Saturday, September 12, 2015

Progressive Insurance, people, and relationships which matter...

Just a quick note for the class…

I believe that if you’re going to bitch or complain about something online, you need to also be ready to give praise or give credit when credit is due for something the place you complained about does something right.

That’s what I’m writing about right now. I complained about something… and it was made right.

A few weeks ago, I was clearly very ‘poopy-pants’ at Progressive, my insurance provider since 1999, over an auto glass claim situation. 

Long story short, I have a leased vehicle, and had a stone hit my windshield which cracked it. To replace it required me to get original equipment which costs more than what a place like Safe-Lite, a Progressive preferred vendor, would have cost. At first, Progressive was going to only reimburse me up to the cost which Safe-Lite would have paid, which was substantially less than what I ended up spending. I felt it wasn’t fair, and vented on Twitter about it and even considered ending my long-term relationship with Progressive.

When my renewal notice came due, I called Progressive to cancel. That’s when Progressive’s Customer Service agent discovered that had actually been overpaying on my policy for years, and recommended I end the policy I had in favor of starting a new policy on my vehicle which LOWERED my deductible to $50, down from the $500 I had, and which LOWERED my MONTHLY PAYMENTS by over $100. All of this for the SAME COVERAGE I had on my vehicle. Comprehensive coverage. With enhanced limits and more.

Clearly, my mind… was blown by this. It shocked the agent too, who said to me that “this rarely happens” and who triple checked it to make sure she was right about what we were seeing.

Flash forward… my reimbursement check for the out-of-pocket glass replacement came from Progressive. I expected them to – and they only had to – reimburse me for a fraction of the cost of replacement….

… and they reimbursed me the maximum they could up to what was my share under my deductible.

Progressive made it right. I renewed my relationship with them with a new policy which cut my monthly insurance costs MORE THAN IN HALF, cut my DEDUCTIBLE by HUNDREDS of dollars should I ever need it again… and they reimbursed me for more than they had to when they didn’t have to do so at all.

That’s customer service. That’s treating a customer like a person and more than just some number. That’s called restoring faith and letting you know that relationships matter.

I believe that when we bitch about things or services and complain loudly about being wronged online, we need to be quick to point out when things happen which set things right in the world. We need to heap praise just as fast as we’re willing to pile on with criticism.

Progressive was the target of my frustration… and they went more than halfway to make it right and now, I’m more than a satisfied customer… I’m a Progressive Cares success story… and I appreciate them, and their people, who made this happen.

Thanks for reading…


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Treat it like a STARTUP...

I got some sage advice yesterday from an industry colleague I love and respect. He's one of these "crazy" ones I idolize... the misfits who see things differently... the square pegs in round holes kind of dudes... who changes things. Who pushes things forward. 

The advice was more for me to apply toward my being on the air everyday, battling distractions and staying focused and on fire and whatnot... but it might as well apply to life. 

And, since my work life balance being out of whack has taken a toll, I applied the advice to both work... and life. 

"Treat it like a startup," he wrote me in an email. He then explained to me that he tells his team to treat what we do like we're doing it at a brand new place... and to have fun with it. 

What simple - yet elegantly powerful - advice. 

If we treat what we're doing like it's the beginning. Like we have nothing to lose and everything to gain... and if we have fun doing it... it will break the chill of complacency and loose the fires of innovation, passion and creativity. 

I applied the advice. The results were - and continue to be - instantaneous. 

Sure, I have a lot going on in life. We all do. But I'm going to work harder on staying in "startup" mode... because it's more fun that way! 

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

HATE is NOT a marketing strategy...

Hate is NOT a marketing strategy. Can you believe some radio station would put up this billboard mocking Caitlyn Jenner and her #transition?
Posted by HOT 99.5 on Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Power hits, power plays, juggling smoothies and frappes, while wearing mittens...

Again, a long time ago, in a place now not so far away...

I don't remember how long I'd been at FM97 on the first tour of duty in Lancaster. It wasn't long. A great man - and great programmer - Jordan Walsh - came to me and said, "Do you mind if this jock from 98YCR comes in to say goodbye, he didn't get to have a last show on his station... and he's going on to a pretty big gig in a big market... and it's just the right thing to do..."

98YCR was this Top 40 like FM97 was, only, they were YORK's Power Hit station. They had a PD named Davey Crockett, which, to me, was an act of religious disrespect, being from Texas and knowing what Davey Crockett gave for Texas freedom at the Alamo. Then, they had someone named Captain Connors, which, well, I didn't understand much.

Harrisburg also had a Top 40, so it made for a unique sort of situation. Three full signal stations within 45 minutes of each other. Serving three markets which were so unique and different... yet we all got into each other's business. So it created a climate for some fun on-air ribbing from time to time.

I flat out made fun of "non-stop power plays..." And I was young and stupid, more inclined to shoot first and beg for forgiveness and permission after the fact...

