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Learning Through Acquisition


Note: This is an auto-generated transcript and may have transcription errors. Please excuse us for the same.

Robert Berkeley  0:05  

Hello, and Welcome once again to Inside Jobs, the regular podcast where we meet creative leaders and try and find out what makes them tick, brought  to you by IHAF the leading professional association for In House Agencies, and EKCS, the content production provider that lets creatives focus on what they do best by handling multiple adaptations and production of marketing assets, 24/7. Now, this week's guest is I hope you don't mind me saying this Jon, kind of an old school agency creative, who in the early 20 teens made the career leap from traditional agencies to In House Agencies. Is that about right, Jon?


Jon Gordon  0:41  

That sounds fair. Thank you for labelling me that. I appreciate that.


Robert Berkeley  0:46  

Okay, I'm not sure how that how nuanced that is. But I'm looking forward to hearing from you, Jon, about the differences between working in traditional agency and In House Agencies. But well, first of all, welcome to Inside Jobs. And can you just start by telling us a little bit you're telling us what your role is, and a little bit about what you do currently, and then we're going to dig into the hinterland of Jon Gordon. 


Jon Gordon  1:08  

Yeah, I'm currently the VP of creative services at FAT Brands. So I oversee our creative In House Agency, we support 17 brands, so you know, as pretty much everything you can imagine from in store experiences and graphics to, to adapt to website to digital to social, and we pretty much handle that also to support all of our Restaurant Brands.


Robert Berkeley  1:28  

Wow. And I think it's quite a recent company, FAT Brands. So so how quickly are these these new sub brands sort of piling in and for you to deal with?


Jon Gordon  1:38  

That's a great question. I mean, honestly, in the in the year that I've been there, we've acquired a couple more brands, including the acquisition of the company that I was working with previously. And we had five brands. So we've had you know, since my our acquisition of GFG, where I was an additional two brands, seven brands have been acquired in the last year. So we're in a constant growth mode, which is great because we get to meet new people and see new brands and kind of learn more about the history of the brands that we're acquiring. So it's been really, you know, enlightening, just in learning of all the different, you know, Restaurant Brands that are out there. And and we're just a small piece of a larger puzzle of restaurant of brands in the industry, but the ones that we have are really cool and fun to work with.


Robert Berkeley  2:20  

So we've got Brad Oh, can you name some of the brands that you've got people might recognise. 


Jon Gordon  2:24  

Yeah, and it's really you know, some of them are somewhat regional and some are more you know, internet or international, but you know, Round Table Pizza,  Fatburger, Johnny Rockets. I'm trying to think of ones that most people probably wouldn't know. Zoe's, Twin Peaks, Buffalo’s Cafe , Great American Cookies , Hurricane Grill & Wings , Elevation Burger, Hot Dog on a Stick, Native Grill & Wings,  Marble Slab Creamery. I think I got them. Yeah. So we've I think 17 brands and total.


Robert Berkeley  2:52  

So given all that, you did your degree, I think in marketing, is that right? 


Jon Gordon  2:58  

Yes. I went to Virginia Tech.


Robert Berkeley  2:59  

What chose it? What Why did you choose marketing, then I mean, I always find that quite interesting when you when you go from being a child to an adult, and you go through, you know, college or university, and people choose things like marketing, which seems sort of very abstracted from your real world existence growing up. So what what drove What took you that direction?


Jon Gordon  3:15  

That's a great question. Because I, you know, I don't know if I have the perfect answer for it. But I do know that I was always interested in advertising. And I knew advertising fell within the marketing group. And so marketing seemed the best direction or the best area to study in. So I chose to go to the Virginia Tech and I was in the School of Business there for for four years.


Robert Berkeley  3:37  

Right. So you did start your career and you spent the next 10 years working for agencies, right, including DWT. 


Jon Gordon  3:45  

Yeah, exactly. So you know, kind of started with a small agency just kind of did a little bit of everything and then a JWT for about five years. And, you know, that's when I was really kind of got thrown into the fire and learned how to survive and function within a, you know, creative department within, you know, an ad agency. I loved it, I enjoyed working with it. Really, my favourite part was the collaboration and the team that each of the creative side, the creative department there, you know, I did feel a little isolated on an island, you know, the majority of the meetings were run by the account team and, you know, business develop their business strategy. And, you know, it always felt a little bit kind of, you know, at the bottom of the hill, you know, it's like, Here, here's the need creative team, you know, do your thing and we'll go present it to your, you know, you know, a creative director would present it to. 


