As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Davila.
Jon is the President of Diamond View, a five time Emmy award-winning creative video agency with notable clients like the Atlanta Braves, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Jack Daniels, Hyatt and many more. Since its inception, Diamond View has been focused on creating a place that uses its gift of video as a force for good. They believe the stories we tell today shape the world we live in tomorrow. Jon graduated with Honors from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Science. Early in his life, Jon explored a career in medicine based on his experience of donating bone marrow to his older brother as he battled leukemia. However, Jon’s path to a degree in Medicine changed in 2010 when he partnered with his best friend and CEO of Diamond View, Tim Moore, who convinced Jon to quit his job at a local hospital to pursue a business endeavor in professional video production. Today, Diamond View has 27 employees and an 8,000 square foot studio in Tampa that serves as Diamond View’s headquarters, as well as satellite offices in Atlanta and Miami. Jon is also an active supporter of the USF Alumni Association, a founding member of The Tampa Foundation, and a Judge for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Jon lives in Tampa and is married to his wife of five years Olivia Davila. Together they have a puppy named Jax.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
While in college I was roommates with my friend, Tim, and he, at the time, worked in the media department of a local church where he learned camera skills and really saw the potential of how video could be used as a powerful tool. When free time allowed it, I joined Tim on video shoots while beginning to question a career path in medicine. Though I was passionate about medicine and the opportunities it provided to help people, I soon began to realize video production could also provide similar opportunities to impact people emotionally while fulfilling my passion for creativity. In 2011, that realization quickly gained momentum. I still vividly remember a phone call I got from Tim while I was working my shift at the hospital. He called asking if I had any lunch plans and I didn’t, so Tim picked me up and we grabbed lunch nearby. At lunch we talked about our friendship, time spent living together as roommates, plans after college, and the possibility of getting into business together. After lunch, Tim pulled into the hospital to drop me off and as I stepped out of the car, I heard Tim yelling out, “Hey Jon, you forgot something in the car!” I was a bit confused because I thought for sure I had everything so naturally, I thought he was just messing with me. But after a few more screams and a car honk, I went back to the car where Tim said “hey you forgot this” and handed me an envelope with instructions to “open it when you get near your boss’ office.” So I did just that. I still remember going up to the fifth floor, standing just outside my bosses office and ripping open this mystery envelope to find that Tim had written a letter of resignation on my behalf and signed it. I read it over carefully and didn’t hesitate handing it in. That day, Diamond View Studios officially launched. We quit our day jobs, partnered together and committed to growing our creative video agency.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In the early days of Diamond View, there was a shoot we produced for a lawyer which we felt we knocked out of the park…until the client responded with a note upset about a tie in the shot that was crooked. We had overlooked this seemingly minor detail…….now, we make sure to teach young cinematographers at Diamond View that “no detail is minor” and to “always sweat the small things.”