So anyway...

Into our studio on top of a liquor store on Queen Street in Amish Paradise walked JJ Kinkaid. That was the first time I'd met a man who would be so enter-twined to my professional life in so many ways to my career over the years and miles. And, in my daypart and on my show, he got to say goodbye to the region which he'd entertained for so many years before I'd arrived in town from Hot 97, WBHT-FM in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

God I wish I had that aircheck now. Mike Klein was there. The studio was electric. It was great radio... and a great thing to be a part of... at a time when radio was fun, irreverent, ridiculous, entertaining and at times, full of rule-breaking fun...

JJ went on to KDWB in Minneapolis. Then, to KISS in Dallas. And, then, to Z100 in New York where he reigned in Afternoons after the legendary Paul "Cubby" Bryant from the "Top of the Empire State Building..."

I went on to FLZ, then to Columbia, which is, ironically a town with same name as JJ's, although mine was in South Carolina and his was in Maryland. And then, right around the same time JJ climbed to the top of the Gorilla Building, I landed in the Capitol City of the Free World...

Flash forward to Miami. A few years later, JJ and I were in town for a "thing" for our company. We reconnected, and caught up, and chatted about life, our careers and more since. While eating some Burger King burgers, I found a guy who became my "call-to-vent" brother, my "what-are-we-doing" brother, and my "let's just juggle with mittens on" consigliere who was always a text or a quick call away.

I'll miss being able to text him - or getting a text from him - in real time while we were hosting Afternoons up and down 95 on the East Coast of the greatest country on the planet.

Here's the thing about JJ: He's radio's Frank Sinatra.

He's a true radio fan, a man who loves - with a passion - the art of what we do. He believes very strongly in what makes our art great - and he also believes - very strongly - in what is being done to our art - which makes it less artistic and less palatable to our fans. He's a purist in a time when too many compromise because, well, that's what we need to do to "stay off the radar..."

His disdain for the status quo, and his willingness to do things his way are why he's breathed the rarified air at one of the most storied stations in radio history.

His love for our game is why he's going to make history doing mornings...

... because he's playing the game by his own rules.

"Never settle," he said just this evening on a radio group we're members of on Facebook.

Wise words and sage advice from radio's renaissance man.

Saddle up, JJ. I'm looking forward to watching you blaze this next trail... and I have no doubt it will be just as amazing and inspiring as you've been to so many.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Family is everything...

A photo posted by Mikey V. Kiss 108 (@mikeyvonair) on

There are a few things we need to remember in this 'game' we play called radio... and the same things are true for anyone who loves what they do for a living... and in fact, I'd say that these things are important for this thing we call life... 

1) Control the work life balance: You work to live... and not the other way around.

2) Things are more important than what you do, and you will be judged by how you react to this.

3) Nothing is more important than family.

Over the last few months, my soul has been reminded of how important the word "family" is by the example of radio's most prolific family... the Vinci family of the great state of Massachusetts.

I've met both of these "Princes of Boston Radio" individually and together... I've hung with both individually and collectively... and I will tell you they are unique as individuals who are together cut from a different cloth when it comes to this "radio" game.

They're both tireless workers. They're soldiers. They get in early and they stay late. They don't say no and when they do say no it's because they just don't have any more hours in the day to give to deliver results at the high level they both aspire too.

They both have this "passion" thing which is missing in this new generation of what we do. They don't expect things to be handed to them... they're willing to get scrappy to fight for every single inch that they can get... and then, they ask for more.

I'm about to listen to an aircheck from Mikey V which will -- as has happened before -- inspire me to play at that Tom Brady level...

... because that's the level these VBROZ play at.


When did they go from great to epic?

For me, as an outside observer... it was when God called Big Frank home.

I don't know about you, but I watched as this family rallied around Dad and each other... they were there for one another. There was boundless optimism and a real feeling that tomorrow would be indeed better than today.  And when Frank fell asleep to wake up in that place where we become immortals, these "Bros" and their family celebrated a life well lived... knowing that they are now the legacy of a man who clearly was a tremendous motivational force for life...

Frankie V then was promoted to Boston... his hometown... proving that yes, with hard work and a bit of big dreaming... you can go home again... to dream bigger dreams which indeed do come true when you have the balls to dream 'em.

Frankie and Mikey are two of a kind who are the example of what we all need to remember is most important in this game called radio... and in this game called life.

Jobs come and go. Markets and market size come and go. You can be syndicated or solo in some small market. You can go national or stay unknown yet hungry while doing what you love. You can climb to the highest heights... or experience the lowest of lows...

... but if you have family -- and a love for that blood which is thicker than water -- you'll aways be able to overcome.

To my friends and colleagues Frankie and Mikey V -- I'm so proud of you. I'm better as a human being because I know you both and we as human beings are better because of the example that you and your family have shown us in recent months...

