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Ramsey Solutions’ Lesson on Legacy

No company walks the legacy-planning journey like Ramsey Solutions, the company led by financial talk-show host Dave Ramsey.

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Investing in your people is the surest way to ensure your brand’s legacy.

Securing the next generation of leaders is not simply a crucial step for healthy corporate succession in business or media. It is a crucial process for any media company’s long-term growth, stability, and future.

No company walks the legacy-planning journey like Ramsey Solutions, the company led by financial talk-show host Dave Ramsey. In fact, one of Ramsey’s lesser-known yet highly influential books, “The Legacy Journey,” teaches individuals to think financially past today and build something lasting for the future.

And in terms of building a legacy of financial media, Ramsey has always had an eye on the future.

Take, for example, talented host Anthony O’Neal, who for years with Ramsey Solutions helped spearhead the company’s effort to help college students emerge from school without burdensome student loans. With Ramsey’s leadership, O’Neal went into communities to share the truth about the predatory student loan industry, educating and imploring students and families that there are alternatives to the traditional model involving the financial handcuffs of college loans.

O’Neal, a black American, helped Ramsey extend his reach to a more diverse audience, one that was also younger and more rooted in popular culture. For O’Neal, it was a chance to speak to audiences across the country, both in person, through books, and on Ramsey’s nationally-syndicated radio program. A true win-win until O’Neal left Ramsey Solutions late last year to continue building his platform on his own.

Contrary to first thought, however, the change was welcomed and perhaps planned for by both parties. No drama and no hard feelings, at least publicly.

Across the media industry, grooming the next generation of leaders is more difficult than ever before. And it’s not unique to Ramsey and O’Neal. It holds true for on-air talent, to production crews, to the editorial staff, and the corporate boardroom. In all cases, a proactive approach helps develop the next batch of professionals to grow a brand or sprout the branches of a company’s ministry into the future.

“A lot of these pathways into becoming the Program Director or the brand manager just don’t exist anymore,” said Jeff Sottolano of Audacy at the recent Barrett Sports Media Summit in New York City. “The college internship, the Promotions Director, the APD in some instances. We’ve made very specific and intentional investments in restoring some of those positions and making sure we’ve got a pathway inside of our organization to grow and develop the next major-market brand manager, maybe in a secondary role in another market.”

So it becomes a two-part framework – invest into your future stars and, if necessary, help them spread their wings and fly. For O’Neal, the timing of his move was a welcomed one, both for himself and the Ramsey organization.

“Me and Dave recognized that my brand was going in a different direction than what we saw it was going while I was at Ramsey. And so we both just agreed that it’s time for you to just step out on your own,” O’Neal said on the Nicky and Moose YouTube show last month. “It was such a smooth transition to where this guy was so into it. He said we love you; we want to support the route that you’re going when it comes to really serving that market that you want to go after. And it wasn’t like this was a better situation, or this was a bad situation. It was like, hey Anthony, go do your thing. I said yeah, I’m going to go do my thing. It’s so funny, because when people see people separate, they automatically think it’s drama. And I’m like, no, there’s no drama there. That was a season. I’m a Christian man, and God just shifted the season.”

And when it comes to investing in future leaders, Dave Ramsey puts his money where his mouth is, often without much fanfare.

“Because I honor Dave, because I honor that place, I’m going to love that place. Dave was one hundred percent supportive of it,” O’Neal said. “I’m going to be real with you all. He even gave me some money to go out. It was like a church plan; we’re gonna go allow Anthony to do what he was called to do.”

But that’s not to say it’s been all rainbows and lollipops for Ramsey when team members have departed. Over the years, there have been others who, through their actions or the company’s philosophical approach, left under much less amicable circumstances. Sometimes it just isn’t the right fit any longer. Sometimes the investment doesn’t pan out for either side. And sometimes, as Ramsey’s “Entreleadership” hosts have said over the years, the loving and caring thing to do is to push a team member to their next challenge, recognizing that their success is limited, or has ended, in your organization.

Many listeners and industry insiders might be shocked at Ramsey’s approach to help grow and build an on-air personality’s brand, only to help him take off on his own. But that may be one of the true secrets to the company’s success – truly investing in people who will give their all to your brand and spread your message. There is an integrity to the approach, which helps attract the best and help them fulfill their potential, both for your organization and, ultimately, for themself.

