By Mike Kinosian
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief
Akin to its borough brethren of Manhattan; Brooklyn; the Bronx; and Staten Island – Queens buzzes with activity on any representative weekend night.
Synonymous – and famous – in any part of Gotham is its pizza. Whether the scene is a group of friends enjoying conversation over a whole pie, or someone folding over a slice on the go, New Yorkers have a longstanding love affair with pizza.
That gastronomic delight in question more than likely originates from a hole-in-the wall establishment, which has become the American Dream of ownership.
For one particular Queens pizza joint, Saturday night hubbub yields to pause mode for roughly one hour as the storeowner busts his buttons with pride hearing his son’s voice jump from the speaker of the small radio situated by the cash register. The station warranting his attention is Cumulus Media New York City news/talker WABC and the talent is Queens College magna cum laude graduate Charlie Harary (pictured at right).
Ultimate platform requires unique content
This marks the fifth year that Harary has been overseeing “The Boardroom,” a weekly (Thursday, 9:00 am) business-centered internet radio show on the Nachum Segal Network (NSN). “I love the medium and I am constantly trying to figure out how to make it better,” comments the 38-year-old investor, strategic adviser, professor, and motivational speaker who landed at WABC about two months ago. “I help entrepreneurs and I am very focused in the entrepreneurial community. I received a call that a slot had opened up on WABC; someone had purchased the blocks as an investment. It was suggested that the person brokering the time listen to ‘The Boardroom’. He loved it and said I would be a great fit for WABC.”
Very much enjoying “the grind” of his 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm Saturday broadcast, Harary has found the WABC experience to be every bit of what he expected – if not even substantially more. “When you have to play at the WABC-level, there is a certain fear – but it is a ‘good fear,'” he remarks. “It is the fear that you hear athletes discuss about playing in a big game. WABC is where America comes to talk, so you do feel that you are on the ‘platform of platforms.’ Just being in the building brings the best out of you.”
A recent interview Harary conducted with former major leaguer Cecil Fielder, father of Texas Rangers first baseman/designated hitter Prince Fielder, substantiated that very thing. “When Cecil put on the Yankees pinstripes, he felt like he was in the presence of greatness,” Harary states. “You just hope that somebody listening thinks that you ‘belong’ on WABC. In addition, there is enjoyment of honing the craft as you go through reams of paper and stacks of newspapers every day. I try to draw lessons out of current events to deliver the message in a way that can be entertaining. You have to differentiate yourself and provide unique content. You cannot just be another voice that listeners hear on the radio. I am on Saturday night – not Monday morning drive time. People have to actually turn on the radio to hear this show, so I am trying to get better every week.”
Self-conducted aircheck sessions find Harary analyzing/critiquing each show to see if he is executing effective teases and if he is seamlessly transitioning in/out of breaks. “I am constantly trying to review my performance to see if I would listen to the show if I didn’t know me,” he quips. “It is exhilarating to do the show; however, from the moment it is over, I feel a pit in my stomach that I have to produce another one. It does not go away again until the theme music is playing in the studio.”
More than once, the word “refreshing” has surfaced in feedback Harary has received regarding his WABC endeavor. “It is a new show with a different take,” he explains. “I would characterize people who respond to the show as ‘growers.’ They are people who like to push themselves and like to grow. They cut across boundaries and they like to hear things that will help them. Many young people out there are thirsty for information that will help them get better. They are looking for something that could inspire them and give them tips for living in this incredibly complex world. I don’t think there is a lot of information that directs people in a way that can give them the life they are seeking. If you want something, you can go out and find it but ‘content is king.’ You really have to deliver information to the listener that will make them think and make them grow.”
During the past year, Harary’s growing reputation attracted the attention of TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison who states, “A number of my ‘intelligence agents’ were telling me about this extremely passionate, principled and intelligent young man who was doing notable talk radio on the NSN platform as well as punchy video features on YouTube. I checked it out and quickly realized Harary was an up and coming talent to be reckoned with. He brings tremendous richness, authenticity and power-packed content to his performances that combine fresh angles with facts and analysis not usually heard in mainstream news/talk radio. Yes, he has a business and entrepreneurial perspective, but this is not a ‘business show’ per se. He really deals with news, politics and public policy from the perspective of ethics and integrity. He talks about character. It is quite refreshing to say the least.” Harrison continues, “I went out of my way to meet him and, upon determining he is clearly the real deal, am pleased to champion him as a rising star of the medium. Also, the fact that a personality of his quality is emerging on a station as important as WABC cloaked in the category of ‘paid show’ indicates that the radio industry should not discount the potential of the next big ideas and talent emerging from the brokered market. Charlie Harary’s show is neither an ‘infomercial’ nor ‘religious’ in nature — it is a legitimate broadcast built on an entrepreneurial business model.”