... that nothing... is more important than that love we have as a family.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

You are only as strong as the other people around you...

If you're reading this blog, realize we're going on a trip...

Welcome to my home state of Texas... and one our country's most major metropolitan areas... the Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth TSA... or the "Metroplex..."

We call it the DFW. Or the DF DUB.

Sorry, Billy...

Anyway, I was on the phone tonight with Priscilla in Dallas, who gets it. She's my boss in Dallas when my boss in Dallas isn't around. With respect to Billy, who is the boss when the boss isn't around, but Priscilla is the "executive producer" of the station I'm on in Dallas. She's the one who gets stuff done. Who anticipates problems, finds solutions, thinks of the worst-case scenario and makes the best case happen. She just gets it. Its why she's there.

For a while, a few years back, she wasn't. Things weren't the same. The "product" suffered. Thank GOD she came back.... by the grace of that same God and some targeted bitching from around the company...

... it proved a point.

This station has been #1 persons SIX PLUS in the face of some incredible odds.

Incredible odds... like the passing of a beloved Morning Host in Kidd Kraddick two years ago this week.

People lined up to write KISS off.

Some wanted to talk about a "succession plan..."

Kidd was gone but he hadn't been gone too long when others were planning on what to do next.

At KISS, Patrick, the PD, trusted his heart, his intuition... and trusted his team. He listened to the advice of the people around him... because, we're only as good as the advice and people around us...

... and here we are, two years later... KISS is still #1. 6+. In ALL major demos. In the face of insurmountable odds.... NUMBER ONE.

Others wonder how this happens. Others still can't understand it or figure it out.

But... it's not that complicated.

You're only as good as the people around you... and at KISS, the people around every daypart, in support roles and in the leadership roles, including the great Kelly Kibler, Brad Hardin and Hartley Adkins... know that your only as good as the people who make the magic called radio every day happen...

In the face of unbelievable odds... with heavy hearts and with the future very much in doubt, KISS - and it's coach Patrick Davis looked up... because that's where it all is... and together, strengthened by the people around them... they moved forward. They strengthened that lead in the ratings and took it to even greater heights...

... because that's what you do when you realize you're only as strong as those around you.

You move forward... through the pain of loss... through the confusion of an untimely passing... and you keep winning.

And, as Kidd would say... you keep looking up. 'Cuz that's where it all is.

Trust the team. You can't do it alone. None of us can. Be stronger because those around you are stronger than you are - are more gifted than you might be, although you are gifted in ways they can't imagine. That humility is what conjoins with the variables around you... which ultimately makes dreams come true.

From DC, Goodnight...


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

When ARTISTS and PROMOTERS are angry... something is wrong...

The great General Colin Powell has said time and again to leaders... 

"Never keep your ego so close to your position that if your position goes... your ego goes with it."

Leave prize winners waiting at a show, with no clue how to get to a "meet-and-greet" they won from you... and you've kept your ego close to your position.

Not wanting to interact with winners because you think there aren't enough at a venue for a show... and you've kept your ego close to your position.

When artists and promoters and others are talking about the massive failure which happened because a promotion, built around you and your show or station, ends with pissed off fans who miss a "meet-and-greet" with a beloved artist or with members of team... and you've kept the ego too close to the position.

And when a position goes... for these type of folk... the ego goes with it.

I don't care if you work at Taco Bell... or Z-100. Your fans... your listeners... your customers... are THE NUMBER ONE REASON YOU DO WHAT YOU DO.

Forget about what event you hosted. That doesn't matter. It was over yesterday and forgotten about today.  It doesn't matter if you emceed a party for the Bilderberg group or played a few CD's at a pool party for your neighbors... chances are good NONE OF THIS means ANYTHING to station fans.

What have you done for me lately?

That's what our fans want to know. And when you leave 'em high and dry while they see photos of you with so-and-so backstage at whatever-show-you-may-be-at... and well, you can understand why they're pissed off. Especially if they won that same "backstage experience" you're all Instagram-happy about... although you left them out front left out.

FOMO from fans? No. How 'bout PISSED OFF... for all the right reasons.

We are who we are because of the people who allow us to be who we are... and who give us the jobs we love while we do what we do. But when we allow ourselves to believe we're "all that..." is when life shows up to serve us a plate of Humble Pie.

And I don't know about you... but I don't dig that sort of pie.

Stay humble. Stay foolish. And stay hungry...

From Washington, DC...


Swan Songs... and realizing that there is a tomorrow...

A long time ago... in a place now not so far away...

There was this time when I felt I'd met someone I really liked. I mean, I "liked" in as much as a life which hasn't experienced life to the level I've experienced it in years since would probably beg to differ with... but none the less... there was once a time when I thought it was "so right..."

Realize this was the year 2000. Yeah. 15 years ago.