But it starts with the right person, with the right attitude. And with Ramsey, O’Neal was the right fit. A person of integrity who had the qualities any successful team would desire.

“First and foremost, you want self-starters. Anybody that sits across my desk talking with me about a job, the first thing I say is, you better believe in you before you ask me to,” said Don Martin of Fox Sports Radio during the Summit, while talking about grooming the next generation of media executives. “I mean, bring the game. If you walk into that room and you don’t have passion for this game, and you don’t have enthusiasm, then don’t come in the door. At the end of the day, it’s not up to us to make them care and make them want. We want hungry people. We need young people, and as society life has changed.”

For Ramsey, O’Neal embodied those attributes – a ceaseless passion that connected with a new, younger, and more diverse audience. O’Neal’s addition brought years of energy to the network, a benefit to both the organization and the talent. Dave Ramsey and his leadership team presumably saw what they lacked and sought out a professional who could fill in a weak spot. Their self-awareness and humility allowed them to chart the path toward company growth, seeing an addition rather than a threat.

“Your team needs to have someone on it that can replace you,” Sottolano said about running a sports media organization. “We’ve got to be more judicious about, when we have those spots, whether it’s the late-night host in terms of talent development, or its in the programming ranks, we’ve got to be invested in people that demonstrate potential. And not be afraid of someone who’s going to challenge us in that seat. I’m not afraid of somebody challenging me in my seat. That makes me better, that makes me better, that makes the organization better.”

And when this is your approach, you cultivate not only strong, talented leaders and talent for your team but also raving fans and advocates of your mission and brand. These people emerged from inside your four walls and can’t wait to share the truth about your wonderful company culture.

“I am so grateful. So grateful to the team behind the camera, to the team in this building, to Dave Ramsey, to the board, the leadership, to every single person who has poured into me and loved me, and truly shaped me into who I am, even as I leave this season and enter the next season,” said fellow Ramsey personality, Christy Wright, who joined the company in 2009, and announced earlier this year that she, too, was stepping out on her own. “The gifts and skills that I’ve cultivated in this place are unbelievable, more than anything that I could ever ask or imagine. I’ve learned from the best of the best.”

That is the power of a brand that does what it preaches. That is the power of legacy.
For Anthony O’Neal, for Christy Wright, and for Dave Ramsey.

And also for media organizations who care enough about their team and their audience to build the next generation of voices and leaders while living their mission today.

BNM Writers

Should The News Be Minimized on The Holidays?

“I do wonder who is watching or listening or reading and what the return on efforting news programming on holidays really is.”

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This is not by any means a new topic of discussion but I do enjoy bringing it up and batting it around because I think it’s worthy of regular consideration and deliberation. Perhaps it deserves even just a fresh batch of whining and complaining by those of us stuck in a newsroom, in front of a camera or microphone or standing out somewhere in the cold.

There’s no debate that what we do has a level of importance that fluctuates from time to time. There are countless professions that we cannot do without for even a portion of a single day. That said, working the holidays is not unfamiliar or even a question for many people out there.

I, myself have spent most of my adult life in professions where working on Thanksgiving, Christmas, the High Holidays, Independence Day among others was just part of the job. It still amazes me how many people would react in astonishment when I declined an invitation or mentioned in conversation that I was working that day.

Like they couldn’t comprehend the possibility. Must be nice.

Now, let’s be clear about this; covering a parade or a holiday festival or religious services on a particular day is not what I’m focusing on here. Imagine the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or New Year’s Eve or the 4th of July fireworks without reporters and crew coverage.

More people would actually have to go to these things.

No, I’m talking about regularly scheduled newscasts and field reports on these mornings, afternoons and evenings.

Why?

I don’t see it.

More specifically, who is measuring the need for this programming? I cannot identify sitting behind a desk (probably inside an office…what’s that like?) and concluding that there must be 4:00pm-6:30pm newscasts on Thanksgiving Day.

5am news on New Year’s Day is out and out sadism.

“Good morning and Happy New Year…here’s what’s happened in the twenty-three minutes since you went to bed.”

Yes, by all means, let’s open our presents with the soothing tones of morning drive news in the background or lounge in the living room after the two-ton turkey dinner and watch the daily rundown of criminal activity lovingly framed in holiday graphics.

Do people want to drive to Grandma’s house while listening to the latest in Tuesday’s home invasion- assault investigation, this morning’s hit and run fatality or the city council vote on funding a halfway house near the elementary school?

