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Zemira Jones

About Zemira Jones

From a young age, I learned there was always a better way…

It all started with a general manager of a vacuum cleaner company and a university music professor.

30+ years ago while still in college two men saw something in me that I did not see in myself yet. They thought I had what it took to lead other people. I just needed the formula.

After my first year at the University of Maryland, I took a summer job selling vacuum cleaners because I could not find anything else. I hated it and was a total failure at it. I sold just one vacuum cleaner and that was to the neighbors across the street. After a few weeks of torture, a co-worker and I, a college buddy who was also selling vacuum cleaners, decided to defect and respond to a blind ad for a management trainee position. The ad sounded like a position written for two college kids like us so we attended the group interview. The presenter, who we discovered was the manager, told a compelling story about how we would become successful sales people with this company. I was enthralled with the story, even though I was there to escape selling on the street altogether, the manager totally captured my imagination.He never said what we would be selling but I did not focus on that. I was sold. I wanted to be able to tell a story about business like he just did.

 

 

Minutes later I found out what we would be selling…and you guessed it, vacuum clearer.My college buddy immediately left the room in disappointment. I stayed. The decision transformed my understanding of the power of effective leadership and the difference it can make.

From a sales manager of vacuum cleaners to leading hundreds on a bigger stage

That fall I decided to change my college major from the family trade engineering to business and marketing with the goal of becoming a manager in my field of passion, the media. I also applied what I learned that summer about leadershipand the difference it can make into my next leadership role. I was selected as the leader of the 200-member marching band for the University of Maryland. The head of the university’s music department saw me as the best choice as drum major performing before tens of thousands and around the country for U of MD Terps. It was great training for how to lead large groups of people to perform inunity with precision. Great training for my future roles.

From leadership on the football field to an even bigger stage… the media.

My first general management assignmentat 27 years old, six years out of college, began in Cleveland Ohio. I was charged with taking an ailing radio station saddled with every possible problem a business could have; multiyear profit losses, operational problems, poorly staffed, engineering issues, community distrust, legal challenges, the lowest ratings in the market and more. It was a case study business disaster. That was my introduction to business turnarounds.

Add to the fact that I was promoted to this job from an account executive position from a top-rated TV station in Baltimore working with people like Oprah Winfrey! Most people who are promoted to GM roles come up through the ranks of middle management first. But not me. I was thrown into the fire from a non-management sales position into the CEO role and charged to fix a hot mess even a seasoned pro would struggle with.  What’s the point? I had to learn fast, the hard way without a mentor. Thank God for vacuum cleaners and marching bands. These experiences built management muscle within me I never knew I had.

I learned any business can be turned around if you have the skills.

After 10 years of management duties with this second tier,I wanted to be in the major leagues of media but none of the blue-chipplayers even looked my way. I knew I had the muscle I just needed a shot. I decided to reinvent myself. After 10 years of management, I turned down other management jobs with other companies to take an entry-level account executive position with ABC. Friends felt sorry for me. Others laughed behind my back but I had a plan. All I needed was the right stage. A big problem to solve.

I joined the one ABC radio station that had been a top performer for decades but by the time I was hired the station had found itself in serious trouble. That was my opportunity. The station just lost the 44-year-old contract to broadcast Washington Redskins. Revenue immediately fellinto a death spiral, ratings tanking, clients defecting, employees jumping ship. Senior brass of ABC in New York had a laser focus on this former cash-cow now on life support. They were afraid this defection would be a trend threatening the entire company, but I had a plan.

Effective managers plan for success especially when things get worse

To make things worse, six months after coming on board the station took a second major blow. One of its highest rated air personalities suddenly died. He was one of the last major selling points the station had.Now the stations declining market position was in a total free-fall. This is my opportunity to shine. Now 10 years of management experience with scare resources, vacuum cleaners, and leading march bands would pay off. The GM of the stations saw the benefits of that experience and promoted me to sales manager. In one year, I turned the station’s revenue performance around and gave the station the most profitable years in its history. The turnaround was stunning. We duplicated that success for three years straight with a new sales team I hired, training,and kept for the entire 3-year run with zero turnover.

