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Monday, June 3, 2019

Tim Fletcher: The Tiger

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Shreveport s go-to guy for high school and college sports coverage

He seemingly had it all.

Fame. He was on television five nights a week.

Fortune. “It was a nice salary, especially considering what I was doing – talking on TV.”

The privilege of covering some of sports’ biggest events.

But then he didn’t have it all. And it was his choice.

Six years ago, Tim Fletcher rolled the dice. He was well into an almost 20-year career as a television sportscaster on two stations. Popular. Hard-working. So, he felt fairly confident when asking his boss for two weeknights off during the spring in exchange for working two weekdays.

The reason? Tim wanted to spend more time with his wife and three young children.

His roll of the dice came up craps. So “Fletch,” as he is called by most everyone who knows him – and that’s a lot of people – had to decide if he was going to call his own bluff or turn in his resignation.

Two weeks later, the then-47-year-old with two house notes, a new car (“We couldn’t really take it back”), and a family to support, was out of a job.

“I did my last broadcast, cried like a baby, and that was it,” Fletch said.

But as often happens in life, what seemed like the ending was really just the beginning. Listen to KWKH-AM 1130 “The Tiger” weekday mornings between 6 and 10 o’clock, and you will hear a small business success story.

“The Tim Fletcher Show” has more sponsors than a NASCAR driver. That number reaches its peak – 35 – during the popular football season. At any given time, you will hear Fletch singing the praises of every place from car dealerships to restaurants to a urology clinic.

If his show were in a major market with big-time sports, that would be expected. But it’s not. It’s in Shreveport-Bossier City, La. – which is without so much as an NCAA Division 1 athletic program.

But here’s what you need to know. It’s Tim who pays the station to be on the air – not the other way around. He then must sell advertising to pay for that air time. What’s left – if anything – he keeps.

That proposition is risky enough as a second job. When it’s your only job … “There was a little fear, I’m not going to lie to you,” Fletch said soon after a midafternoon nap. “If (wife) Aly was scared, she didn’t show it. She just always told me, ‘Fletcher, I believe in you. You’ve got this. You’re the best. You’re the greatest. I love you. We’re going to get this done. Don’t worry – God’s got us.’” Fast forward, and “The Tim Fletcher Show” is now a must-listen if you want to hear about local teams and athletes. Apparently, that’s something many of you want to hear about. For example, when Fletch told listeners the first 70 who texted their information would be entered into a golf contest, he received more than 200 texts – in the first 26 seconds. His show also brings in enough income – and allows enough time – to let him do what he wanted to do in the first place – spend more time with his family.

“We get to go camping,” Fletch said. “The Tinseltown folks know us because Tuesday is ‘cheap movie day.’ They have the jalapeno peppers ready for us when we get our popcorn. We get to babysit (their grandson) twice a week so (daughter) Syd can do a little work. It’s just been a blast!”

But how did it happen? How did Tim Fletcher, the Monticello, Ark., quarterback who set his high school record for most interceptions in a season, and who got kicked out of college at Northeast Louisiana University for poor grades, grow such a successful business?

Ask Donnie Brewer, owner of Brewer’s Quality Homes. He was a regular listener to “The Tim Fletcher Show.”

“I caught myself frequenting the businesses he was mentioning,” Brewer said. “I would go eat at some of the restaurants he would recommend. It was almost like a friend was recommending the restaurant or business to you. The way he presented it, it never came across like he was selling you something. It was like he was talking to you as a friend or someone who was in-theknow. When I started realizing I was doing that, I thought, ‘Why am I not advertising with him?’” After a phone call and a lunch, Brewer was – and still is – advertising with Fletch. A tagline for some of Brewer’s commercials has Fletch proclaiming “Everything Donnie touches turns to ‘Sold!’” But it was Fletch who sold Brewer on advertising.

For a local radio host treading water trying to make ends meet, Brewer’s sponsorship was big. Yes, Fletch had an important group of sponsors who had been with him since the start of his show or soon after – car dealer Denny Rogers (“Without Denny Rogers, I don’t know where I would have been, to be honest”), Gary Bailey and Paul Little of Bailey’s Jewelers, and restaurateur Chris McJunkins (Walk-On’s, Cantina Laredo), to name a few.

But Brewer’s Quality Homes was a different kind of business. “It was like a switch flipped, and I said, ‘Wait a minute. This is going to work, I think.’ I’ve never really thought about branching out to businesses outside of car dealers, etc. Here’s Donnie Brewer, who has this huge manufactured home business, and he’s putting his trust in me to get his message out there?

“(Brewer’s sponsorship) was one of the first dominoes to fall where I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to be able to do this because there are businesses that I wasn’t even thinking about contacting that want us to try and get their product moved. It just kind of opened the world to us.”

But in 2019, there are many ways for a business to advertise. In what can be a cold, vast space of air time, billboards, bus benches and digital pop-up ads, Fletch – and his likable, easy-going personality – gives advertising a personal touch.

“When people know you, they feel like they are better equipped to do business with you,” Fletch explained. “I think that’s what people are doing. They’re not necessarily doing ‘Tim Fletcher Show’ business. They know me. They know (co-host) Adam (Hester). They know (producer/co-host) Rogers (Hampton Jr.). They know Aly. It’s just easier to do business with people that way.”

More sponsors meant the need for more air time. Fletch’s radio show has grown from two hours to four hours. He also bought the 1–6 p.m. time period, where others host shows, but Fletch sells much of the time.

All of that success should allow Fletch to kick back, relax and enjoy his climb to the top of local sports radio.

But it doesn’t. Fletch keeps grinding, getting up at 4:10 a.m. (unless he hits “snooze” on the first of five alarms he sets).

“I can’t afford to say this is a success – no way,” Fletch said. “I literally worry every month that when we send out these invoices, are we going to get a phone call back from these folks saying, “Hey, Fletch, we’re going to have to sit out a while. We’re going to have to take a little break. We’re going to go somewhere else to advertise.”

But that has been the exception – not the rule. In fact, one of Fletch’s sponsors insisted on paying more.

“He calls me up one day at the end of the year and says, ‘Fletch, are you ever going to raise your rates on the advertising? Dude, you need to charge us more.’” Fletch responded as any business owner would.

“Huh?” At least charge us 10% more, the sponsor said. “I was like, ‘OK, 10% more now!’” So, listen to “The Tim Fletcher Show,” and you will hear about LSU, Northwestern State, Louisiana Tech and high school sports.

You will also hear about a Mexican restaurant, a job placement business and a store that sells hams.

It’s a small business success story, for everything Tim Fletcher touches turns to “Sold!”

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