Media executive Larry Kramer shares his advice for success.
Story by Eddy Hoyle
Larry Kramer is a superstar in the world of journalism and digital media. He retired as president and publisher of USA Today in July 2015 and now sits on the board of Gannett Corp., the parent company of USA Today. Born to a middle class family in the New York City suburbs of Hackensack and Fairlawn, N.J., he started delivering newspapers at age 11 and learned a solid work ethic.
“All I ever wanted to be was a newspaper reporter and editor. I borrowed the money and took on jobs during school to pay my way,” Kramer said. He studied journalism and political science at Syracuse University, then earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. Kramer’s career started at the San Francisco Examiner and later at the Washington Post. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to create one of the first internet media companies, CBS Marketwatch, where he served as chairman and CEO. He later became president of digital media for CBS. He later became president of digital media for CBS and served on the Board of Discovery Communications. He is a trustee on the boards of Syracuse University and Harvard Business School Publishing.
In 2010, Kramer wrote the book “C-Scape – Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today,” and is on the speakers bureau of Harper Collins. Kramer and wife of 40 years, Myla Lerner (chair of Lean Ensemble Theater and a broadway producer), split time living in their Lincoln Center apartment in Manhattan and their home in Palmetto Dunes. Kramer said he loves the Lowcountry. “It chills me out. It gets me on a golf course and on bike paths almost every day. I love biking on the beach.” They have two children, Matt and Erika, and two grandchildren.
Here are Kramer’s tips for success…
1. See the cup as half full. “Maintain a positive outlook,” Kramer said. “This is true in all aspects of business, whether you work for a company or are an entrepreneur. You must believe in what you’re doing and that it will succeed. When you run into roadblocks, bounce off, don’t get discouraged, just come back at the problem a different way until you find the right way.“ A positive outlook and belief wins people over.
2. Go the extra mile. In business relationships and in negotiations, understand what your customer or partner wants out of your relationship. Do what it takes to ensure they get what they want from you. Focus on creative solutions and on what the customer needs, not necessarily what works best for you. Don’t do extra work just for the sake of doing it. You can do a million nice things, but if you don’t address their needs, you’ll waste a lot of effort.
3. It’s hard, but cut the cord. Don’t stick with people who aren’t performing, Kramer explained. “This is a common mistake of entrepreneurs and bosses in general.” You might love working with certain people, but if they aren’t performing, even if you think they eventually could, they are hurting the organization and your position as boss. You’re better off hiring the best people for the job and not spending time trying to remake people you like. Other staff who make up for underperformers become resentful of weak bosses.
4. Listen. The number one failing of managers is thinking they are the best qualified person to solve any problem. A manager can’t be a master of all tasks. Your job is to get the very best people to do their jobs and to help them. Listen closely as they air their problems, advise them how to solve them, but don’t solve problems for them.
5. Be everyone’s best partner. “This is a tough one,” Kramer stated, “and maybe doesn’t always work. But if you go out of your way to please a partner or customer all the time, they will begin to depend on you and to think about finding even more ways to work with you. Do more than they ask with less hassle for them. Prove you are thinking about their problems and be totally straight with them about expectations. They will never forget that.”