John Myers co-presents a special edition of 'F...

That very special thing that those of us who were involved knew as GMG radio has finally come to an end. Yesterday was the formal end of the ‘hold separate’ that what was then GMG radio and Global radio were put into by the competition commission while it conducted its investigations into the purchase.

Plenty has been written about the whys and wherefores of that and I’m not going into it now. I want to talk about what I personally took from the experience. It’s fair to say this post has been prompted by the tons of lovely messages and posts I’ve seen whizzing around Facebook these last few days.

I left GMG radio, or Real and Smooth Ltd as it was by then, a little more that a year ago, about a year after it entered hold separate.

How to be a leader

There were a good number of great leaders at GMG, none more so that John Myers. The man who is my mind formed the group way back in the year 2000. John was CEO for most of its time as a business and has gone on to great things. While there he showed anyone willing to learn how to do it. He was always fair, creative, warm, funny, generous and most of us would have followed him anywhere. A giant of a man.

I still ask myself today ‘what would John do?’ when I am puzzling over something at work.

The importance of a tight senior team

As I’ve alluded to, the senior team at GMG were awesome, and a credit to John who put them together. So many people. Stuart Kilby, Andy Carter, Alison Forshaw, Billy Anderson, Shaun Bowron, Jill Johnston and of course John Simons to name but a few! Every single one on top of their game and a great leader in their own right.

But the lesson was in how close the team was. Whether you asked a question in Glasgow or Manchester or Cardiff, the answer was the same. They were brutally fair, always available to anyone and you never doubted that they had your best interests at heart.

What a team.

How to manage a sales team

Of course, while I was there, I progressed from sales manager to managing director of Real Radio in Wales. And while I always enjoyed running the station, there is no feeling quite like winning big with a sales team. The team we recruited and trained there, and constantly re recruited and trained through various incarnations was always one of the best, if not the best, in the UK.

Huge achievements were the norm, records regularly fell to us, and most of all, we had a good time doing it all. Those foundational days learning how to do that stuff will always stay with me

Why systems matter – and Giff!

Of course, one of the main stays of the successful sales team, or any team for that matter, are the systems that you employ. I’ve always believed winning was relatively straight forward. You just need a plan. The trick is of course, staying on the plan. That’s where good managers excel. They don’t have to come up with new answers to everyday problems, they just refer to the playbook of answers they’ve already worked out.

And I can’t mention systems without mentioning Dave ‘Giff’ Gifford. My mentor and inspiration when it comes to so much in life and work. I don’t thing there is a situation he hasn’t faced or a problem he hasn’t solved. But that doesn’t mean you’re getting the easy answers from him!

The two day seminars in Glasgow or Newcastle were so tough at the time, but Giff has had more impact on my sales career than any other person.

It not their fault, its your fault

All sales problems are sales management problems. All company problems are management problems. People don’t do things because they don’t know how to, or they don’t know why its important.

Surround yourself with great people, and let them do a great job. But run interference for them. Make sure they have the tools, the training and the rewards and they will go out and win for you.

And never ever allow yourself to blame someone else for your failings as a manager. Take it on the chin, deal with it, learn from it, and move on.

It’s all about the people, and recruitment

As mentioned, people are everything. This was the number one mantra at GMG. We are nothing without our people. We were rewarded for this with extreme loyalty and commitment. No one ever left a job undone or an issue unresolved.

Sir Isaac Newton

The first time Sir Isaac Newton has been mentioned in a radio article? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir Isaac Newton famously credited ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ for his successes. The people he worked with, and learned from. And it was the same at GMG. The reason we were successful was because our people were successful.

And the trick is the employ the right ones in the first place.

Go the extra mile when recruiting, and you’ll be rewarded for it throughout the whole period that the person you employed works for you. Otherwise you’ll pay for it the entire period they work for you!

Have fun

It’s not life or death! No one is getting into any huge amount of trouble, it’s just radio! If you can’t have some fun, don’t bother.

We spend so much of our time at work, it’s really important to mess about! Study after study shows that people who enjoy their jobs, or have fun doing them, do it better than people who don’t. Simple.

Set high standards

The flip side of the ‘have fun’ coin. If you are winning, or on target, then you can do what you like. But until the job is done, let’s get the job done. Employ great people and expect them to be great. It’s a winning formula.

No one knows the right answer, everyone does

I’ve only learned this in the last few years. I’ve spent far too much time arguing with people about whos philosophy for ‘this’ or ‘that’ is the ‘right’ one. Why just changing their approach and doing it my way would bring them such better results!


It doesn’t matter what the plan is, as long as you’ve got a plan. One of the thing John Myers taught me was that he didn’t really care what my plan was. He just wanted to know I had one, and I believed in it. That all that was needed.

Stop arguing. Just get on with it. These people all know what they are doing.

The importance of research

I always felt GMG was an emotionally intelligent company. It did a lot for ‘the right reasons’ and because it was ‘the right thing to do’. But this was nearly always backed up by extremely thorough research and insight. Whether selling to the client or programming a breakfast show, research was key. But never enough on its own.

