In my American, radio world, that’s how innovation works. It’s like with love or getting over a cold – you can’t make it happen. Real innovation, true creativity… you just put yourself in a position that it just might happen and then you wait for it, hoping like hell that it comes before you die. Dead and gone in a grave on a night like tonight when it’s cold as icicles out would be a real drag… especially if while you were alive you never sat still enough under a tree or on your bedroom floor to hear the call.
I’m waiting in four areas.
Do you really want me to explain? I suppose I could at least try. It’s unconventional, this act and wait strategy, and there are those of you who would ask why I would reveal to anyone my secret business strategy. But what the hell? We’re all gonna be dead someday anyhows.
- Radio. AM and FM radio. My wife Alexis, who is reading next to me in bed right now – The Girl on the Train – and I have been in a rebuilding year at WJOB for 11 years now. We know that AM loses about 6% TSL (time spent listening) every year but for some reason the message hasn’t gotten to our listeners in northwest Indiana and the south suburbs of Chicago. We still do AM talk radio. They still listen, maybe even more now than in the past 11 years. I don’t have a reason for that other than there’s a lotta people behind our little radio station and they’re good people. When you get good people behind a purpose, just about anything can happen…. Ultimately, even the FCC can go your way. I’m not kidding. A couple weeks ago the FCC did something I never thought they would do. The FCC okayed the AM Revitalization plan, which basically means that for a little spare change, we at WJOB can add an FM station in northwest Indiana and the south suburbs of Chicago. I’ll believe it when I see it, but if it happens our little radio kingdom could be worth a lot more dough.
- As the three or four of you know, we got one of them there 400-foot towers out behind WJOB. It’s where we broadcast AM radio from. We also had 18 old antennas up there. Some were in use a couple years ago when I had them all removed, and some weren’t. That was 18 antennas and 18 feed lines of wire going up to them. Poof. It took crews six months and a lot of paint and light bulbs to make that tower a real work of art. It’s beautiful. Go out your backdoor on this frigid night and look. Blinking red lights. And then wake up early and just look at how beautiful the five levels of orange (that’s what they call it but it’s really red) and white look. It’s a monument, if you’re into towers and that kind of thing…. Now for the past couple of years, at least once a month someone calls me to see if they can put one of their antennas on our tower. I always say “no.” I don’t know why, but when I lay on my bedroom floor and wait for the stillness, that’s what the stillness tells me. “Not yet. Not yet.” You see, most of these leases are 20+ years long and they seem to be going up in price so I figure I’ll just wait until the price gets to where I want it to be. Where is that? I don’t know exactly. Maybe in Spring I’ll lay under a tree in Wicker Park and wait for the stillness to tell me when it’s time. One thing the stillness has already told me is that it’s probably getting close to being time to rent some space up in the air. That could mean money, or so you’d think.
- TV. What the hell is JED.tv anyhows? Wouldn’t you like to know. Me too. Four years ago we put a camera in the old studio at the base of the tower and a bunch of people started watching. We didn’t expect that. And back then it was way too expensive to stream your stuff… so we built our own system. That didn’t work either because it would crash when too many people would watch me be funny or us video stream a high school basketball game. Life sucks then you die…. And then when you’re reincarnated, you wake up and watch TV. Odds are though that by the time you (all three or four of you) and I all die, when we wake up from being dead then it’ll all be TV streamed on the internet. We call it “connected TV” now. So to get a jump on this development, we’ve invested a whole bunch of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours too in making a TV station for northwest Indiana and the south suburbs of Chicago, which don’t have a TV station now. It’s all Chicago TV around here. Maybe JED.tv will work. Maybe it won’t. In the end it’s just another possibility of something that might work and that’s all I ever ask for.
- VC. That stands for “venture capital” for all of my union brothers in the Laborers. I know I’m not in the union any more, but I still shake sometimes like I operated a 90-pound jackhammer all day. When I look around and try to figure out how my skills with a jackhammer and my skills as a Chicago pit trader could transfer to another realm… I think of venture capital. I don’t know why exactly except one time I was laying under a tree in Wicker Park and when I woke up from a quick nap I was mumbling stuff like “startup company” and “minimum viable product” and next thing you know we were moving our little radio station into the new Purdue Commercialization Center. Further that… I joined the advisory board of this center that’s supposed to find amazing startups with the potential to change the world. I know it’s a tall order but I got my eye on a couple startups that like Larry Bird might be serial over-achievers. We’ll see. I’m working my ass off on this part of my American, radio life.
Actually, I’ve been working my ass off on all four things that at least have a possibility to work out.
Concerning 1. Radio, as always I’m elbow deep in radio issues like finding good music to play on Christmas Eve and Christmas and dealing with a non-performing Comcast… while paying for a study on what FM frequencies might work to enhance our little radio molehill. It’s a lot to do as always and it’s just another excuse for not writing this blog more.
Concerning 2. Tower. I’m talking to people, and exchanging prices and numbers and deadlines and stuff. I probably shouldn’t say too much about his other than maybe just maybe I’ll buy another tower and get in to the co-location business. Not sure if it’ll happen really but like a lotta people who love radio, I also love towers. They’re big and tall and beautiful and they send a message – that you’re compensating for something. They also connect wireless signals from New York to Chciago in a flash so that futures and options and stock traders can get their orders fulfilled quicker than other traders. Milliseconds count in the world of high-speed arbitrage trading, and that means towers along the way count also. Lotta work to learn it all. Lotta work.
And then there’s 3. TV. Every day I work with either Christina or Rob or Ryan or Debbie to build a TV studio for the video of radio. Check it out. Every Tuesday and Thursday (when Christina’s not downtown Chicago at college), we stream a four-camera shoot of video of radio. It’s in beta form but we’re getting pretty good at it and it’s just a matter of time that video of radio becomes just another thing that might work. And that’s all I ever ask for. After Wednesday of this coming week – Christmas Eve’s Eve – I’m gonna take off like 11 days to finish building our TV studio and internet infrastructure. Lotta work. Lotta work.
And what about 4. venture capital? That’s starting to pop also, and I would have never anticipated that there’s this much work associated with it. Part of the challenge is that we’ve not really had anything all that innovative happen around here since US Steel built it’s first big plant in 1906. That’s kind of a long dry spell between big advancements, so it just goes to reason that it might take some legwork to establish this place where local geeks can develop their products to change the world. The biggest hurdle is that no one – and I mean no one – believes me that we can do this. To almost every I talk to – other than Purdue chancellor Tom Keon – when I say that we can turn the intellectual capital being produced at Purdue Cal and other local institutions in to real companies that do stuff and make money, usually the people just up and walk away. Or they nod, in a daze, like they’re acting like they’re listening but they’re really just making a grocery list. I have been spending as much time on trying to convince people that we got a real chance with startup businesses here than I have been spending on building the TV studio. And that’s a lot of time.
So there you have it, my overall business strategy. It can be summed up as just do shit and hope it works out. Put yourself in a position in which it just might work out. And then do it a few times until you find one or two things that actually do work out.
How could I develop such a stunted business mentality? Easy. I developed it while trading in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade. It’s a trading strategy, really. I have simply repurposed it to my American, Radio life.