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
The book entitled “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan changed my life. This book helped me realize how important it is to focus on one thing at a time. One quote from the book that still resonates with me is “success demands singleness of purpose.” To me, this goes hand in hand with defining your vision and purpose. Having clarity of purpose will help you accomplish your goals.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
We have always been a business driven by passion and purpose, but when we first started Diamond View our vision and purpose were never definitive. Our brand’s ethos and the ethos of our team was to create ‘videos you can feel’ at a deeply emotional level. Today, we’ve honed in on that sense of purpose by committing to a new mission “video as a force for good.” We want to tell stories that matter and that make an impact in our community. With a purpose-driven business, intentionality will seep into everything you do and your employees and clients will notice the difference.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
If I had to choose a guiding principle, it would be the idea that nothing is a setback, only an opportunity. We founded Diamond View at the onset of an economic recession, and plenty of people thought we were crazy, but we wanted it more than anybody else. Since then, we’ve always believed that these moments of disruption in the market or economy are actually an opportunity for us to adapt, learn and grow. When you change your mindset to see difficult times as a unique opportunity, I believe you can change the outcome.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Much like the rest of the world, there was a lot that was out of my hands when the pandemic hit the U.S. The lack of control led to overthinking and worrying about the unknown which led to unnecessary stress. For me, it really turned into a season of trusting the process and my instincts. My parents moved to Puerto Rico in March just as all of the COVID craziness was really settling into Florida. They left the state right when it seemed like the entire world was shutting down. As a result, my wife and I weren’t able to say a proper goodbye, which was tough. But thanks to technology, we’re able to stay in touch and still have family reach far beyond a few miles of ocean.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Like many businesses, moving the entire team remote was a challenge. However, we made it work not only because of the process we put in place, but also because our team as a whole believed it could work. As a result we were more productive than ever before! We also had to pivot our entire business model. At the onset of the pandemic in March, all of our projects were cancelled or put on hold for the next two months. Doing our best to be agile, we shifted our focus to offer new services such as livestream, digital events and virtual production. Seeing an opportunity in the market, we quickly invested in LED screens and robotic technology that would allow us to shoot virtually without the need for travel.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Perspective. I think openly discussing issues and putting them into perspective is a good exercise to help calm feelings of anxiety and stress. Changing perspective from waiting for things to go back to normal, to embracing a new normal that’s already here has helped me. Creating a safe space to openly discuss what’s going on and having people who can help remind you that this won’t last forever can all help combat those worries and anxieties. Refocusing your mind from “old normal” to “new normal” is what will help the transition that this world is going through.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
For Diamond View, our Post-COVID growth is already here. We’ve been adapting since the world was thrown off course back in March. Like I mentioned, we quickly saw a need for virtual meetings and conferences, so we pivoted to offer livestream services. Today, you can say we’ve hit a bit of a growth-spurt; we’re now offering full virtual production, in which clients can remotely dial in and call the shots in real time. We’re also offering extended reality sets using an LED Wall, similar to how Disney +’s “The Mandalorian” was filmed. With the combination of this wall and our new Bolt Jr.+ Cinebot, we’re able to offer a full contactless capture solution, in which talent can film their scenes without coming into contact with the crew. Our robot and LED wall have become quite the dynamic duo here at Diamond View, and it’s led to exponential studio growth. I anticipate that these types of offerings will continue to be in high-demand as companies realize that it’s more cost-effective to keep employees at home and eliminate the need for travel for large company events.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I don’t know the permanent implications, but I do think that we will get a greater sense of appreciation for many things. I think it will increase our awareness on health and safety, as well as increase our ability to adapt to change. It’s evident now that this digital world we’ve unlocked is here to stay and as a business it’s necessary to embrace it. The pandemic didn’t create the technology, but it did force us to adopt it sooner and accelerated us into the future.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We plan to continue investing in technology that’s resilient, such as our robot and LED wall. These two tools have been major improvements in our capabilities as a production company, as well as improvements in the quality of work we can produce for our clients. We also plan to continue to invest in our team because if they have proven anything during the last 7 months, it’s that they, too, are resilient. Resiliency can be tested, but not broken, and we’re planning on suiting up to face whatever the future may have in store.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I encourage everyone to maintain a positive perspective and know that this will pass. To other brands and businesses, know your plan but always be willing to edit that plan and adapt it as needed.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.” This has always been relevant to me because it’s easy to get comfortable, especially once goals have been met and you’ve got the office, the parking spot, the whole dream! You can either sit and settle, or you can continually challenge yourself to say, “Okay, what’s next?” I think that was a huge challenge to face when COVID came about: the challenge of realizing we were lucky enough to be in a position where our company could survive this economic shift. But did we want to be okay with just “surviving” this change? Or would we push ourselves to thrive during this season? It really taught me how to look for opportunities of growth no matter how easy or challenging the times may be.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Readers can keep up with us on our website, DiamondView.io, on Instagram @diamondview, on YouTube at DiamondViewStudios, on Twitter @Diamond_View, and on Facebook at Diamond View Studios.