Your Biggest Enemy

In one word…


I travel a lot, all over the world, immersed in every culture and ethnic majority I encounter in my work.

I was having a conversation recently with an older Japanese man about…Amazon. He expressed amazement that they always treat him so well.

Amazon may be the first company in the world to be valued at $1 trillion.

As a company, they do just about everything right, and they do it so well that we, those that use Amazon, can’t wait to share our story about them.

All to say that when Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, now the world’s second richest man, offers his insight into what’s behind this consumer adoration, it can’t hurt to listen.

You can read his 2016 letter to Amazon shareholders HERE.

You probably already know about his obsessive focus on customers, but how does he maintain that devotion in a company that just continues to grow?

He treats every customer as Amazon’s first customer.

He trains his employees, all of his employees, to never, ever take a customer for granted.

He foregoes profit for market share. He foregoes profit for customer satisfaction and delight.

He wants everyone who uses Amazon today to literally rave about their experience, and he’s willing to lose money to prove it.

How does this relate to Radio?

Quite clearly, Radio has put profit before the listener experience for decades.

Too many spots in too many breaks. The endless clutter of live reads, and 15-second sponsorships.

And let’s not forget remotes, every local station’s chance to prove how small we see ourselves as we set up our cheap folding table and chairs and beg anyone within earshot to please stop by.

Most stations today offer nothing to listeners that radio wasn’t offering 50 years ago.

In fact, we offer less.

Innovation? That’s expensive.

Compelling, intelligent, curious, informed, entertaining, empathetic talent? That’s really expensive.

Getting our over-commercialized clutter back down to a palatable 6-8 minutes an hour? We can’t afford that!

After reading Bezos’ letter (above), I wonder what he would do as an owner of a radio company.

I wonder what he would say to us, to you and your staff.

I think he’d say the same thing he’s saying in this letter: Your greatest enemy is irrelevance.

When you and what you offer become irrelevant, “excruciating, painful decline” is what follows.

It’s not too late for us. Radio still has unbelievable (considering how we’ve abused listeners) reach. We’re still the first choice inside a car.

But we’d better put some people in charge who will obsess about the listeners the way they obsess about their bonuses.

We’d better stop taking listeners — listening — for granted.

We’d better begin — again — to provide what radio’s always provided better than other media: engaging, caring, entertaining, compelling, portable companionship.

Something delightful. Something remarkable. Something worth talking about with our friends.

We’d better start thinking that today every break — is Day One for our stations, and that we’ve got everything to prove if we expect listeners again tomorrow.