BET’s Carr Shares Secrets of His Success

Related: Upfront 2016: We Told You So

Louis Carr, president of ad sales at BET Networks, has just about wrapped up a successful upfront.

Sales volume is up double digits, with price increases ranging from mid-to high-single digits.

“I’m comfortable saying this has been one of my best upfronts ever,” Carr says. “We have clearly got the volume we’re looking for; we’ve got the price we were looking for. People seemed to understand our story and they love the content that we have coming up.”

Though he’s been busy, Carr has literally written the book on success. He calls the book Dirty Little Secrets (SeraphBooks), but don’t look for tales of competitors stabbed in the back or clients bamboozled out of their budgets.

To Carr, the dirty secret is that too few successful people are willing to share tips and strategies for getting ahead. “I wanted to do the exact opposite, because that’s what people have done for me,” he says.

The book traces Carr’s life from when he was captain of the record-setting relay team at Chicago’s Lane Tech High School. “I grew up with people all around me telling me I was special and I never understood why they said that. But in hindsight, I know why they said that. They were trying to encourage me, inspire me, motivate me,” Carr says. He wrote the book in part because, “I wanted to say thank you and show them my appreciation.” He was also encouraged by the team at BET, who felt that the things he shared with them would help others as well.

Carr learned lessons from his earliest days in business. He recounts interviewing in 1984 for an account executive position with Johnson Publishing. “I showed up prepared and polished, right down to my red shoes. After a great interview, John H. Johnson offered me the position, but warned, ‘Never come in here with those red shoes on again. And fix the button on your shirt.’”

On His Own Two Feet

Although Carr liked the way he was dressed, it was Johnson’s company and he toed the line. But, Carr added that if you don’t like someone else’s rule, you must become a game changer. “Michael Jordan didn’t ride the bus to his home games; he drove behind them in his jet-black 512 TR Ferrari,” Carr says. “People make exceptions for game changers and I hadn’t proven myself yet. Anyone who makes a difference in any environment is someone who people will treat differently.”

Carr also recounts turning down job offers from BET founder Bob Johnson many times before joining the network. At the time he’d never heard of BET or even had cable. “Johnson sold me on his vision,” Carr says. And having vision is one of Carr’s important secrets.

At the end of his book, Carr lists 21 secrets he’s illustrated. They read like a series of inspirational messages. Here are a few: “Find your vision and execute it.” “Overcoming or defeating adversity depends on your mindset and your faith.” “Hard work will help build a successful foundation. When you have to do it, do not be afraid of it.” “Your image speaks; so be cognizant about what you are portraying.” “If you want to stay current, learn to reinvent yourself. It is beneficial in life and business.” “There will always be blessings and miracles. Appreciate and remember them.”

These days, Carr says he’s driven to work hard because he wants to create opportunities for others, both at BET and at his foundation, which provides internships in the media business. He believes in investing in people. Right now BET has consultants helping staffers with their storytelling. Better storytelling helps position brands so that people understand and value them, he says. And as those investments in people pay off in higher sales and profits, they bring Carr joy by creating a path for other people to be even more successful than he is, he says.

Dirty Little Secrets has a picture section with photos of Carr running track, Carr with his mom and with his wife. There are shots of the author with BET CEO Debra Lee, President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. Surprisingly, there’s also a snapshot of Carr with former Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

The Wallace picture shows Carr’s “ability to engage with people who have different opinions and different thoughts,” he says. They met when Wallace was promoting Alabama tourism. Wallace told Carr he wasn’t a racist, but an opportunist, backing white supremacists when they were in power and working with black people when they were in charge. “I don’t know if it was true or not, but it was a pretty good sell job,” says Carr, who should know.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.