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Jon Davila: “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately”

A person’s work ethic is often a result of the work ethic of those around them and I’m very lucky to have had such role models in my life to grow me into the leader I am today. It takes a leader to make, inspire, and build a leader…and a great one, at that. As a […]

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A person’s work ethic is often a result of the work ethic of those around them and I’m very lucky to have had such role models in my life to grow me into the leader I am today. It takes a leader to make, inspire, and build a leader…and a great one, at that.


As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan (Jon) 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, Purina, Hyatt and many more. 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, to pursue a business endeavor in professional video production.

Shortly after joining Diamond View, the company began to grow exponentially. The first year alone, the company acquired a 2,500 square foot facility to expand operations and hired 6 talented team members. Fast forward to the present, Diamond View now has 27 employees and a new 8,000 square foot studio in Tampa that serves as Diamond View’s headquarters, as well as satellite offices in Atlanta and Miami.

For three consecutive years, Diamond View has been recognized as one of the Tampa Bay area’s Best Places to Work and Coolest Office Space. Jon attributes the growth and success of the company to its core values of Passion, Curiosity and Excellence. 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 is also an active supporter of the USF Alumni Association, the Wounded Warrior project, a founding member of The Tampa Foundation, and a Judge for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Jon lives in South Tampa and is married to his wife of five years Olivia Davila. Together they have a puppy named Jax.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Early on in life, I thought I would explore a career path in the medical field. In fact, while in college I got a part-time job at a local hospital as a unit coordinator to learn a bit more about the field. I’ll never forget my first day on the job, a Doctor came up to me for a meet and greet and as we were finishing the brief conversation he left me with some parting words “you don’t want to do what I do for a living… go into business or something else.” That statement on my first day really shocked me because here’s a guy I’m aspiring to be like and he’s telling me, “No, don’t do it.” I continued to work at the hospital for another year and a half and little did I know it would be the most transformational year of my life.

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 45 minutes later, 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, in fact, my scrubs were pocket-less. 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 the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’m not sure what tops the forged letter of resignation, but one other thing that comes to mind is the purchase of our Headquarter in Tampa, Florida. This was a building we drove by every day on our way to classes and Tim and I would look at ourselves and say “watch…one day we’re going to work out of here” and low and behold, just a few years later, we were in a position to purchase this building which sat vacant for years as a foreclosure after the 2008 recession. Since then, we’ve molded it to be a space where great ideas can flourish and foster an environment that inspires our employees and visitors alike.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, we’re working on several new projects but what’s most exciting is our investment in two new technologies to help create a virtual production environment. We acquired a Cinebot or in layman’s terms a robot camera operator. The Bolt Cinebot is a remote controlled, high-speed robotic arm. It tracks movement at over 8 meters per second and can perform precise camera moves down to the inch. This means it can capture sophisticated camera moves at a very high speed and in smaller spaces than ever before. The Bolt is transforming video production as we know it, enabling real-time virtual production and more complex creative techniques. We’re glad we get to share all of that with our clients. Additionally, we acquired a 20-ft. LED screen that can create a full 3D experience. When paired with a high-resolution LED screen background, the robot allows a new type of production known as Virtual Production. This allows scenes to be captured in the studio without the need for green screen or travel, saving both time and budget and contributing to safer film practices in the current global health climate. Curiosity is one of our core values, so we’re constantly keeping our ears to the ground on where the next opportunity to innovate is and how we can use that to help our clients, community partners, and student interns — to elevate their own work and skill sets.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

Truthfully, I believe it’s due to several factors that are lacking in the workplace including: a lack of communication, a lack of transparency, a lack of inclusivity in the decision making process, a lack of team building and comradery, and lastly a lack of company culture. The absence of all of that, along with an undefined vision and values leads to an inevitable result of confusion, miscommunication, and frustration between employees and their workplace.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

