I was reading Colin Cowherd’s interview with the Hollywood Reporter last month, and in it he said something that stuck with me. He talked about Pat Riley, and how Riley recommends changing jobs every 10 years in order to stay fresh, and remain challenged. I found that interesting because people in life usually choose between consistency and familiarity, and unpredictability.
For some, they prefer routine and a safe bet, as opposed to taking a risk to find out what’s possible. For others, they loathe predictability, and seek to be challenged, because reaching their maximum potential carries higher importance. Neither way is better than the other. It’s simply a matter of each individual making a decision which best fits who they are.
During the past year I’ve had a lot of time to contemplate a number of possibilities as it pertains to my future. As crazy as it may sound, it was refreshing to have my nerves rattled a little, the fire in my belly rekindled, and question marks swimming around my brain daily, wondering if my next move would be wise or foolish. A little career anxiety can be a good thing.
When I started to analyze my situation and where I wanted to go, I knew one thing for certain was going to influence my path the most. That was the location. For the past thirteen years I’ve lived in thirteen apartments and houses in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Missouri and California, and coming home to New York, and being near my son was priority number one. If you read my “Leaving California” column in February, then you know this was why I chose to leave San Francisco at the end of my contract this past June.
I’ve been very lucky to build some great friendships and relationships with a number of different executives and radio operators during the course of my career, and the past six months, they’ve put my will to test. While it’s flattering to know others value your work and would love to have you operate their brands, I knew it was time to go home. No amount of power or money was going to change my mind.
By making that decision to return to New York, I knew it would present some difficulties since things at my level in the big apple don’t change much. It’s a lot easier to have your pick of the litter of high profile jobs when you do good work, and are willing to move anywhere. A fancy title, larger market and bigger paycheck, are all things many people in my position should want, but I’ve been a hired gun for a long time, and while it’s been professionally fulfilling, led to some incredible friendships and relationships, and helped me make a great living, it wasn’t going to help me be closer to my son, loved ones, friends or home state.
As I looked inside at what I enjoyed most about what I do and my life, I felt my family were what mattered most, and when it came to my professional desires, I discovered my real passion is in teaching, coaching, writing, analyzing data, discovering and recruiting talent, and brand building.
That said, there are certain parts of programming a radio station that are exciting and difficult to ignore.
You get to work with a number of people from all different backgrounds, make talent and personnel decisions, help people grow, make a great living, and earn the trust and respect of your employer. You also set the tone for how the brand, and its people will operate. That is a fun part of the job, and one that I’m glad to have experienced during the past ten years.
While those aspects of the job are enjoyable, there are also some limitations. For instance, when you work inside one building, you’re restricted to using your abilities to help your current employer, and the people in your market. You may talk to others in different locations, but your ability to assess what’s happening in other cities and other companies, and contribute to helping them be successful isn’t possible. If you’re doing that, you’re likely not focused enough on your own brand.
You’re also limited in the information you can share, the networking you can do, the honesty in which you provide your views beyond your employer’s walls, you sometimes don’t make the final call, and you’re tasked with spending more time on operating budgets, promotions and sales challenges, than the one department you were originally hired to provide guidance and leadership to – programming!
As I reviewed my career, where I was, and where I wanted to be, and thought about that Pat Riley quote, I felt it was time for change, and a new challenge. I love the sports media industry, and I see it growing more and more each day, and being a part of its future is important to me. However, I’ve put a lot of time, thought, and passion into my work, and while running a building can be fun and provide some additional perks, I believe I can make a much bigger difference for the industry, beyond one physical address.
Dan Patrick said when he left ESPN that he knew he was going to have multiple bosses, and I plan to experience that same fate.
So after nearly twenty years in radio, most of it in the sports talk format, I am officially announcing the launch of my company, Barrett Sports Media. It’s one that I have been slowly building behind the scenes, and I enter into this new venture head first with unwavering enthusiasm.
So you’re wondering “what the heck does that mean” right? Let me explain.
As I work on developing my brand and my company, I’ll be doing a lot of different things for a lot of different people. I’ll be writing more on this website and interacting with people and audio operators all across the country to give this format and the people who perform in it a higher profile, since it deserves one.
I’ll also be doing some teaching and speaking, serving as a liaison for programmers and corporate executives, providing one-on-one instruction and job assistance for select talent, and entering the consulting space, which is one part of the business that I am really excited about exploring. If time allows, I might even pick up a couple of game day assignments, but right now that’s not my focus.
It’s fitting that I’d move into this side of the industry, because it was about twenty years ago that I began reading www.sportsradio.com, a website owned and operated by sports radio consultant Rick Scott. That website helped educate me a lot on this industry, and opened up doors to relationships that I still maintain today.
Had it not been for Rick’s website, I’d probably not have gone to work for Bruce Gilbert at ESPN Radio, and had that not happened, who knows if I’m even writing this.