Robert Berkeley  4:36  

And so what what were you What were you reaching for that you weren't getting at that point?


Jon Gordon  4:39  

I do think there was a you know, my my drive was really around being creative and doing cool things and building out my portfolio and I just didn't have a good well rounded vision of what in my role within the whole process of creativity and marketing.


Robert Berkeley  4:54  

But it sounds like you were also aware of that lack it wasn't that you were blissfully ignorant you were kind of look Getting over the over the edge and seeing there was other stuff there. But you're kind of unable to get to it. Would that be fair?


Jon Gordon  5:05  

Yeah, it took time to get there. I mean, the beginning, I don't, I think so I think maybe I'm kind of revisiting in retrospect, now that I have a larger, you know, understanding of how business and marketing and creativity work together, but at the time, I did feel I enjoyed, you know, I definitely enjoyed working within the creative group. And, you know, we're meeting you know, with the other art directors and designers and creative directors, and, you know, everybody that was part of the team, you know, traffic managers, and, and so on. But it did feel a little isolated, at times, it felt like, you know, you guys do your thing, your, your, your role is important and valuable to, you know, how we as an eight ad agency work and function and are what we deliver. But, you know, I think about, you know, maybe two or three years into it, I felt like there's more out there. And


Robert Berkeley  5:51  

I'm interested in this, because, I mean, I've know lots of reasons why people have made the change. And from traditional agencies, whether working with multiple clients, and, you know, there's, you can have a short attention span, and, you know, get on with lots of multiple projects, sometimes at the same time, and the advantages with going to In House Agencies, and they're well documented, and there are some some perceived difficulties there, too. But I've never actually heard this one before, do you think that people who work creative, specifically who work in some of these larger agencies, you know, this is a common feeling amongst them, that they are somewhat isolated from outcomes and causes, and you know, what, what goes on there sort of trying to look at the world, but it's a, it's like a frosted glass window that they're trying to look through, and they really just have to turn it on themselves and kind of do their job rather than understand the, the wider context.


Jon Gordon  6:40  

That's, I mean, you know, I can't speak for them. But I think, again, maybe I'm kind of revisiting history a little bit more through a new lens, because of where I am today. But yeah, I'm gonna assume they are, I think it where we are in kind of just, you know, as a creative or, or any role, I think, if you can broaden your skill sets that aren't just in a very specific component of the larger, you know, business workflow, I think it makes you more well rounded. And, and I would hope, and that's something if I, when I'm recruiting, here, you know, if at brands or places I've been, that's something that I talked about, because I do think it's important when it's almost almost like an enlightening moment to anybody that's jumping into a role like, oh, wait, now, not just doing this particular, I'm not just going to be a copywriter and write copy, but now I have a better understanding. And I have relationships with the marketing leads that you wouldn't typically have and, you know, an agency, a traditional agency clients set up, and building strong relationships with, you know, the CEO, or the president of the brands, you know, you don't have that opportunity in a creative department sometimes. And I think that's, it's a little bit what people don't know. And when they do know, it becomes, you know, from my standpoint, it's a real good sales or selling recruiting tactic, especially because it's very honest to how it actually works within, you know, in house environment, we, we do have the luxury and you get spoiled that you have the you build the strong relationships professionally and personally with with the marketing teams and operations and supply chain and kind of like the full scope of of people that work within the business. And, you know, I don't think a creative in an agile agency typically thinks about that. But when you when you kind of realise that that error is an opportunity there, it does kind of, you know, like, kind of open your eyes a little bit more so sure.


Robert Berkeley  8:31  

And I find it interesting. So the, the, the interface between you working as a as a sort of external agency, art director, and, and you're working with an In House Agency happened around 2012. How did that come about?


Jon Gordon  8:45  

Yeah, so um, I left JWT, and I guess it's Wunderman Thompson now. And I found out about working at a company called Focus brands. And one of the brands that they were hiring for was a creative director for most office grill similar to Chipotle. And I was, you know, I did at the time, like, you know, kind of with probably a lot of people like, In House, you know, is that the time is this happening? And.


