite equally demanding jobs and busy lives.
They include our Working Capital Award recipients, who were honored for helping MFM and BCCA achieve our goals:
- Glenn Krieg, CFO, Morgan Murphy Media
- Michael “Shane” Turner, controller, Turner Broadcasting System
- Suzanne Tuxill, corporate controller, Salem Media Group
Our Rainmaker Award is presented to individuals who have helped MFM and BCCA expand in significant ways. This year’s honorees are:
- David Amy, EVP-COO, Sinclair Broadcast Group
- Cheryl Ingram, SVP, controller and chief accounting officer at Turner Broadcasting System
- Bruce Lazarus, CEO, Media Audits International
- Marc Manahan, SVP-CFO, Univision Television Group
An electronic copy of the May-June issue of TFM containing Stilson’s article is available on our website. In it she shares the stories of these outstanding members of the media community while outlining many additional ways we can profit from one another. I invite you give it a read. And, I hope you will join me in thanking these 2015 honorees for the many ways they have helped to enrich us through their leadership and example.
Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.