The Trap of More


The initial contact came out of the blue. An email, “Perhaps we should meet.”

That was it.

I recognized the name. I’d heard wonderful things about the company. So I called and we set a meeting a few weeks later when we would both be in the same market at the same time.

We had dinner. We talked about our lives outside of radio. I liked him, quite a lot actually.

But then he asked me to name my largest American market and client, and that’s not information I share. Here’s why..

I learned a long time ago that some big part of why companies hire me is my invisibility. They don’t want their competitors to know they’re using me, and sometimes they don’t want others in their own companies to know they’re using me.

I probably have the lowest profile of any consultant still working in our business. It suits me.

I offered a list of former clients. Let’s see, I’ve consulted stations in NYC, LA, Chicago, Dallas, SFO, Boston, DC, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Denver, in the Top 20.

If international cities count, I worked with NRJ Group in Paris for 10 years and one of our stations, NOSTALGIE once tallied an AQH of over 4 million listeners in middays. We actually beat NRJ that book, which I’m not sure was wise, but what can you do?

Obviously, I offered to sign a contract stipulating that I would not compete against this company in the market he was thinking of — and if I was already working in that market, I would not only not compete, I would sign a non-disclosure form forbidding me from even mentioning our meeting and the market itself.

I’m certain that even a cursory attempt at referencing me with former clients would give this executive ample feedback that integrity is part of who I am.

But that’s not what he was worried about.

I don’t know if he needed me to be in a Top 5 American market to justify using me to his own bosses, or if that’s how he judges one’s worth, but I could tell as we parted that I wouldn’t hear from him again. And I haven’t.

And it made me think of my own biases over the years, what I’ll call the ‘Trap of More,’ a more intense spotlight leading to more reknown, more people in the market leading to more money for me, more ego-strokes, more, more, more…

I wonder how many stars I’ve missed because of this belief that I couldn’t possibly learn anything from someone who hasn’t worked in a huge city.

I’d like to think it’s always been about ideas and passion more than market size, but maybe I’m more like this executive than I’d like to think. And, truth is, some of the best programmers I’ve worked with in my career have been in smaller markets.

I think this ‘interview’ worked out exactly as it should have, at least for me.

My work, what I bring to stations and staffs is about openess to feedback and willingness to risk, at least a little, to try to forge a deeper relationship, not only between me and them, but more importantly, with the station’s listeners.

I don’t think that would’ve happened in this instance, because of that doubt of my worthiness, my credentials.

Fundamentally, I don’t think revealing my Top 10 client list would’ve ended that doubt. I’m too far under the radar for this particular guy, too unknown to feel ‘safe.’

And I’m fine with that. Some of the best things in my life have come from unanswered prayers.