Robert Berkeley  9:07  

Did you know anyone who was working at in house? 


Jon Gordon  9:11  

Well, not really, but it was starting to become trending, you know, with big companies, I think Facebook at the time, and some other companies really get into it. So you know, I kind of felt like, Okay, this could be an opportunity. But really, the turning point was when I went to interview and find out who was there and people with agency backgrounds, and you know, young creatives that were very, super talented, and you know, I was like, Oh, my goodness, this is like, you know, another whole world that it exists over here and, you know, the quality of the work and just the, you know, just the people that were working with were awesome, and it was just, okay, this is a good spot to be in. And then, you know, during my interview, I met with the president of of the most office grill, you know, it's a friend to this day. You know, some of those things, some of those opportunities to meet people that you typically wouldn't meet was really interesting and just learning more about marketing. And like I said earlier about the various aspects of the business supply chain operations, culinary just really working together. It was this was a really it seemed, you know, the time and it even today, the right place to be.


Robert Berkeley  10:13  

Well, I want to hear more about that. So you you started in 2012, you had quite a career that what did you find when you got there in terms of an In House Agency? And, and how was it when you left? Because you ended up as a as an SVP there?


Jon Gordon  10:25  

Yeah. So it was it was a great journey. I started out as creative director, and then through time and some, you know, changes happening within the company. And, you know, restructuring the.


Robert Berkeley  10:38  

When you got there in terms of an iIn House Agency? what I mean, it was small, was it nascent? Or was it already established and churning out lots of work? Or?


Jon Gordon  10:45  

Yeah, it was definitely small. I mean, it was definitely a small group. And I don't remember the numbers, maybe 10, or 11, creatives working across are working specifically to the brand to each individual brands. And, you know, at the time, I think we had five or six brands that we were supporting. So it was definitely small, it was very focused mostly on in store, graphics and store experience kind of point of purchase and things that you would.


Robert Berkeley  11:09  

Were you doing anything strategic? Or were you literally kind of ordered taking from Marketing, and hey, we need some of these for these stores. And it needs to say this and be on brand.


Jon Gordon  11:17  

Yeah, I mean, it was it was collaborative. And I think that was a big difference. I mean, it was, yeah, there was definitely needs coming in the marketing in the marketing folks definitely drove the marketing calendar. But it wasn't a you know, directive. I'm here do this do that. It was, hey, let's get together and talk about the strategy. Let's talk about understand the objective here. Let's figure out what are the best methods to kind of, you know, really communicate with the consumer in different touchpoints. And it I've never ever I mean, since day one ever felt very, you know, felt like here's the here's the directive, come back next week with your solutions. It's always felt very collaborative. And I think that is a key differentiator. Again, kind of listen, I think it's a great experience at at the agency. But a key differentiator is it feels more collaborative across all the departments, and it's specifically to marketing and creative.


Robert Berkeley  12:07  

Well, I think it's something that a lot of In House Agency leaders strive for not every one of them get it, frankly, and get the opportunity. I mean, what do you attribute that level of collaboration, where you sit, you do hear so often that, you know, In House Agency teams, essentially, you know, marketing go go go one way, they go to external agencies to kind of do all the smart, funky, fun stuff, and then they come back and dump a load of assets on the In House Agency and say, Hey, churn some of these out.


Jon Gordon  12:33  

Yeah, I never felt that way. I think, you know, there has been a level of trust and, and going back to relationships, I think that's been the biggest and most important part where you do establish a strong relationship with, with everybody across all departments. And, you know, when you start to prove yourself, I mean, again, with everything, you have to prove that you can do the work and then high quality. And I think, you know, just having that level of trust and collaboration, and you know, just really understanding kind of the the goals of the marketing team and aligning with them. Ultimately, they when they do when you do have that kind of connection and collaboration, you know, they do trust the work that they come out that that you're going to be working or creating is going to help drive the you know, whatever that objective is, if it's sales or traffic or engagement.


Robert Berkeley  13:21  

But, how do you how do you determine the level of charge we put this I mean, when you're when you're going into this, and you're starting to work with these teams, these these marketing folks, you say, as long as you're turning in good work, and you know, you're making a contribution there, but how do you know at what level he that they want you to turn in the work? because I presume you are working alongside external agencies of record and so on at the same time?