Life has a way. You travel on. You learn new things. You discover things about you... and life teaches you things you thought you knew then were maybe not so accurate...

At any rate, recently, for the reasons only life can explain, I've given a glimpse back at some formidable emotional times in my life. And like Bruce Hornsby says, "I don't regret much... not much at all..."

After some breakup in the past, where I discovered someone I trusted had been less than faithful to what I thought was a relationship, I remember getting home and listening to a Bruce Hornsby song on a stereo I got from some rent-to-own place in the loft in which I lived in what I know now wasn't the best part of town...

No matter.

The truth I learned that night would give me a degree of strength moving forward. I remember when I accepted that life dealt me a hand with that "relationship" which I couldn't parlay into a win.

"I will do alright... well in truth, I might..."

And yeah, I missed the times when I thought it was "so right..."

But what was a "Swan Song" became the catalyst for moving one foot in front of the other... and moving forward. Sure, I stumbled. Sure, I fell. I don't even know if I've figured it all out. My swan song... became my anthem for finding a way forward again.

I don't know. There's always, at least to me, been something about Bruce Hornsby...

I learned so many personal lessons in Lancaster... some which still teach me lessons about me every day. Even today, things I learned in "Amish Paradise" still speak to my inner compass...

... and while I might re-think the way some things went down, I don't think I'd experience anything there differently. Those wins, those mis-steps... those stumbles and those recoveries... all made me who I am and continue to influence who I hope to ultimately become.

Even if I didn't understand why at the time...


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sundays in the country...

Screenshot // Yahoo Weather 
The weather, today, is pretty perfect. 

Not too hot. Not too cold. Not too much wind. Abundant sunshine. 

Pretty much... perfect. 

About two years or so ago, on a Sunday like this, I'd head North, leaving the suburbs of the Nation's Capital for a park which surrounds the President's retreat at Camp David, in the Cactoctin Mountains. 

The 45 minute or so trip through Frederick and into Thurmont, Maryland, gave me time to think about things... and how important some things were in this life. I thought a lot about love. Relationships which have come and gone. Life. Kyla, who was still living in Florida at the time. My career. My personal happiness. 

I found a lot of peace on those drives. Those picnics in the past. And I've since learned many lessons. Added to the other lessons I've learned in life over the last few years, and, well, I've now got not just good stuff for some stories... 

... I've got some great stuff for some stories. All from my own life. All from my own experiences in this life. And all things which have helped me grow -- and may help you, somehow, too. 

This week, I re-upped with my team here in DC and across the country with another multi-year deal. Signing it, and after an hour-long therapeutic "Toby Talk" with my Market VP of Programming,  I decided a few things personally were going to start happening again in my life. 

Things which I had been doing but had stopped doing for whatever reason.  

One, I'm getting back on Snapchat. LOL. I know, irrelevant, right? Well, I had to get off of it for a while out of respect for whatever. Not anymore. Besides, it's too important of a social media tool for us to not be using... especially with the Stories feature. And I need to keep an eye on Kyla, too! HA! 

Two, you'll see the last post here was some time ago. It's time for me to start blogging about stuff here again, so look for some improvements, refinements and more to come. From pop culture stuff to my observations on stuff, to things I can't blog about on the iHeart sites... I used to write more that I have been doing... and I'm getting back to it. And yeah, at times, I'm gonna be honest. Classy, but honest, and emotional about things on my mind and heart. 

Three, it's time for me to fight back against a work-life balance I've allowed to tilt too far toward the work direction over the last year or so. An out-of-balance life has cost me in many ways - in relationships and when it comes to my personal health, too. Not anymore. Game on M'Effers. I'm taking some things back.

Four, it's time for me to do the things I like to do. Over Spring Break, I headed out on a road trip with Kyla to dig in a crater looking for diamonds. We dug in an other one and found quartz crystals. We stayed in a log cabin themed after an 1800's old West Bank. And it was fun. So I'm going to work... so that I can LIVE like I used to do. And here, you'll be able to come along for the ride whereever the adventure takes me. 

So, on this Sunday, April 26th, here are a couple of life lessons I've learned I want to share with you. 

1) You can't have alcohol in a National Park. Not even wine. You'll have to dump it out. And they will catch you. Trust me. 

2) Compromise. It has to be fair and balanced. If one side has to compromise more than another, or if another side won't or can't compromise, things probably won't end up going anywhere. 

3) Don't let anything or anyone stop you from doing things you love doing and which you have fun doing. If a road trip to "someplace out there" is what you like doing... go do it. Nothing - and no one - can stop you. 

4) If you listen - really listen - you'll hear the best advice in the wind blowing through trees, or in raindrops which fall while you listen to some amazing music from someone like BT. 

Thanks for reading. It feels good to be back. And, it feels even better to know that I'll be able to - thanks to you - do what I love to do well into the future around here.