Three years, to the day, October 31, I was promoted to a President/General Manager position with ABC Radio in Chicago where only three years earlier I was a street seller for the company. Skills matter.

Powerful bosses and mentors can putyour management muscles on steroids.

Then new mentors like Norm Shrutt, Bob Igor, Tom Bresnahan, Bob Callahan, Tom Murphy, Michael Eisner, David Weston the heads of ABC/Disney and other talented managers at ABC Radio helped to hone my skills as a leader. As a result, I became a bankable turnaround specialist for ABC.

My first GM assignment was to turnaround the station known to ABC as the Vietnam of the company (all due respect for the real veterans of the war). The legendary WLS-AM, in Chicago, a 50,000-watt blow torch of a radio station covering 38 states parts of Canada and the Virgin Island, had fallen into deep desire. It had lost money for ten years straight and languished as the lowest rated station in the market. ABC threw multiple managers and money at this station without success so they handed it to me. My new boss said to me “ I know you know what to do”. That’s all I needed to hear.

You become known for fixing big problems after you start making it a habit.

In less than a year I pulled a team together that made the station profitable within our first 12 months. Then my team took the stations red-ink to impressive profit margins while making it one of the top three stations in the market within a few years…This was an AM stationthat eventually outperforming all but one FM in the market…an unprecedented feat in modern radio. The station was named NewsTalk Station of the Year by Radio&Records Magazine. I was named General Manager of the Year, and nominated NewsTalk Executive Of The Year.

More responsibility comes when Attitude, Capability, and Effortcan handle it.

From that my team and I were given more turnaround duties. By then I had begun to fully utilize the power of effective team-building, self-management and the concept of “ACE” (Attitude, Capability and Effort) that I talk about on this website. We then took the lowestrated rock station in town to a top three position in least than six months, another rare feat. The station jumped from 21th to 3rd in the market.

Steven Burke, then corporate chief with ABC, now CEO of NBC Universal wrote a congratulatory note to say…“We need to put you in charge or prime time on TV network. This is great news-Steve Burke.”

As a result, of this string of stunning turnaround successes, Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney by then, gave me the honor of creating the first 24/7 ESPN Radio Station in American. It was to be the prototype and flagship for the soon-to-come ESPN Radio Network, later to have more than 300 stations around the country. Mike Golic, the man you still see and gear every morning on ESPN was my first morning man.

He also told me to buy another AM the same year and launch a Radio Disney stations for kids 6 to 11 years old. Unlike the accolades received for the ESPN launch, the Radio Disney announcement came with quite condolences from fellow general managers around the country.

 

 

Skilled managers look at big problems as opportunities and shine

You see, this Kids targeted station group was only a few years in the making and no station had ever made a profit programming to kids. This is the exclusive domain of TV until then in the country. It was hard work with little hope of any success. No one had figured out how to make money with this audience. There were no advertisers for kids on radio, any least that was the national sentiment.

Again, my combined skills from hard knocks, mentors, vacuum cleaner, and march bands came to the rescue. I again pulled together a team and a mindset that broke with convention. We created a brand-new model for how to manage this product and made the station turn a profit within our first year. That stations when on to outperform every other radio Disney station in America every year thereafter and became the model for the format nationwide and we did it with one of the worse signals in the group. How? We built and led a powerful team. Every principle of management I used we share on this website, podcast and management courses from All American Management Group.

My goal is to share what I have learned with managers around the world

These are the same management concepts and strategies I used to training managers and business owners from countries all over the world. Private sector and public, large and small. The same strategies work everywhere, around the world for the U.S. Information Agency and Voice of America where I trained managers from several countries in Europe, Africa, and South East Asia where newly democratized nations struggled to improve their management skills.

 

 

I also served a dual role as management consultantand a member of the five-member board of directors for Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s radio group YMF Media. The company bought an ailing media group that was 250 million in debt. We turned it around and sold it to impressive profitability in less than three years.

The same principles that worked fora vacuum cleaner company worked with an ailing media group in serious debt and every other business I have worked with.

