When I was 17 years old, I walked into Scott Thompson’s office wearing the only suit I owned (from prom!), handed him my resume and asked for a job at his radio station. It's cliche to say it, but that day changed my life and my career.
So when I read a quote like this from Ben Thompson, Scott’s son and now the CEO and owner of that same (but growing) small-town radio cluster:
"Put (young people) on the air. Nobody gets into radio to set up and tear down gazebos and stand at remotes handing out swag. Even if it’s voice tracking an overnight weekend shift, coach them if they need it, but it all starts with getting them on the air."
...I am so incredibly gratified to hear that Ben is carrying on Scott's legacy of investing the time and effort into developing young talent. Because that sort of attitude permeates an organization from the top down.
I worked at Big Radio (then known as Green County Broadcasting) for more than three years—after school, on weekends, during summer break. And even though I was just a kid, working among seasoned broadcast professionals with decades of experience, I was never once treated like some kind of charity case or coffee gopher.
I was assigned real responsibilities that had real financial and logistical consequences for the company if (and when) I failed in my duties, and the experience I gained in my time at Big Radio shaped me into the professional I am today.
More than that, it taught me an indelible lesson in the value of mentorship. It’s a lesson in leadership that I’ve tried to emulate in every job I’ve held in my career.
Is it an inconvenience to invest time and effort into helping an inexperienced younger colleague hone their skills and develop as a professional? Sure, it can be. But if Scott hadn’t given me a chance at Green County Broadcasting… if his team hadn’t tolerated and encouraged me… if countless other pros at WSUM, WPR, Capital Newspapers, WTDY, WIOD, Milwaukee City Hall and AEM hadn’t taken me under their wings and fostered my development as a professional…
Well, I don’t know where I’d be.
But nobody does it alone. And the people and organizations that live by that credo, they’re special.
There are reasons that, in a business like radio where layoffs and struggle are the new normal, Big Radio is growing and hiring and thriving.
I would argue that one of those reasons is that they still hold dear to the notion that people are not an expense, they’re an investment.