What did you wake up thinking about this morning? I usually start organizing my day, thinking of the strategic issues and big meetings I need to attend. I typically fire off about 10 emails asking questions. I think of questions as I'm coming out of the shower. Sometimes when I can't sleep I send emails asking questions at 3 or 4 in morning.
Describe a lesson you learned from a failure. Probably half the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are failures. It's about making constant and quick decisions, not falling in love with your decisions. Be willing to change them when you're wrong. Have an expectation that you're going to be wrong half the time and have a bias toward quick decision-making. It's impossible to get all the information before making a decision so I try and make a decision when we have enough information, not all the information. I don't think waiting makes better decision-making. What kills companies is they stall and agonize instead of having a fantastic sense of urgency. It becomes even more so when you're in an industry going through a lot of change.
What will define your career in the coming year? What I'm trying to do at Clear Channel is focus on the right issues. No. 1 is bringing money to the table. More people are using broadcast radio than in 1970. It's not been negatively impacted by prerecorded music or DVRs, but the revenue has fallen off. Why? Because they've not been talking to media planners and marketers and working their way up the chain, so radio gets its fair share of the ad dollars. We're focusing on being where our consumers are: As well as AM/FM, they also use the Internet, the phone, sometimes even satellite and HD. We need to be everywhere, like Coca-Cola. We've really done so in the last 18 months, and are now starting to monetize that. We also want to continue to collaborate better with the music industry, who are our most strategic partners.
Who is your most important mentor, and what did you learn? Steve Ross, founder of Warner Communications. I learned from him that you'll never be fired for making a mistake--you'll be fired for never making a mistake. He never thought you got to the end--it was always about constant change. I remember telling him in December 1983: "We're going to make a profit for the first time ever in basic cable TV distribution." He didn't say, "Congrats." Instead he said, "Here's what we can do next..." I loved working with him. I would slip away with him for a late-night conference and it was a nonstop exchanging of ideas. It was invigorating. My mind was never more challenged.
Name a project that you're not affiliated with that has most impressed you in the past year. The use of DNA to store data.
Name a desert island album. The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." I was in high school. That was the one that was the pivotal change in mass-market music, when the album became the thing.