Who or what inspires you?
Throughout my life, my parents consistently shared a simple, but inspirational message to my brother and me -- “Push for first, Push to be best.” In essence, a “push for first, push to be best” mentality is about approaching every moment in life with maximum focus, effort, and drive. Over the course of my career, I have applied this approach to every aspect of my professional life, which has been a key driver to the accomplishments I have made throughout the years
Talk about an innovation in your field - what’s the “next big thing”- and how are you thinking about taking advantage of it?
One of the much discussed industry dynamics taking place in media is the TV Everywhere concept, which is the notion of distributing one’s television content across multiple digital platforms in order to extend the relationship with viewers from the linear to the digital realm via partners such as MSOs, Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc. This has the potential to be absolutely disruptive to the industry as it exists today. The incumbent television content model (broadcast and cable) is supported by a $200B+ advertising sector and another $50B in subscription fees, contrasted with the digital space that attracts less than a third as much in revenue, but has increasingly become the default manner of content consumption for many attractive demographic segments. Given these competing dynamics, many content providers are grappling with how best to meet consumer expectations, without eroding their current business model. In response, we have developed a balanced approach that takes into consideration a number of elements – consumer expectations, BETN’s programming capabilities, digital rights and clearances, the unique characteristics of particular digital platforms (online, mobile, social, etc.), and the near to long-term monetization opportunities afforded across each platform. Obviously, at this stage, there is not a universally recognized answer on how best to sort these matters, but we believe that a broad-based approach that embraces digital media and responds to the trends in consumption of content, rather than resisting digital and focusing narrowly on traditional media at the expense of investing in digital capabilities, is a winning approach to the situation. As a result, we have been able to fashion a flexible, workable, and competitive solution for this issue that meets both our consumer and marketplace needs
What’s an unconventional leadership strategy that you use, or that you’ve seen employed to good effect?
Once a year, I stack-rank each of my direct reports based upon the importance of their role, their performance, and the impact they have provided to the business for the last twelve months. Additionally, I encourage my team to take a quarterly assessment of their direct reports by stack-ranking them in order of importance to their respective teams. Obviously, this is a very difficult thing to do, but it requires a leader to engage in a very introspective evaluation of each member of her team, ultimately determining what skills and/or behaviors are most relevant for her department. More importantly, this approach crystallizes the positive and developmental feedback that each team member receives from their supervisor, which in turns further enhances every individual’s performance on the team, creating a culture of continuous improvement.
It is essential for leaders to stay current & relevant - what resources/tools - newspapers, websites, blogs, books, TV/radio shows - keep you informed and forward thinking?
In true Generation X fashion, I mix a bit of the old with the new. I read the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times to start the morning on a daily basis. Throughout the day, I read numerous articles as they scroll across my Google desktop news feed. On a typical day, I read stories from the Deal Book, the Deal Pipeline, Deal Journal, Seeking Alpha, All things D, TechCrunch, and Mashable. In general, I enjoy reading non-media sector periodicals as it highlights various trends and dynamics occurring in other industries, which helps keep my problem-solving perspective fresh and agile when tackling issues associated with all the rapid change unfolding in the media industry
Great leaders often say they learned most from their mistakes. What’s an example of a time you failed and what did it help you do differently in the future?
What comes to mind, rather than a single catastrophic failure, is a reflection on how, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, my performance early in my career, and that of my similarly situated peers, could have been incrementally better with a broader skill set. This realization has caused me to be very surgical in my evaluation of talent and the skills that are required for the various job functions that I require on my team, where executives must demonstrate strength in multiple areas. Early in my career, I was a private equity investor, which was a life-long aspiration. My journey into private equity was similar to most. It began first with a fairly deep but narrow educational focus on Corporate Finance and then a position in the M&A group of a prestigious investment bank in order to gain the prerequisite practical corporate finance and deal-making skills. After several years of being an investor and managing a number of portfolio companies with varying degrees of operational success, I realized that my skill-set, at the time, was lacking, if I wanted to actively operate companies in which I had an ownership stake to bring about measurable improvements. Though I was very skilled with respect to structuring, negotiating, and closing corporate finance driven transactions my skills were very limited in the areas of monitoring companies, identifying, and driving value creation opportunities in the companies after they had been purchased. In essence, I knew how to acquire companies, but did not really know how to grow or supervise growth of them once I had acquired them. I did not have an operational mindset, I was focused purely on the financial aspects of deals. Astute investor Warren Buffett once commented, “I am a great business man because I am a great investor and I am a great investor because I am a great business man.” Upon realizing that my goal of becoming a stellar investor required a broadening of my professional toolkit, I approached this shift with great intensity, joining McKinsey & Co. as a strategy consultant, and then BET Networks, which has deepened both my strategy and operational skills in a material way. It is these skills that I lacked early in my career, coupled with my deep finance background, that have now made me a well-rounded Executive able to pivot and skillfully navigate and bring about significant improvements to different business units as well as different industries. This bird’s eye perspective informs sound 360 degree business judgment. I look to hire or create within my team similar breadth of exposure, experience, perspective, and skill set.