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Creating “Luck by Design”

A timely Q&A from consultant Doug Erickson:

by Richard Goldman. Richie co-founded the Men's Wearhouse.

Why did you write this book now? 

Actually the timing of the book and what’s going on in the world are a coincidence—or is it Luck by Design? There's a steady drumbeat of negativity surrounding each of us today. It seems like the worst time to be out of work, or to be a new college graduate, to be anyone looking for a job. Yet you are hopeful, your book is hopeful. Why? 

Because no matter what is going on “out there” it’s what’s “in here” that counts. You can allow yourself to 

be consumed by the negativity or you can lift yourself up and find inspiration in the fact that you are alive and in control of your life. I’m not oblivious to the problems in the world, especially on the job front, but I believe that attitude counts. 

Radio right now seems unable to manage risk. It's trying to cut its way to profit by slashing "expense," by cutting research, marketing, promotion, management and staff. How did you handle risk, in the face of recession, in your successful retail career? 

The easy fix is always to cut expenses. But at some point you run out of expenses to cut. At Men’s Wearhouse, we certainly tried to cut expenses, but more of the effort was spent in trying to increase sales. 

In the retail world you can do this many ways—introduce new products, reestablish and cement your relationship with current customers, and keeping the sales staff motivated and enthused. 

The other tricky part is to increase sales without lowering margin too much and by also holding on to the image you have to the public. Consider how Macy's has to respond to this environment—long before there was a recession, Macy’s was screaming “sale”—now what can they scream? Now consider Walmart or Target—they’re still pounding away at their core message—that they are fairly priced, have great selections and (even in the case of Walmart) have hip merchandise… 

You're a marketing expert. Any ideas on how you would market a radio station?

I would get out of the current mindset—if a listener could be transported to any city in the country and turn on any radio station (especially FM), they’d think that they were in their own home town. 

Alice, schmalice—I’m sick of the format and disgusted with the way that radio has become so homogenous. 

For many years owning a radio station was akin to printing money—now that stations have been bought out by larger organizations, the situation has gotten worse, and pre-tax profits in the range of 15-20% are barely tolerated. 

Retail is a little different—in its best years, MW made 10-11% pretax. Most other retailers make single digits pre-tax. And few get cushy tax breaks for depreciation like in the media business. One other thing that radio stations (and retailers) are going to have to brace for—the age of consumerism is OVER! Think about that for a bit…. 

What's the most important lesson we can take away from Luck by Design? 

That the answers to the biggest problems in your life rest inside yourself. It’s the cutting away of the layers that’s hard, and I try to explain how to do so in the book. 

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

It’s my way of leaving footprints, as I talk about in the book. I believe that we’re placed on this planet to (among other things) make the world a little better, a little kinder, and a little more hopeful. It would seem like many Americans feel the same way—hence our new President.

About Doug Erickson:  Over the past 25 years, Doug has programmed and advised some of the best radio stations in America, including: KIMN, WJR, WABC, WBIG and WASH, KINK and KUPL, KDWB, KILT, WJXA-FM, and WARM in Seattle… and some of the biggest radio groups around the world, including Groupe NRJ in France, MediaCorp in Singapore, VIACOM/CBS, ABC/Disney and The Content Factory. You can reach Doug at: or by calling 303.290.8839.

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