It’s all about brand

GMG radio

Of course it is. You know that. But I mean the brand of the organisation from the employees perspective. GMG tried to deliver an experience akin to the retail experience you may get shopping from Apple. Consistency has been mentioned, but it was a real cornerstone. People had the same training, and consequently spoke the same language. All the internal paper work looked the same, rewards were consistent throughout.

I always liked to say that if you started in Cardiff, but moved to Glasgow, you’d be able to pick up right where you left off, so similar was the philosophy, the ethics and the systems in place.

Stuck in a moment I just can’t get out of

You have to be very careful that you keep a sense of perspective. Great and inspired people work so hard, and give so much to the cause, its important that they are able to let off steam and be with their families. Otherwise they get ‘trapped’ in what they are doing and are unable to separate real life from work life!

Working for a great business like GMG radio was a bit like that at times, impossible to get out of. But great managers and leaders help with that too.

Life after radio

I left GMG radio, which became Real and Smooth Ltd just over a year ago, and to those people who are leaving now, or even considering their future, given yet more change in their circumstance, I’d say ‘jump!’

Radio is a brilliant place to be, and GMG was one of the best places to be in radio. But there are other things out there that you can have just as much fun doing. I’m sure Global radio will have a warm welcome for those of the people from GMG who are that way inclined, but I would like to reassure those that have decided their futures lies elsewhere.

Be confident in what you’ve achieved, you did a brilliant job, and be excited for the future. You’ve been part of an exclusive club and membership of that club pretty much ensures your ongoing success!

All the best, see you all soon.

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24 replies
  1. Robbie Jackson
    Robbie Jackson says:

    Wise words tony. The thing about GMG was it never felt like you were going to work, more so it felt as though you were spending the day with good, old friends. That’s a massive achievement in its own right. What a company, it will always be remembered.

    • Charley Dwyer
      Charley Dwyer says:

      I’m totally with Robbie on this. I’m glad I still have my little part of the GMG family for a couple of months. Wherever I end up, I know I’ll always be proud to say I was even a little part of something like GMG. x

      • Tony Dowling
        Tony Dowling says:

        Thanks Charley, if I could have mentioned everyone I would! On the contrary, you play as big a part as anyone. GMG radio is truly a place where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!

  2. John Myers
    John Myers says:

    Wonderful piece Tony and thanks for the kind comments. It was a family with a strong worth ethic that enjoyed winning and having fun. The day work feels like work is the time to find a new place to enjoy work again. Remember, good to look back but the future is something you should run towards!. Good to see you doing so well in your new empire.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hi John! Welcome to the blog 🙂
      Wise words indeed. Thank you.
      Im really enjoying life outside of radio and I’m really keen that those of our friends who have decided to go another way are optimistic about their chances in the bog bad world!
      I’d also like to thank you again for giving me the chance to do what I did, and learn what I did. I appreciate you and all the team at GMG radio very much indeed!

  3. Karl Svenson
    Karl Svenson says:

    Like everybody else has commented, GMG has been one of the best places to work, it was like an extended family where you supported, cajoled, kept an eye out for each other.. That is the one thing I will miss..

  4. Sharon Joneseeeee
    Sharon Joneseeeee says:

    Amazing and inspiring words time spent with GMG and you Tony were the best and most fun i’ve had in radio… you give radio the va va voom 🙂
    Thank you again x

  5. Chris Moore
    Chris Moore says:

    Really terrific piece Tony, so many happy memories.

    I still remember what John told us the day before we launched in October 2000, he said we should try and savour every moment as we were part of an exclusive club of people who get to be at a new station on the first day.

    There were the times when we dry-running before we went live when John would decide that he wanted to go on air, he’d come downstairs, switch the studio to live and whoever was in the studio would get to be his co-host for an hour as he flew through the switchboard putting people live and playing requests.

    We made some of the most original radio listeners in Wales had ever heard and still talk about to this day, We helped numerous charities, sold millions of pounds worth of airtime, broke audience records continually and sometimes we did stuff that was just plain stupid.

    And as you say in your blog we were as successful as we were because we were a fantastic team.

    It’s sad that the “Real” name is to disappear but those of us who were part of those extraordinary times will all have great memories of a wonderful place of work.

    To paraphrase the great Welsh poet and philosopher Max Boyce “We were there”.

  6. Jasper Blakeley
    Jasper Blakeley says:

    I was recruited from London by John Simons to help launch Real Radio at the very beginning. From jingles and on air audio to months of planning to launch an ambitious website that didn’t get launched then to an on-air jock to being made redundant. Whilst I might not have managed to get my creativity to fit the ‘Real’ ethos I can’t deny the most incredible upper management skills of John Simons and John Myers. It took a while to understand that I was no longer a producer with final say and that I didn’t know everything – the two Johns did know everything and despite the restrictions I felt about it, the Real formula was incredibly successful. Real financially allowed me to leave London, start a family leading me to become a magician and now a headline stand-up comic. Dedicated people no doubt.

  7. Joe Burton
    Joe Burton says:

    Some great points raised here Tony, can honestly say the best 8 years of my life. Have so many happy memories and met so many great people along the way, with the two John’s at the top! Hope all is well with you. Joe x

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hey Joe! (see what I did there?) I think the best thing about this post is the people Ive been in touch with that I havent spoken to for ages, your very good self included. Thanks for the comment, much appreciated!

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