Cogent in effectively utilizing social media, Harary posts show notes and follow-ups on Twitter, iTunes, and via his website. “I try using all the modern means available to deliver the show to the audience,” the father of five affirms. “Rather than simply hearing the news, a listener can put the pieces together and become engaged with what is happening in the world – that is the goal of the show. Communicating a lesson is the key and it is the thing that excites me the most. When we get to share an insight, idea, or thought that can help someone else – even if it is for one second – you have made a connection. That moment of a connection when two humans share an insight is the underlying aspect of what I do.”
Would-be doctor becomes Juris Doctor
An immigrant mentality preaching that, if you went to school; were conscientious; and diligent, you could make something of yourself permeated the Brooklyn house in which Harary was raised. “My father came to this country in his teens and is a very hard worker,” he accentuates of the aforementioned pizza store proprietor. “He works all day and all night to put food on the table for his family.”
Hopes that Charlie would be a doctor were not fulfilled with Harary conceding, “I was not a good kid in high school. I was in trouble more than I was not in trouble. I thought I would either end up in jail or representing those in jail, so I thought being a lawyer would be a good path for me.”
Having fervently watched and devoured every law-themed television show and movie, he knew certain dialogue from that genre by heart. “That was my vision,” Harary recounts. “At the time I got to Queens College, the pre-law major was political science and communications.”
With that as his basis for his undergraduate work, he progressed to Columbia Law School where he earned his Juris Doctor degree. From there, he worked for New York City law firms Davis Polk & Wardwell, as well as for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison, eventually becoming an in-house counsel for RXR Realty.
Swim … or … you are sunk
Laser-focused on becoming “successful,” Harary points out that, “In the law firm world, that means being named a partner. In the beginning, I thought it was going to be ‘Juries & Jaguars’ for me. When I walked into those law firms, I was around the smartest people I had ever met, but along the way, when you are put in an extreme circumstance, you begin to question everything.”
Instantly, he discovered there was not much time to establish a learning curve. “You are thrown into the deep end and expected to know how to swim,” Harary declares. “The minute you get there, you are expected to produce. If it takes two hours or 20 hours, everything you do has to look beautiful and be perfect. I immediately learned the idea of ‘work,’ which is you do something until it is perfect. If there were a spelling mistake in your email, people would look at you as if you were wearing horns. They would redline any memo that contained a grammatical mistake or a sentence that made no sense.”
Virtually coinciding with Harary joining RXR Realty as first vice president of residential operations/legal counsel was a completion of a major merger by that entity, which went private in 2008, a year he depicts as, “The worst ever for real estate companies. I moved from being a lawyer to a restructuring guy and I was commuting every week to Baltimore.”
Most of Harary’s responsibilities dealt with issues and problems, such as buyers who could not get their condominiums built. After several years of doing crisis management, he returned to New York City and had a new outlook about what it takes to be successful; it countered what he had originally thought. “It is not just about hard work,” he maintains. “There are certain traits in people who made it, versus people who did not.”
Thus, approximately five years ago, firmly believing the entrepreneurial spirit fills “every nook and cranny in our country,” he co-founded venture capital/advisory firm H3 & Company. “It invests in entrepreneurs who are the spirit of America,” enthuses Harary, a clinical professor of management and entrepreneurship at Yeshiva University’s Syms School of Business. “If you know how to find the lessons, the world will give you all you need to learn about how to be great. The world operates under basic universal principles so the same lessons come out every decade and every generation – I am always looking for lessons.”
Simultaneous with a work ethic “being forced” upon him in his law days, Harary became involved with youth organizations. “It was my outlet to inspire and empower young people,” he recollects. “Kids think that if they are not Facebook co-founder-internet entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg by the time they are 25, there is something wrong with them.”
Despite being overwhelmed at work, he would fly around the country to speak to high school kids about such things as entitlement. “It became addictive to share a message, and it was almost like living a double-life,” Harary acknowledges. “I never took any vacation days or even went on a vacation. It was the way I spent my career.”
Over the course of time, he began to realize how important empowering education is and what makes people tick. All of it became a momentous part of his life. Never, however, did it dawn upon Harary that he would get involved with anything beyond public speaking. “I did not have access or exposure to media to the extent that I do now.”