Actually, the inspiration for this semi-rant comes from a conversation I had with a woman I was speaking with about holiday getaway travel. She very innocently asked me why there is news on the holidays. “Who is watching…who is listening on a day like that?” I told her I really couldn’t say. Of course, this was someone who told me she didn’t even pick up a newspaper or peruse social media for a news update on any given holiday.

“On Christmas”, she said, “no news is good news.”

To a significant degree, I’m on board with that. I do wonder who is watching or listening or reading and what the return on efforting news programming on holidays really is.

This is not about those having to work although employee consideration should be part of the equation. There will always be the need to have someone in the newsroom but minimizing that requirement could never be a bad thing.

Many operations do work with reduced staff during the holidays and that’s great. Twenty-years ago the radio station group I worked for dropped most programming during the year-end holidays, simulcasting holiday music across all the stations only cutting in with station IDs, tracked greetings from staff and news updates only if necessary.

I suppose one could argue that people need to know what’s going on all the time so we are providing a necessary service but really, everything we do is on-demand whether we like it or not. Nobody is listening or watching or reading unless they make a conscious effort to do so. They have to turn the TV on and hit the channel, dial the car radio and click on the website. We have no say.

For me, somebody somewhere has to show me that there’s a need and a want for what we do on those special days and at those special times. Convince me.

In the meantime, move the turkey and stuffing closer to my side of the table and keep the cranberry sauce and yams over on your end.

And I’ll be up bright and early talking to the Black Friday shopping crowd.

Don’t get me started.

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BNM Writers

Seth Leibsohn Expected to Move to Phoenix, Didn’t Expect Radio Show

“There wasn’t a huge demand for a white male teaching Aristotle’s teachings. I kind of like the idea I can still teach on the air.

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We’re all made up of a unique genetic recipe. Take a graduate student of political philosophy, add a pinch of love of contemporary politics, a dash of popular culture, maybe a trumpet, and you have Seth Leibsohn.

“I was a good trumpet player in high school,” Leibsohn said. Still, that alone wasn’t enough for him to pursue it as a career, even though his parents were fine with him chasing something he enjoyed, even supportive. “Some parents try to push you into a career, but my parents never did. I thought I might be able to play the trumpet as a career, but ultimately decided I wasn’t as good as my trumpet heroes. I’ve heard golfers have hung it up in a similar way.”

Quoting Del Griffith in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, ‘The finest line a man’ll walk is between success at work and success at home.’ To be truly happy you’ve got to have both. Seth Leibsohn couldn’t agree more.

“I don’t know many people who are thrilled with what they do for a living,” Leibsohn continued. “I believe you work to pay bills, not for life satisfaction. Billy Joel said there is no magic secret and everybody has happiness within themselves. If you’re truly happy with what you do, you have it all beat.”

The Seth Leibsohn Show airs live on KKNT 960 The Patriot in Phoenix from 3:00-6:00 PM weekdays. Then the show is replayed as a podcast. “The podcast is essentially the show I do,” Leibsohn said. “It’s fun. I never thought I’d be on the radio. I started in D.C. with a national show with Bill Bennett, The Bill Bennett Show, as co-host and guest host.”

You may recall Bennett was appointed the drug czar in 1989 under President George H.W. Bush.  Bennett still does a podcast and Leibsohn appears as a guest about once a month. He was Bennett’s chief of staff for many years.

Leibsohn decided to move back to Phoenix in 2011 to take care of his parents.

“After I arrived I was approached to host my own show,” he said. “I like that it doesn’t have to be relegated to a local audience. I get calls from Texas, Chicago, Ukraine. Leibsohn describes himself as a ‘different’ radio host, “I started in academia,” he explained. “There wasn’t a huge demand for a white male teaching Aristotle’s teachings. I kind of like the idea I can still teach on the air. The show is a vital seminar, with a bigger classroom.”

Leibsohn works hard on the show as he doesn’t have a producer. “I have to find my own guests, which I average about one each day. Television show hosts don’t have to track down and book their own guests. I start reading from the moment I wake up, searching for something interesting, a guest that can provide some insight to a topic.”

He’s long been a staunch advocate against the legalization of marijuana. He headed the group ‘Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy’, which was instrumental in preventing the legalization of marijuana in Arizona. He has co-authored several articles with Bennett regarding the dangers of marijuana, which was picked up by numerous newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and The Tampa Tribune.