Jon Gordon  13:45  

It's really dependent, I'd focus in time we were it was all in house. We wasn't we weren't, there was no competition. In the beginning, there was no competition in between any external agencies. So we, you know, brought it in house. And you know, and the reasons behind it, I think one is we were doing great work. And I think from a business standpoint, obviously, there's some cost efficiencies of having a team internally. So there was a benefits on both sides. But ultimately, it came down to, you know, really doing great, good quality work and seeing, you know, seeing the results. So in the beginning there, I mean, it This isn't 20 is 2012 You know, the work that we were doing alongside all the other initiatives from all the other, you know, from not just the creative department, our sales were really high. And so everything was really, really good, you know, at that time and so, like I said earlier, it's just, you know, things were, we were doing great work providing great solutions, and we weren't competing with anybody and and just, you know, the, the marketing teams, it really enjoyed the collaboration working with us and I think ultimately, it was a great relationship and, and the results kind of spoke for themselves. 


Robert Berkeley  14:57  

Did you have did you have senior mentors or sponsors that can made sure that because you were relatively young back then as well, but your creative director of the whole brand. How did you have someone who was making sure there was space for you to be listened to, and for you to know that there was an opportunity to talk and have an opinion? 


Jon Gordon  15:12  

Oh, it was the the marketing teams, I mean, it was our marketing directors, a VP of Marketing and President presidents and I think it was, it's really important it for me, it's always been a priority is to is to really build strong relationships with with everybody and do it for from an honest standpoint, you know, not just for trying to get things through, it's really building a having a great relationship where I can go over to knock on the door, if the VP of Marketing and, and ask them a question or push back on some kind of feedback, or whatever it may be, it really is. And that's not, you know, that takes time to grow those relationships. But, you know, when you get to a point where you have that, it really is an open and honest conversation between anybody and everybody within the creative and marketing team specifically. And so yeah, the, you know, they're an advocate for for us, if there was any, you know, any tension or anything of that nature, you know, having an advocate such as the VP of marketing or the president, you know, it's, you know, it's invaluable to have that. So it was always, it was really just kind of a strong, connected group. And that was really a big learning for me to to know that, you know, there is going to be times of tension, and there's going to be a times of, you know, when things are great, you know, for the most part, you kind of fall a little bit in the middle. But if there ever is any of those, you know, things that, you know, conflicts that happen, if you're able to kind of talk it out and ultimately kind of come to a compromise or a strong result. It just helps build, you know, I think it just continues to build a strong foundation for a healthy business.


Robert Berkeley  16:50  

Interesting. So in what you're doing there with these relationships, it sounds to me like you are enabling your creative team to actually focus on being creative. While you're handling, perhaps some of the more I wouldn't say politics, but there's a business angle of things, the interaction with your colleagues around the business around the company, would that would that be fair that you're trying to you're trying to kind of give them give them the creative team space, while you deal with, you know, any headwinds that may be there or, you know, opportunities that may be there as well?


Jon Gordon  17:22  

Well, you're exactly right. I mean, I think that's the one thing that you and I take very important to my role is to protect my team, and the team, and they're, you know, that the team is, you know, everybody, there's, there's a lot of different personalities and different, you know, styles of interacting, and you know, everybody's unique, and it's great. And for me, my role is really to support them, you know, and having conversations. And again, this is collaborative across the board. So it's not just me having conversations with marketing, and you know, the same my team is having them with us as well. But if anything bubbles up that has to be handled, or, you know, conversations that are, you know, should be private between the marketing and myself. Yeah, yeah, that is a huge part of my of my role. And it has been for, you know, for the last, you know, probably seven or eight years as I grew within focus, and I make that.


Robert Berkeley  18:11  

Can I Includes lobbying for the team and looking for opportunities and saying, hey, well, we, you know, we got people who can do this, you don't need to you don't need to not do it, or find someone else to do it. There's a bit of that as well, kind of selling the services as it were.


