Wearing the Production Supervisor's Hat - Hiring Replacements in Your Department

by Craig Jackman

One of the “growth” opportunities I’ve had as a small spoke in this large corporate wheel that I’m in, is that of “Production Supervisor.” It’s a minor management position, meaning that I get paid the same amount to go to more meetings. In reality, I have a bigger say in how the Production Department is organized and run, but I still have others above me that I have to report to. This is all on top of my regular production work.

Part of the gig is finding replacements when someone leaves to go onto something else, which is exactly what happened to me recently. The only difference is that half of my team left at the same time, with our most junior Producer moving up to be Production Director at another chain in a similarly sized city. My assistant for the last 12 years left to go off to work in Internet radio as Imaging Producer, a field that has long been of interest to him. So since both were moving up and out (and not going to a situation that I would consider a direct competitor), I was happy for both and continue to wish them well, but now I needed bodies to fill the slots.

Who to hire? As everyone knows, consolidation has resulted in some of the smaller stations being automated and run out of central locations. With not as many early learner jobs out there, the diamonds-in-the-rough are harder to find. On the other hand, with recent consolidation, there are some experienced pros out there looking for a gig.

How to let them know of the openings? Being part of a big chain, the openings were posted internally so any company employees could get first shot at them. I did put a classified ad in RAP (thanks to all that responded BTW!), in a couple of other trades, and on Internet prep sites as well. I even took a chance and phoned a couple of local guys to see if they were interested in taking the jump. Actually, I did play the game just a little, and called one of the direct competitor’s producers to see if he was interested in taking the jump, but also to see if I could rattle cages and cause a little trouble by proxy. I didn’t expect him to come over, but I did expect a couple of meetings to occur across town.

Going into the process I had to know a couple of things: what position I would be putting them into, what station(s) they would be focusing on, and how much we could pay them. The final one was a particular concern, as I believe that industry-wide, Production is the most overlooked, under appreciated, and under compensated sector of radio (though I’m biased). That being said, budgets are budgets, money is money, and there was a fixed amount available to fill the position. The number of studios, and amount of work coming out of them also force a fixed solution in that one job was going to be a noon to 7, while the other was 5 to noon. Some applicants would back out given those realities. Whether it was not being able to afford the pay cut to go into that position, or that their life outside of radio made the hours unworkable, I understood both sides of the equation.

By the time of the application deadline, I was surprised at the number of applications I received—surprised at how few there were and surprised at how really good some of them were. I was almost expecting to be overwhelmed with applications, but in hindsight, that was naive. I got the typical Joe College applications looking for that first job. I got the typical applications from current radio employees who apply for anything just to make more money. I got the typical application from Joe High School who listens to the radio, thinks it’s cool, and wants to play too. I’m sure all of them are fine individuals, and I hope to hear from them again after they’ve been in the production environment somewhere for a little while. Unfortunately, in this situation, I couldn’t stick in somebody I thought had potential and wait for them to grow into the job—too many sales and programming pressures and deadlines for that to be either fair or realistic, to either them or me.

Once I had weeded out the chaff, there were a number of people who had great tapes. Interview time. Times were set and booked. Those out of town were given the opportunity to drive in and face with us. Those that couldn’t were booked to do a phoner. I understand as much as the next person that you have responsibilities to your current employer, and may not be able to drop everything on relatively short notice to drive over for an interview. That being said, it certainly showed enthusiasm and interest if you would drive for 6 hours, show up on time, do a 20-minute interview with me, then drive 6 hours home. Definite bonus points there!

After the interviews, the choices were blatantly obvious. Then the part I dislike the most. The offer, and counter-offer. As my wife, who negotiates our car loans and mortgages, will tell you, I hate negotiating. Hate it with a passion. Just give me your best price, and I’ll see if it’ll work for me. In this case, tell me what it’s going to take for you to take the job, and then I’ll juggle numbers and do what I can for you. I’m not one to offer a job if you are not the right choice.

The first offer was made, and after agreeing to $1,000 more it was done in 5 minutes. The second offer was made to an answering machine as he was still in his 6-hour drive home. Like I said earlier, a 13-hour round trip shows me a lot. The next day the second offer was rejected, as the money was too low. This wasn’t a huge surprise, but it was a disappointment. After going back up the management ladder and looking for more money from a number of areas, the word came down that there was absolutely no more salary money to be found. We sealed the deal a week later by re-offering the original deal and agreeing to pick up moving expenses.

So who did I hire? Since there were 2 openings, I got the best of both worlds by hiring a young guy and an experienced guy. By experience, I’m talking about a guy who’s worked in this city for more than 20 years. He’s worked in CHR and helped take an AC sign-on to #1 within a couple of months. He has experience in dealing with some of our current sales department from those stations and has developed relationships with some of our current clients. The only reason he was available in the first place was that his previous stations had been bought by another chain, and he got caught in a numbers game. He’s working the noon to 7 shift, which keeps him open for the teaching position he’d been working on since leaving radio. The young guy has been out of school for a while and was working as Producer for a company where they were running something like 18 stations by remote from one central location. As a former morning show host, he’s happy as a clam working 5 till noon, leaving his afternoons off for other things. So far, they’ve been the ideal hires. I have yet to find anything that throws them for a loop, and they’ve fit in seamlessly. They’re happy, sales and programming is happy, and that makes me happy.

If you didn’t apply and you didn’t get hired, why am I telling you this and why have you invested 5 minutes in your life reading this far? The answer is simple. Not every manager is out to screw you. Not every management decision is easy, and there is a process that you have to go through. Lastly, not everyone wants to stay in the studio cutting spots until they retire. I’ve been looking for a way to begin the process out of the studio for a long time. This was that first step.

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