Friday, November 5, 2010

38 Hours In Chicago

I just arrived home from a whirlwind trip to Chicago. I was there for the day to attend the funeral of Danny Casas. Uncle Danny as I always called him was the father of my close friend Alan. Danny and his wife Merle were close, life-long friends of my mother and father and Danny was also a fraternity brother of my dad’s when they went to Roosevelt University in Chicago together.

I worked all day Wednesday. Craig Boston our Sales Manager led the team through an outstanding strategy session that day where we brainstormed great ideas for 2011. I left the meeting and headed to the airport where I flew to Chicago and arrived at midnight. A quick cab ride and I was at home with my parents. Things haven’t changed in 51 years, my mother was waiting up for me when I arrived. We talked a while and I went to bed.

After about three hours sleep, I awoke and was off to the airport again to pick up my friend Roger who was flying in on the red-eye from Los Angles. After picking up Roger at six AM, we went to the Doubletree Hotel and picked up another friend Scott (who lives in LA too) who coincidentally was already in Chicago on business.

Just like high school, with Roger and Scott and me driving my father’s car we were off to meet another friend Ken at Walker Brothers The Original Pancake House in Wilmette for breakfast. It was only seven o’clock in the morning and we were all together, just like we were thirty five years ago. And yes we had an apple pancake! And yes it was GREAT! We caught up, all expressed our sadness about Alan’s loss, yet we were having a good time and enjoying each others company the same way we did when we were kids in school.

After breakfast I dropped everyone off so we could get ready for the funeral. I went home had a quick nap, some conversation with my mother and father, a shower and I was off again to pick up Scott and Roger to go to the funeral home.

We had a dilemma? It was noon, the funeral started at one, we were a little hungry again and none of us had eaten a hotdog or beef sandwich since we arrived in Chicago. Did we have time to grab a dog and still get to the service on time? My parents were emphatic that we get there early and my mother was going to save us seats. Scott, always the wise one and the voice of reason said it was going to be a long day, we had the funeral, then the ride to the cemetery and the burial and we needed to eat something! Made sense, didn't have to twist my arm!

This will come as no surprise, we went to Portillo’s, I did something that I have never done before in my life. I ordered a hotdog plain with nothing on it, just a dog and a bun, no relish, or onions, peppers, tomato, mustard or celery salt. There was a method to my madness. I did not want to smell like a hotdog all day or drip mustard on my white shirt, tie or suit.

It took a little bit longer than we had calculated to get our order. When the food came, we devoured it! We had to have broken the land speed record for eating our feast. Roger had a dog with the works and Scott had the wettest Italian Beef sandwich I have ever seen and it smelled GOOD! We all shared an order of fries since we did not want to over do it. By the way, we were only five minutes late and arrived at the funeral home at 12:35.

When we arrived, there was a receiving line to pay your condolences to the family. We walked around the side, went right to the front to see Alan. We paid our respects and apologized for being a couple of minutes late for his dad’s funeral; we came clean with Alan and told him we stopped for some dogs. He wasn’t mad that we were late; he was disappointed that we did not bring him one.

The funeral was a traditional Jewish service. The Cantor spoke, sang and recited prayers in Hebrew. Alan’s sister Cindy spoke eloquently and delivered a wonderful, heartfelt eulogy about her father. She made us laugh and made us cry and evoke our own individual memories of her father.

Following the service, a procession was formed and we drove all the way to the south west side of Chicago to one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the City. It was a long drive using surface streets, taking over an hour to get there as we wound our way through the different neighborhoods of Chicago. As always, Scott was right, glad we had the hotdogs.

When we arrived at the cemetery it was cloudy, cold with a few raindrops. We all gathered around Uncle Danny’s grave, more prayers and more tears. Then, remarkably, as if on cue as the casket was being lowered into the ground, the sun forced its way through the clouds and it was bright and beautiful outside. No doubt this was some sort of sign.

As is tradition, we all preformed a “mitzvah” by helping shovel the dirt on top of the casket. As the casket was being covered with dirt the clouds came back and it started to rain harder and harder. Another sign I'm sure.

After the cemetery we all drove back north to Deerfield and went back to Cindy’s house to sit “Shiva” the custom of bereavement where visitors pay a visit to the mourners, share stories about the deceased, and are generally there to comfort the mourners and each other. There is typically a lot of good food. This was certainly the case at Cindy’s house. There were some outrageous deli platters. All of my favorites from corned beef to Chopped liver, rye bread, kosher salami, dill pickles, egg salad also, cookies, pastries, chocolate covered pretzels, candy nuts and more. Most importantly, it was a gathering of good friends and family reminiscing about Uncle Danny, old times and catching up on years gone by.

Shiva was over close to 10p and we still owed Alan that hotdog from earlier in the day. While none of us were really that hungry, Alan, Roger and I decided to go to the new Super Dawg in Wheeling and just relax. Old habits are hard to break. Just like the old days, we would end our nights out with either a slice of pizza or a hotdog. This night would be no different. Alan told us as we were coming home from our Vienna indulgence that his father would have been proud of us for being together and having a dog that evening!

I have come to the conclusion that Jews like to medicate themselves with food! Maybe it’s just me… “I don’t think so….”