I think there’s a direct and disproportionate effect. An unhappy workforce will negatively impact productivity, profitability and employee health and wellbeing because no one is happy when they don’t know what they’re working for or working towards. Your workforce won’t want to work as hard without goals and encouragement, your company won’t be as profitable when you’re not as productive, and your employees will never genuinely be all in. If you want your employees to be as passionate about their work as you are, then they’ve got to see the vision like you do.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

I believe cultures are a result of the values in a company. We need to start defining company values more thoughtfully and intentionally. Additionally, we need to listen, be transparent, be intentional, communicate the why, and inspire. Listening is crucial to any relationship, especially a working one, so it should be an active and ongoing task of anyone in a leadership role. We have several different approaches to it at Diamond View including: annual and mid-year full staff meetings, quarterly company outings, frequent one on one personalized meetings, team surveys, a suggestion box with a twist… the twist being an extra PTO day for the suggestion that is most impactful for the business that month, and a truly open door policy. As a leader, talking and voicing concerns is just as important as being quiet and open in order to be a voice for others.

Being transparent in your working leadership creates a bridge between the employee and the executive. It allows for the entire company to be on the same page and understand why and when changes are made. For example, we hold two major company-wide meetings every year, one at the beginning of the year and another mid way through the year. At these vision meetings, we discuss everything with the team from financial performance to tough feedback from clients/peers. When you have transparency, goals become clearer, change becomes visible, and as a result, you have greater alignment.

Being intentional and purposeful is the difference between being a boss and being a leader; it allows you to build a genuine relationship with the employee while still guiding, encouraging, and growing them as a worker. Every decision we make is intentional and must align with our core values in order to continue to build on the company culture we’ve fostered. For example, Tim and I like to exercise intentionality by taking our Diamond View female employees out to an annual appreciation lunch. We recognize that working in a historically male-dominated industry can be challenging, but we work to create equal opportunities for all here at Diamond View and we make a conscious effort every day to show our appreciation and give credit where credit is due.

Along with being transparent, communicating the “why” should be the motivator in the heart of every company. Purposeful work is always more meaningful and better than aimless work, so it’s important to give reason for change, explain motivations behind adjustments so that your employees understand why and how the work they do matters. The Why and Intention go hand in hand. Explaining the Why builds on the purpose not only of the company, but also the purpose of the employee, their tasks and reminds them of why he or she is so crucial to the success of the company. During one of our annual staff meetings we really dissected our org-chart and emphasized the importance of each person and explained why they mattered and how they made a difference in our overall success; we wanted to be sure that there was intentional alignment from our newest hires all the way to our senior and executive team members. It’s important to emphasize that each and everyone of us matters and makes significant contributions on a daily basis. And lastly, and often the most overlooked, you need to inspire your employees. When we were all young and entering the workforce, there was a drive and passion in all of us; now it’s easy to let a few years or even decades in the workforce begin to eat away at that, so reignite it in your workers. I work to do this on a weekly basis during Diamond View’s weekly Monday Morning meetings. We remind everyone of our 3 core values: Passion, Curiosity, and Excellence. While reviewing these values though, Tim and I will highlight an employee who best-showcased that value during the past week. This allows for employees to feel encouraged and recognized, which in turn inspires them to work harder and better, even when no one is looking.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

The US workforce needs purpose; what do you work for? Is it to pay bills? Or to be able to buy nice things? Or is it something more? When your work is not only a requirement for modern day living, but something purposeful, that’s when change ignites. But like you said, it’s great to suggest ideas, however most don’t realize how accessible this dream can really be. With value- based alignment and purpose driven skill sets, employees can consider working at companies with values that match their own.