For the past twenty years, Rick has put more time, thought and care into working with sports operators, and talent around the country than anyone else, and because of his contributions, this industry has prospered. I was fortunate to have him as a mentor in St. Louis and San Francisco, and with his help, support and friendship, we collaborated a lot and did some pretty impressive things.
Seeing what he has done for the industry, and experiencing it myself, it’s opened my eyes to the benefits of becoming a resource to the entire sports media world. While Rick has been an incredible ally, friend and mouthpiece for the entire sports radio community, there haven’t been many others in the consultant space, dedicated solely to the growth of sports media, and the people who make a living in it. I plan to change that.
I know some of you reading this, may be thinking “Consulting? Multiple jobs? JB loves local radio too much to not be inside of a building” and I understand that initial doubt, but once you’ve had sustained success, and have experienced the country as I have, it starts to feel the same, and I never want to become the guy inside of the factory who does the same job day after day. That’s not how I’m wired.
I’m also not fueled by money, power or fancy titles. If I’m going to put my name on something, I want it to be good, and I want people to gain results from it. Nobody will remember how much money you made, or the different titles you held during your career, but they will remember the quality of your work, and how you helped and inspired others.
The funny thing is, I remember having this chat a few months ago with a good industry friend, and when I told him I was entertaining the idea, he said “All media consultants are the same. They give some insight and opinion, change their minds when things don’t work, and try to stay out of the way and praise the people up above, so they can continue earning a check. You don’t fit that mold so I’m not sure if that’s good or bad“.
While I don’t know if his assessment was accurate or not, it got me to thinking, “Why do I need to fit a particular description? Can’t I blaze my own trail and offer my own style“? It worked for me as a programmer, and I believe there’s value in offering a different point of view and approach. I’m hoping our industry does as well.
One thing I take great pride in, is knowing the entire sports media landscape. I invest time in developing dialogue with industry professionals all across the country, and I listen to and watch personalities and brands everywhere, to the point where it costs me a lot of my own personal time at home. It’s a huge passion of mine, and one that I struggle to turn off.
Because I study people, markets, brands and operators, it helps me with providing fair and thorough analysis, and if I’m going to share my opinion or insight on certain subjects, I believe in being prepared and knowing the facts. If you’ve followed this site over the past 14 months, you’ve hopefully recognized that in some of the columns I write, and the ratings pieces I’ve published for numerous markets.
While this new venture places me into unchartered waters, I’m energized by taking the risk, and trying something new. Sometimes when people in our business do something different, others rush to judgment and deem them as being crazy, or being on the path to failure. That’s a mistake in my opinion.
When Dan Patrick left ESPN, everyone thought he was nuts. Rick Reilly actually called it one of the five worst moves in sports entertainment history. Why would anyone leave the comfort, and power of ESPN, to start their own entity?
Well Dan had a bigger plan, and while it took some time, he expanded his brand and income potential, entered new content arenas, grew his relationships, took more control of his own future, and had more fun.
As of last check, his brand could be found on NBC Television, Fox Sports Radio, Sports Illustrated, Dish Network, Audience One, Crackle, and in Adam Sandler films.
Doesn’t seem so crazy now does it?
Let me be clear about one thing, by no means am I comparing this move of mine to Dan’s. I’m not changing the world, or risking anything close to what he did. He’s one of the best to ever operate in this business, and the risk he took was enormous. I’m just a guy from New York who loves sports radio, has traveled the country and had a little bit of success, believes he has some knowledge and skill to offer, and is going to take on a new challenge to try and help others.
I’ve helped build three brands from scratch, discovered a number of talent who have gone on to have successful careers, and produced strong ratings for my previous employers. I’m proud of my track record as a programmer. Now though it’s time to see if I can make a larger impact for multiple brands, and people.
The calls, emails, texts and social media messages I’ve received during the past 2 months, from all over the country, have shown me that people out there do care about this format, and its future, and they want to get better. I’m going to give my undivided attention, to try and help them do that.
Who knows what tomorrow holds? I’ve said this many times, and I believe it’s coming, we will see a day when sports teams program their own audio channels, Twitter, Google, Facebook and/or YouTube create sports talk brands, and Pandora, Spotify, Newspapers and other new audio brands emerge and develop talk content.
Podcasting is also becoming a stronger player, and I think that will only increase as digital dashboards become a heavier focus inside automobiles.
There are so many possibilities, and they all need the same thing – smart and experienced leadership, strong content creators, and people who know how to deliver results, and grow a business. I know how to do that, and I plan to use my abilities to help others enjoy success.
Geena Davis once said “If you risk nothing, you risk everything”. Well what can I say, I’m a risk taker. I bet on myself when I entered this crazy business, and I’m doing it again now, when it’d be much easier to take a conventional path. It’s an exciting time, and exciting world, and when you’re in the right space, and right location, the rest has a way of working itself out.
Wish me luck!