Doing whatever he can to rid the streets of drugs and the pollution of our children is essentially what make’s Libsohn tick. It may be more accurate to say it drives him.

When talking about ridding streets of drugs throughout the country, I was impressed that Leibsohn wasn’t hypocritical. He said he wasn’t above having a good time with friends in college, but recognized there was a time to stop.

“I partied with the best of them,” he said. “Then I saw four of my best friends, who were both far smarter than me academically, ultimately fail in their lives. They just couldn’t give up the partying and substances and succumbed to a lot of drug use.”

Another bolt of realization about the destruction of drugs for Leibsohn stems from his sister struggling with substances her entire life. “I guess I had more of a vector about what it could do to you. Drugs cause so many problems in our society. It’s an ongoing battle to protect our children.”

Working on reducing substance abuse in America has long been a passion for Leibsohn. Working with Bennett helped fuel that desire. Leibsohn spent time working for the Higher America initiative with Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Never a fan of Hilary Clinton, Leibsohn said he agrees with the former First Lady on one thing.

“Hilary said Mexico is a problem regarding illegal drugs, but if the citizens of America didn’t want the drugs, it would be a problem. People want this crud. Since we lost the anti-drug messaging system in America, the problems have spiraled out of control.”

Remember the old ad, ‘This is your brains on drugs?’ That’s the messaging Leibsohn is talking about. Leibsohn said when Bennett was drug czar, 10,000 Americans were dying each year. Since then the death toll has increased 1,000 percent.

“We reduced drug use by 65 percent in 1992,” Leibsohn said. “I attribute that to the messaging. It was hugely important. We embedded the anti-drug message at the movies, in schools, there was a Hollywood sobriety chic. We did for drugs what mothers did for drunk driving.”

Leibsohn cites Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he wrote, ‘Human desires increase with their means of gratification.’

“The narration in the television show Narco opens with the narrator talking about cocaine. He said they had a supply problem keeping up with the demand for the drug in Miami.”

Leibsohn intended to run for Congress in 2018, but his staff screwed-the-pooch.

“My campaign management didn’t get enough signatures,” Leibsohn said. “I made sure everyone who contributed to my campaign got their money back.” He said he has no biting need to run for office again.

Our conversation swerved into another contentious topic–immigration from Mexico. Leibsohn said our immigration problem is currently out of control.

“There are a lot of reasons for the problem,” he said. “I don’t think there’s one single answer or solution. I do know we’re giving billions of dollars annually to illegal immigrants. When the monthly numbers come out regarding the prison population in Arizona, the illegal immigrants count for a huge portion of those criminals.”

He said there have been good examples of cleaning up cities, like New York. “There are things that work,” Leibsohn explained. “We have to replicate those efforts and dump the things that don’t work. Indianapolis is another city that turned things around. There are theories that work when applied.”

Leibsohn spoke of disparate impact, when policies and rules have a disproportionate impact on a particular group.

“I think a lot of Left-wing prosecutors abhor statistics of racial minorities. In effect they turn a blind eye, a deaf ear when it comes to crime. I had hoped by now we could get beyond race, see policies enacted in my lifetime.”

We also talked about what constitutes American conservatism, which is delineated by low taxes, free markets, deregulation, privatization, and reduced government spending and government debt. Leibsohn thinks the definition of American Conservatism is more nebulous than that.

“I think American Conservatism has never had a good definition,” he said. “Perhaps the most prominent recent conservative was William F. Buckley Jr. He never wrote a book on American Conservatism as he said it was too diverse.”

Regarding pinpointing what American Conservatism actually is, Leibsohn said it’s really clay in the hands of those you ask. “Some say it’s a group that believes in limited government,” he explained. “There are some who will fold religious beliefs into that, some may add sociology.”

He said throughout his life, he’s always been in search of discovering the meaning.

“In Buckleys’ National Review Magazine, he debated this all the time,” Leibsohn explained. “He had always been in search of the meaning. In his magazine, Buckley debated this all the time. In my own view it should be a movement based on America’s founding fathers ethos–equity and liberty. There’s not a lot of agreement on these things today.”

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BNM Writers

Producers Podcast: Andrew Marsh, 101 ESPN

Brady Farkas

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Andrew Marsh of 101 ESPN in St. Louis details the unorthodox background that has helped him thrive in the producer’s chair for The Fast Lane.

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