As a society, we must begin to evaluate working at one company monotonously versus working at another company purposefully and passionately. We must decide what we as individuals want out of our work and align our values and skill sets with a company to ensure a happy employee, and therefore, a happy and productive company.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I would describe my leadership style to be achieving; it’s not just a career, it’s not just telling my employees what to do, but rather, it’s focusing on what we do, why we do it, and making sure it matters beyond the dollar signs and the spreadsheets. I’m involved; I like to be on the frontlines with our team, meeting in person with clients, attending project meetings, being a part of shoots any time I can. I’m focused; any issues, whether big or small, get my full attention because even the tiniest issues can be the one block that knocks the whole tower down. I’m communicative, to say the least; I’d always rather overcommunicate rather than undercommunciate because in business, you can never know too much, but the second someone knows too little can be the moment a major avoidable mistake is made. I’m proactive; I recognize that things can happen, but when we work preventatively, mistakes can be avoided and workflows can continue smoothly. But most importantly, I’m empathetic and respectful; we’re all human and all leaders should keep this in mind when interacting with your employees. I only expect from others what I expect for myself. I value hard work, but leadership is about creating more leaders. Anyone can work hard, but not everyone can evolve into their full potential; it takes a true leader to get them there.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m so grateful to my business partner, Tim Moore, for being an inspirational leader and the hardest worker I know. Tim is a guy who dreams big, but hustles harder and somehow still finds the time and energy to be an awesome dad to his two young boys, Maddox and Bentley. He doesn’t just work hard, but he lives life hard, and there’s no one else I’d rather work with and learn alongside than him! I’m also forever grateful for the physicians at the hospital that I worked for who helped guide me into a future that I never saw coming; they saw in me what I hadn’t yet seen in myself, and that’s something no “thank you” could ever fully encompass. And lastly, for my Mom and Dad; my parents never graduated high school, but worked tirelessly to provide for our family of 5. They taught me what it meant to work hard and instilled it in me from as early on as I can remember.

A person’s work ethic is often a result of the work ethic of those around them and I’m very lucky to have had such role models in my life to grow me into the leader I am today. It takes a leader to make, inspire, and build a leader…and a great one, at that.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Here at Diamond View, our motto is to “use video as a force for good”, and I’m proud to be a part of that. We aim to create content that inspires the masses because we are fully aware of just how powerful a video could be. We’re fully committed to being the “good” in the world and recently became BCorp certified which is considered to be one of the highest standards for social and environmental impact and has a rigorous selection process to certify companies that are doing good at scale. B Corp Certification requires a holistic review of a business’s social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency, and is based on a vision of creating a community of for-profit companies committed to redefining success in business. For us, it’s another way to confirm our commitment to our ethics, values, and community. It’s exciting to join a community of like-minded businesses who are committed to those same standards. Diamond View also created a 501c(3) arm known as the Tampa Foundation, which aims to inspire Tampa Bay with positive public art and murals that showcase positive and empowering messages. These murals can be found all over the city, as well as in underprivileged schools and communities, in order to encourage people to believe in themselves.

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.” Also, in more actionable steps:

  1. Show Up
  2. On Time
  3. Everyday
  4. With a good attitude
  5. And do the right thing

These are both 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! But it’s important to remember that once a dream is met, it opens a door. But the door opens to a room with yet another door, which opens to another, and another; it’s a cycle. You can either sit and settle, or you can keep going to reach it all. It’s easy to dream big — it’s painted all over the very walls of this office building, we’re reminded and encouraged to dream big every single day — but the hustle, that’s the difference between the pretty picture in your head and the pretty life outside of it. It’s not an impossible dream, but rather one that can be easily met through passionate consistency.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire any movement, it would be a Positivity Movement. Nowadays, especially, it seems like we’re trapped with consuming negative content. You turn on the TV and the news tells you of a new loss, you go on social media and see a new tragedy, you hang out with your friends and all anyone can talk about is the latest scandal; it’s hard to remain positive when negativity greets you at every corner of life. It’s easy for negativity to become all consuming and, in turn, it negatively impacts us at the core mentally, physically, and emotionally. Mental health is crucial to overall health; besides the need to be emotionally healthy and happy for sanity’s sake, it is also proven that poor mental health can evolve into physical health issues. The people of the world deserve to be happy and healthy on the inside and outside, and a positivity movement can not only achieve that, but remind people to find their “why’s” and hold onto them every day.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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