Back home to my folk’s house by midnight. Guess what? My mother was waiting up for me and wanted to debrief me on the entire day. Finally, went to bed by one and slept until ten this morning. Then, my mom and dad drove me to the airport. On the way we had a quick pit-stop for lunch. No hotdog, actually had a chicken gyro (very good). After a nap on the plane, landed in Phoenix at three-thirty and Home Sweet Home!

All in all, it was a nice day yesterday. A very nice day! A special day! How could that be, we were there for a funeral? There in lies the paradox. Good things come out of sad situations. It was a nice day because friends and family from near and far were all together, reminiscing, reconnecting, catching up and celebrating, celebrating a life!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Passion Is The Key To Success

Passion is defined as a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object, concept, etc: I have always held the belief that in order to succeed and win, you need to be passionate about what you do.

As I was walking around the radio station this past Friday and then attended our events this weekend, I felt the stations oozing with passion from every nook and cranny.

Chris and his team in programming have been eating, drinking, breathing and sleeping MEGA and THE BEAT. You can feel it, see it and hear it when you are upstairs in the studios.

Matt in promotions is getting his team on point. You can see the pride and passion they have at our events. It was evident at every promotion I went to this weekend, from Jeanette’s ownership of the “Worlds Greatest Yard Sale” to Tyler, Ramses and Ruben getting the crowd excited at Lunar Bingo to Alex, Juliann and the promo team at the MEGA’s Got Talent promotion.

The passion is not limited to programming and promotions. It is also evident with Craig and the sales team as well; new ideas translate into great results for new and longstanding clients. Our sales team’s passion is yielding great results.

The passion extends beyond our office's in Scottsdale. We work with a talented group of engineers who are passionate about what they do to keep us on the air and sounding GREAT. This is not always an easy task when you have remote mountain top transmitter sites that are susceptible to blizzards in the winter and monsoons in the summer.

The excitement, The enthusiasm, The passion is there and it is contagious. I could not be more proud of our team!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Master The Basics And Be True To Your Core Belief's And Values

In May we went to see Carole King and James Taylor's Troubadour Reunion tour at Arena. As I posted previously, this was one of the best shows I've ever seen for so many

It appears that I'm not the only one that feels that way. Ray Waddel wrote about the concert for Billboard magazine. This story could serve as a white paper on how to do things right in the concert, music, record, video and promotion business.

So many times in our industry, we try to reinvent the wheel, but if you just master the basics, stay true to your core beliefs and values, you can have huge success too!

Read the article here:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Do The Right Thing, Get High Marks

I have always believed that customer service is number one when dealing with consumers. At the radio stations we bend over backwards to do the right thing for our clients. When they have an issue, we do everything in our power to address it head on, make it right for them and then try to go above and beyond. It is the old adage of making lemonade out of lemons.

We are a small organization and don’t have the resources to employ a complex customer satisfaction program. Although, I do believe that we have a fairly decent pulse on what our customers think and we try to be proactive in ensuring that we are doing the best that we can.

I mention all of this because I am beginning to wonder how valid these costumer service surveys really are.

While in college, I cut my teeth in radio doing music and audience research, I went on to become the research director of a radio station, I worked for a radio programming consulting company and traveled the nation conducting focus groups and designed and analyzed customer service studies, I also worked for a national research company doing research for Fortune 500 companies. One of the major tenants that I learned and reinforced with clients was that you had to take great care in making sure that you do not bias the survey, because if you did, it would invalidate the research and prove it worthless.

When conducting research you don’t necessarily want it to tell you how great you are (although that would be nice), you want it to tell you how you can become better. It needs to be pure, honest and unbiased.

A couple of weeks ago the AC went out on my Honda. I took it to the local Honda dealer and had a less than pleasant experience. The day after I my car was repaired I received a telephone call from Honda (the manufacturer) requesting that I participate in a customer satisfaction survey. I agreed and answered the questions honestly.

The very next morning I received a phone call from the service writer at the Honda dealership asking me why I gave him and the dealership poor marks. I was honest with him and told him why. He tried to justify his position and told me that the issues that I had were with the dealer and the manufacturer and not him and that he was just following the rules.

He continued and inquired if during the survey Honda asked me to participate in a follow-up survey. I said they did. He then went into this long diatribe about how he gets evaluated and compensated based on the results of these surveys. He asked me to give him high marks; he told me he would rotate my tires and give me an oil change for free in exchange for my good words. I told him that would not be necessary and that I would answer the questions honestly if and when I took the survey.

Fast forward to yesterday. I called Sprint regarding some questions I had about my BlackBerry. I was on the phone with them for more than twenty minutes and as it turns out they gave me the wrong information. At the end of the call the customer service representative was sure to ask; “Is there any reason why I would not be able to give her high marks if I was contacted by Sprint for a survey”. Once again, I told her that I would answer the survey honestly.

In both cases, with Honda and Sprint I did get the surveys via email and I did what I said I would do. I answered them honestly!

Here is my question? Does everyone answer the surveys honestly when prompted, bribed and cajoled to ignore the facts and just give good marks? I don’t think so. While the customer service reps might get their bonuses for high marks, they are really doing their employers and customers a disservice. They are masking issues and biasing the studies.

Sprint and Honda actually think that they are doing a great job taking care of customers, but in reality, there are issues that need to be addressed. Are these surveys a farce and a waste of millions of dollars? Maybe, maybe not, you be the judge!

I have a simple philosophy. Just do the right thing and the surveys will come back strong!

Oh… by the way. The AC blows cold air again!