I spent 36 years in the radio industry. It was an exciting and rewarding career. I got to live the rock and roll lifestyle as a DJ at Top 40 radio stations. Eventually, I moved from performer to consultant and researcher, and finally business owner.
I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but a solid foundation was being built for my life. There were valuable lessons learned that are helping me now live a satisfying retirement lifestyle.
Being in the right place at the right time can make a huge difference. Due to one article in an industry newsletter about a radio station I was programming, someone at the leading radio consulting company saw it and hired me. Instantly my life and career were on a fast track toward my own business years later and instant financial stability. All because of one article, in one newsletter, seen by one person, at exactly the right time. Otherwise, I would never have even been on their radar.
Being at the right place at the right time is something you can’t control. But, if you are alert enough to recognize that opportunity, grab it. It may not come around again. Some may call this luck. But, if you are not sensitive to the big chance when it presents itself being lucky won’t help. Train yourself to look at situations with a fresh eye. When others see a problem, do you sense an opening?
Paying your dues
To break into radio at 15, I started as a janitor at a tiny radio station. Mopping floors, throwing out the trash, and running errands eventually lead to a chance for me to try out for an on-air opening. The truth is I got the job because I agreed to work for virtually nothing after school and weekends.
There are too many people who believe society owes them success. Hard work, learning the ropes, and doing the stuff others don’t want to do are foreign concepts. They believe starting at the bottom and working upward is not for them. I’m pretty sure that skipping the first several rungs of the ladder will set you up for a nasty fall at some point.
Long hours and sacrifice are part of building anything meaningful. While at college I worked as a DJ from 6 PM-12 midnight 6 days a week all while carrying a full class load. Later as a consultant I worked seven days a week for almost three years to establish my business.
It was not often pleasant, but building something worthwhile comes at a cost. I chose to make those sacrifices to build what I was striving to build. There was no other way.
Your word is your most valuable asset
I had more than one client tell me that I had their total trust and confidence. They believed my word was my bond and i would do everything in my power to help them succeed. They never worried I had a hidden agenda or would take the money and slack off.
In life, as well as business, trust and honesty must be earned. The cost if you squander them can bankrupt a business and a life. There is nothing more valuable than your word. Protect it at all costs.
Take an occasional calculated risk. When I was fired shortly after moving to Tucson in 1980 I had a real problem: a family with two kids under the age of 3 and no way to support them. I decided I would try to establish my own business. The odds were against me. I had almost no money for marketing. Air travel from Tucson was expensive.
It worked. One major radio station decided to take a chance on me and that lead to a national client base. It was tough at first. We didn’t even allow ourselves to go shopping at the mall for a full year. But, the calculated risk we took paid off. It probably helped that we had no Plan B. It had to work.
Never stop learning
One important lesson eventually cost me my business. I allowed myself to coast on past performances and reputation. While the industry was changing all around me, I continued to use the same approach that had worked so well for so many years. I stopped learning and evolving. I decide to spend almost no money on marketing. Eventually I had no way to stop the decline in my business. By 2001 I had lost all my clients.
The lesson was simple: never stop learning. Whatever you know today is likely to be different or obsolete much sooner than you expect. Whatever your expertise or experience, it will become worthless at some point if you don’t keep learning. It doesn’t matter if you are in business or retired, the world will pass you by if you step to the sidelines and watch the parade.
Know when to fold ‘em. In 2001 my wife and I looked at the wreckage of the business and had to make a critical decision. Do we attempt to resurrect it or, do we say it was a great run while it lasted. We had been conservative with our money and investments so if we were lucky it should last. Our financial adviser said we could do it. Retiring at 52 was a real leap. We took that risk. We knew when to call it quits.
Sometimes you have to stop something you are doing, or change direction. You may have to undergo a difficult transition to get to the next stage. You may have jump into the deep end of the pool without a life preserver. But, the riskiest decision you can make in such a situation is to not jump. To continue along a path that isn’t working for you is only going to take you farther away from where you want to be.