DonerLA’s Zihla Salinas and Jason Gaboriau Kick Off – “What I Learned This Year” 2015 –


By thelaegotist / / We wanted to finish the year on a high note here at The Egotist. So, we asked the most respected creative visionaries in Southern California to create a piece, entitled “What I Learned This Year.” It can take any form they’d like — an illustration, a top-ten list, an article, video, photo or anything else they envision. WHAT WE LEARNED THIS YEAR – DonerLA‘s ECD Jason Gaboriau and Managing Director Zihla Salinas In 2015, two people from completely different backgrounds decided to set out on a new adventure, to build a completely modern agency from the ground up. Here’s the catch. The agency in this new adventure—Doner—is an agency that has already been down the LA road before. But this is a reset with a new mission. A chance to reimagine the West Coast entity as a modern, creatively driven shop that carries all of the muscle of the Detroit headquarters and all of the hustle of a digital start-up. So with all good intentions, energy and passion, we journeyed out to set the West Coast ad world on fire. Here is what we learned in our first year: Building a positive creative culture is job one—and protecting that culture with all of your energy is job two. As a new start-up, you not only have none of your own clients but you also don’t have a defined office culture. The culture you create is so important and can’t just be a duplication of what exists in another office. The new culture is what leads to employees being happy and attracts new ones. It also creates the chemistry that clients see and feel as soon as they walk in the door. So beware of grey dogs who spread gloom, prima donnas and giant egos. People are always willing to help a brother or sister out. Thank you, everyone, at the Doner Underground, SRI, Mercer Island Group, Cut & Run, JSM Music, MSG Network, Neato Robotics, Steve Sapka, Heidi Consults, Helene Cornell and every single one of our employees for believing in us. We wouldn’t have made it three full days without you. Seriously. A temporary office space is a great barometer for finding people who care about the work. Start-ups take place in garages and ugly temp offices with rental furniture and cruddy microwaves. Anyone whose number-one priority is to work at a place that was once an airplane hanger turned office space with local artisanal beer and wine taps, we are not for you. That being said: We are moving into an amazing new space in January—obligatory bells and whistles included. The best team bonding happens over great work. Any given day and twice on Sunday, we will tell you its all about the work. The parties are great, but the work is a shop’s foundation—it builds culture, invigorates passion for the craft, and lets the world know we have the gusto to stand toe to toe with every creative agency. We will make game-changing, award-winning work, and you can bet your derriere we’ll celebrate with a cold one after. Always be willing to change your plan, but never change your goal. Repeat your goal over and over again. Then do it again. Be relentless with it—a sentiment all the truer with a start-up office. What’s our goal? Claim the creative throne. We may get crazy inventive in how we get there, and we may pivot the approach along the way, but we will never change the goal. You are your own best recruiter. No one has heard of you. Or maybe they have heard of you but not your new office. So when you are trying to find talent, it is best to do some serious old-school, executive-style breakfasts, lunches and dinners, complete with cocktails and bloated appetizers. It is also a great way to get to know people on a personal level. This is important. See point one above about culture. Nothing replaces momentum. From the immortal words of Mickey Rooney in the animated holiday classic Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, “Put one foot in front of the other.” Everything is an opportunity (just look at Squatty Potty). The creative energy that keeps things moving advances the shop one step closer to the goal. Every opportunity is a chance for us to prove our concept. The most important lesson of all: Changing the game doesn’t happen in one year. DonerLA is a fully integrated, modern agency. And not because the name sounds so cool but because the ever-evolving landscape of advertising requires it. We collaborate as a team, not as departments, to deliver amazing work. Our team is anxious to back a vision they believe in, and here in our start-up environment, they personally help make the vision a living, fire-breathing, badass, ad-making monster. Happy New Year! 😉