Always enamored by the idea that someone on radio was able to share his or her opinion/view about the world, Harary remembers listening to the medium as a youngster, but admits he was “too young” to decipher the voices he was hearing. “I don’t know if it shaped me, but my now sixty-something father is a big talk radio guy. Your beliefs enable you to look at the world and have certain expectations. The ability to try to give a perspective on reality is one of the greatest honors a person can have. Life is all about sharing perspective and trying to help someone see the world in a way that is positive, empowering, fair, and thoughtful. Hopefully, that person can go back and [examine] the world in a new way.”
As far as Harary is concerned, talk radio is all about points-of-view. An outstanding talk radio host doesn’t simply tell listeners what is going on, but rather, “He or she adds color so you can see what is happening through their brain,” he emphasizes. “You look for the perspective and the process. The only thing a listener is asking for is a talk host to show them a way to walk away with their head up: That is the goal of a good talk radio show. A listener can then see things that have always been there, but they never thought to think about because they were too busy moving on life’s treadmill.”
Capitalizing on growth time
Speculating on what his audience desires from a one-hour, Saturday night WABC program, Harary is optimistic that the answer is to draw lessons from the day’s headlines. “I go from what happened to what someone can learn from what happened,” he asserts. “I want this show to try to break the cycle of history repeating itself by asking what lessons a particular headline is showing us. We are drawing interesting connections between what seem like totally disparate stories and figuring out how to bring it into a person’s life.”
Illustrative of the amount of material Harary crams into a 60-minute broadcast is the fact that it requires a full-week’s worth of preparation. That is in addition to his “day job” of trying to invest in entrepreneurs, as well as his teaching duties and usually cranking out one “Unlocking Greatness” podcast every week.
Sometimes on the road twice weekly for the 80 – 100 lecture dates he does over the span of a year, Harary chooses to read, study, and learn in his limited spare hours. “I like to think that ‘my’ time is ‘growth’ time,” he opines. “That includes having alone time in the gym to work out and to deepen my own appreciation that there is a deeper world around us.”
Favorite occasions for him are moments of self-reflection, self-growth, and “getting lost in a good book” that will push his mind. “I love thinking things that I never previously thought. That gives me the most amount of joy because joy comes from extension. That growth moment has a certain metaphysical, spiritual feeling, where you feel different and changed. Those are the times when you are not running around – things are a little quieter. That is my personal time.”
Living the dream
Dominant themes of “success” and “entrepreneurism” undoubtedly will dot a typical conversation with the inspiring Harary.
Both his parents are examples of entrepreneurs, and the host of the May 2015-launched “#AskCharlieShow” stresses that he strives “to be a success” so that his parents will “be proud” of him. “It gives me pleasure that I am giving them the enjoyment to listen to my WABC show. My father had been living in Lebanon but he was kicked out because of his Jewish religion. He came here with basically nothing. He did not speak the language and did not have a formal education here. With his two hands, a lot of grit, and very hard work – he raised a family and put all of us through college. My brother is a lawyer and my sister is a speech therapist.”
Meanwhile, Harary’s maternal grandparents are Holocaust survivors; his mother grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and would scream in the middle of the night in horror. “Also through hard work, she became a teacher,” Harary proudly boasts. “To her credit, as soon as we all grew up, she went back to school at night.”
Several years ago – at the age of 62 – Harary’s mother received a doctorate in psychology and as Charlie underscores, “My parents never gave up on their dreams. If you are willing to follow your dreams, anything can happen. That is what I grew up with – it is ‘The American Story.’ In many ways, that is what I hope to share with my listeners. The journey is what makes us different. It is the kind of parent you are along the way and the kind of community member you are along the way. If you get to the top in the wrong way, you are not a success.”
Currently limited to being heard one hour a week on WABC, Harary would “love to see the show reach more and more people” and “to have listeners gain” from the program. “Radio is both mass – yet – personal,” he astutely observes. “You can be reaching millions of people and each person has you in their ear. Especially in today’s culture, people are walking around listening to radio through ear buds.”
Television is still a great medium, he grants, although “You are still a great distance from a viewer. In radio, you can whisper to someone; you can laugh with them; you can cry with them; and you can share your thoughts with them. You feel as if you are really talking to them. I hope this medium never stops growing and never goes away. More than ever, people are desperate for a touch and desperate to have someone speak to them personally to help them through life. I would love the opportunity to increase the show in both length and frequency. If people perceive the show as having value, I would like to do it more often.”
Contact TALKERS managing editor Mike Kinosian at Kinosian@TALKERS.com.