I have a way of making complex management strategy easy to know and to do

While serving my clients I also made the time to consult speaking engagements around the country and TV appearances around the country served on the board of the parent company of the legendary Tom Joyner Morning Show, The Illinois Broadcasters Association, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Streetwise Newspaper, Volunteers of America of Illinois, Howard Theater Restoration, Inc. Executive Committee Member and Board Treasurer,The Associated Press Advisory Board, and Silver Cross Hospital consistently voted one of the top 100 hospitals in America.

KarynEsken

Vice President Business Development, Tribune Content Agency

I learned how to instill confidence in my team. I became more successful than I ever thought possible. I have earned more money than I ever expected. I am grateful to Zemira Jones for seeing the qualities in me that I wasn’t even aware of, and for helping me to develop those qualities towards becoming the successful business woman I am today. My success stemmed from the fact that he helped me visualize the path I needed to take with my team in order to achieve success.

Mati Pitkanen, BMC Software   

Senior Director Worldwide, Solutions Marketing

“When I first started working with Zemira Jones as my management consultant I felt that I needed a way to find better support from senior management – both financial and other resources. The gains achieved through working with Zemira were felt by my peers as well as my family. I would recommend that anyone who hires a management consultant speak to him first. The time I worked with Zemira he had a bigger impact on my professional and personal career than any other coaching experience.  The impact has been significant and broad.”

Andy Rosen

President, Hawaii  Summit Media Corporation

I would highly recommend Zemira as a management consultant. There are three major benefits about being coached by Zemira? Smart, he knows what you need right away. Experienced, what he teaches is proven to work; I’m proof. I would highly recommend Zemira as a management consultant?  ABSOLUTELY!!!! Any organization would benefit greatly utilizing the talents Zemira possesses. If you have a chance to work with Zemira, do it!

Janice Ockershausen

President at Best Bark Communications

I found confidence in my abilities that Zemira saw in me that I didn’t see in myself. He believed in me and told me so. He knows what it takes to reach each person on a staff and make them a better team. He knows how to teach us the skills we needed and point us all in the same direction, from the most senior performer to the junior person on the team. He is authentic and knows management inside and out. I was able to achieve top biller status for over 18 years because of the skills and discipline I learned from him. I am still today asking for advice and seeking wisdom.

Chris Forgy

President/General Manager

Columbus Radio Group

I have been told by contemporaries and my supervisors that my leadership abilities and how I manage myself and my team is so much better after working with Zemira. Now I have an uncompromising confidence in my approach to growing my employees as well as my system for success. Zemira helped transform my business life as a coach and a leader. He is singularly responsible for a great deal of my leadership success.

I would absolutely recommend Zemira Jones as a  game-changing management consultant. 

Frank Woodbeck

Executive Director, Nevada College Collaborative at Nevada System of Higher Education

I now have the privilege of writing a brief recommendation for Zemira Jones. Zemira is without question one of the most creative and innovative leaders in our business. I’ve sought the opportunity to work with Zemira directly because of his ability to be the type of manager or co-leader whom I could depend on to add dimension to projects on which we collaborated.

George Pine

President/C.E.O.,Sun Over Jupiter

I have known and worked with Zemira Jones for 25+ years. He is a visionary, a creative thinker, and an inspiring Leader. He is a strategist and high achiever. Zemira Jones engages his Team with high standards, achievable expectations and key reward recognition systems.

Ian Banks

Business Development Manager at STRATA

Zemira has a remarkable ability in recognizing areas of growth within an organization, and is both incredibly intuitive and resourceful in helping it reach its potential. He is precise as a practitioner of strategic management and you will be hard pressed to find a better communicator and motivator. I had the distinct pleasure to be on the receiving end of Zemira’s tutelage for many years and without hesitation recommend his work.

Pierre Bouvard

Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media | Westwood One

I have known and worked with Zemira Jones for 25+ years.He is a visionary, a creative thinker, and an inspiring Leader.He is a strategist and high achiever..Zemira Jones engages his Team with high standards, achievable expectations and key reward recognition systems.