Spreading the Catholic Faith Is Good Business

Dick Lyles spent 30 years as chairman and chief executive officer of his own company.

Now he’s using his business acumen to spread the faith. A former president of the Ken Blanchard Companies, Lyles hosts the weekly Relevant Radio program “LifeWorks.” He became CEO of Relevant Radio last October.

He spoke with Register senior  writer Tim Drake from his offices in Green Bay, Wis.

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Pueblo, Colo. I was the second of three brothers. My father was a postmaster in Pueblo. He later became postmaster in Colorado Springs and Denver. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. I grew up a cradle Catholic. I was an altar boy.

I was also a Boy Scout and became an Eagle Scout. I really found Boy Scouting as a way to reinforce my beliefs in the Catholic Church and my understanding of the faith. Their God and Country awards caused me to reflect upon my faith.

At the age of 10, I wasn’t able to attend Boy Scout camp but went to a Catholic summer camp for a week at Camp St. Malo in Estes Park. That was a profound Catholic experience that left quite an impact on me.

What led you into the business world?

I graduated from the Naval Academy. After Annapolis, I went into the fleet. I spent my first three years at sea, with a good chunk of that time in Vietnam. I did two major deployments and two special missions in Vietnam.

After the Navy, I went on to get my master’s degree in human behavior and started my Ph.D. I found I loved working in the field of management, so I started consulting, and my wife and I started a medical college in San Diego, Maric College.

I continued consulting, and in 1982 I wrote my first book on management problem solving. I got into the business world through the areas of leadership and management.

What would you say are the key things that your years in business taught you?

The biggest lesson I learned is that values-driven leaders — those who lead from a values-based perspective — are way more successful over time than those who don’t subscribe to a set of values. Values-driven companies outperform non-values-driven companies by a factor of eight-to-one.

Some of the strongest values-driven leaders are Catholics. Their faith is what shapes their values and determines their behavior. They’re typically not flashy, splashing themselves all over the newspaper. They’re just out creating wonderful legacies of magnificent companies that are making a difference in the world.

There is a huge correlation between strong faith-based values and business success.

Why do you think that is?

Such values ultimately provide a basis for ethical decision-making that respects the dignity of other people. If you don’t have that dignity or respect for other people, you simply will not succeed.

How did you go from radio host to CEO?

I was doing the “LifeWorks” program when the board invited me to consult with them for developing a profile for the new CEO. As I worked through the profile with them, they liked my insights and suggestions and asked me if I would be willing to do it.

After some reflection and discernment I decided that there was nothing more important that I could be doing with my life right now, and agreed to take the job. It was announced on Oct. 1, 2005. I had to disengage from a full and active consulting practice. I settled in after Jan. 1.

Most communities seem to have either EWTN or Relevant Radio. Why isn’t there greater cooperation in Catholic radio?

There is a huge barrier to entry. When radio stations become available, they cost a lot of money. If you can cross that barrier, it’s possible to operate a station with listener support. Because of those barriers, a lot of people have tried to do a station here or there, but the cost of programming has been too high. There hasn’t been vibrant programming available.

Around the year 2000, many people said, “Enough is enough. We don’t have Catholic radio in this country, and we need it.” A commercial model was tried, but didn’t work. We feel that we have found a model that works. Most of our programming is our own, which gives us the ability to upgrade and provide the kind of programming that people want to listen to.

There are those who think that if I just have Catholic radio, Catholics will listen to it. We believe programming should have the best possible production value and quality. People will listen to it because it’s good.

The reason there are so many factions is because each network has a different purpose. Our purpose is to be part of the New Evangelization. We’re not here to provide intensely Catholic programming that’s filled with Catholic jargon that only 5% of the population can understand. Our purpose is to form and evangelize and educate people on the faith and current issues.

Our listener base is doubling every three to six months, and we think it will continue to do that. We’ve created programming that is relevant to today’s Catholic. Other people are equally as confident that what they are doing meets a need. The Catholic Church is big and diverse, and there are a lot of different needs that people have.

Where does Relevant Radio currently stand in terms of stations?

We broadcast through 31 stations in 13 states reaching potentially 26 million listeners. Of those 31 stations, we own 17. Fourteen are affiliates.

What’s planned for the future?

Our ultimate goal is to have vibrant Catholic talk radio in every community in the country. Our current growth strategy is to grow through current station acquisitions. We just started a new station in Austin, Texas, a few weeks ago. We also hope to grow through our affiliate networks as well. We’re the only Catholic media outlet that’s endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Radio isn’t going to go away. It’s important that we have a vibrant Catholic presence on the radio to give people the confidence to be Catholic and give Catholics prominence again in the country.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

What amazes me most me are the e-mails and telephone calls we receive from listeners. We recently received a check for $1,000 from a listener who told us that Relevant Radio was the primary reason he was attending seminary in Chicago. I am amazed daily with the differences we’re making in people’s lives.

Tim Drake writes from

St. Joseph, Minnesota.