Jon Gordon  18:23  

100%. And that's a big part. I mean, if there's ever any ever conversations around, hey, can we and this doesn't happen very often, but hey, could we look at doing this externally? You know, you know, I've always been, let me talk to my team first, hey, can we do this with your bandwidth with your, your skill set? With all of our capabilities? If not, you know, if they say yes, then I will go to bat for them and advocate and then have a real good conversation with, you know, whoever's requesting that particular deliverable. And then ultimately, you know, typically they'll support that. And we, like I said, in the earlier we we prove ourselves with the quality of the work, it just continues on. But if it is something where my team says, Hey, listen, we just, we just don't have the bandwidth or, you know, hey, can we bring in a freelancer? Or can we, you know, use something, somebody externally, you know, I'll go back to them as well. So it really is dependent on the situation. But ultimately, it is it again, comes back to, you know, a conversation with my team, and then a conversation with the stakeholder.


Robert Berkeley  19:25  

So have you ever been in a situation where you inadvertently over promised and went full steam ahead on something that actually kind of unravelled and your team wasn't able to do? And if so, how did you deal with that, if that happened?


Jon Gordon  19:38  

It's a good question. You know, I think ultimately some you know, we tried to do our best and sometimes you missed the mark. You know, and either you you you scramble to make it better, or you scrap it or you you go somewhere else, you know, I don't know if I have a specific example of of when that happens, but you know, that's not very common for the for the most part. I think the majority of them would be around kind of more more high level video production, you know, if you're going out there with your small team, and I had our team, called the constant kitchen was a, you know, content creators and a video production of director of video production as well as photographer, and we would go out and try to shoot, you know, kind of big budget spots, you know, relatively with an affordable budget, you know, not every time we got it right. And so, you know, either we either kind of figured it out, or, you know, and I don't know if I even recall a time that we just scrapped it completely and use somebody else. But it was it was a learning to understand our capabilities. And sometimes if you over promise, if you're going to do a major shoot that requires a lot of, you know, post production, and hey, well, clearly, we're going to have to use, you know, post production facility to help out with that, and we always would, so those things that limitations that we knew internally that we can do the video, the pre production and the production of it, but post production, we clearly have to be outsource, we do that. But sometimes we would say maybe we bit off more than we can chew around the production side, you know, if we're, you know what, I mean, we were having crazy ideas, we were dropping microwaves out of helicopters, and you know, doing skydiving events, I mean, there's things that we pulled off. You know, frankly, if I look back on it today, it was like, how do we do that? But yeah, I'm sure there were times where we just we weren't happy with the result. And it was a limitation of maybe our our capabilities, right.


Robert Berkeley  21:27  

Yeah. Well, you have to keep the credibility with your colleagues, you. And it's all about the recovery as well, because you grow up very often, you can't hide these things. So it's all about the graceful recovery. And the mayor culpa hand on heart, yeah, this happened, but this is what we're doing now. And this is this is our way out.


Jon Gordon  21:41  

Exactly. And I think what's the kind of the takeaway for me was, you know, bringing the marketing teams on for the journey, you know, it wasn't, you know, a creative brief didn't


Robert Berkeley  21:51  

mean to say, implicating them in what could be a potential disaster. You're not saying now?


Jon Gordon  21:55  

No, not No, not at all. But, you know, if they're there, and they're seeing the work that's being put in, and they're part of the process, and they're there on set and seeing, you know, some of the, you know, the obstacles that we have to across, or some of the things that went really well, or, you know, why did we, you know, end up choosing this particular tape during the Edit, because of, you know, whatever the microphone didn't work, whatever that may be those variables that happen that we had to do that. So if they're there on the journey with you, they feel like they're part of the creative process. And I think that's a key takeaway that I've always had is that, you know, you never want to come back to the marketing team, it was just execution. So you know, definitely get get them on the on the ride the whole time. So you can get their input. And so they feel like they're the, you know, the ultimate of the creative, the execution is part of, you know, their creativity as well. So it's really important to have that kind of perspective going on throughout the whole creative process.


Robert Berkeley  22:48  

Do you regard them as your customers or as your co-workers?


Jon Gordon  22:51  

You know, that's, that's a fine, that's a grey area, because I know, you know, we can look at him as a client, and we can look him as co-worker, it's a little bit of both, you know, ultimately, we do service and support the marketing teams. So yes, I think you could say they're our client, but, you know, just with the In House Agency relationship that we have, they are more than just clients, they are co-workers, they, for the most part are friends. So there's definitely a grey area there. But we don't, you know, I always remind our team that we are there to help support the marking initiatives, and you know, so however, we want to label them, it's, you know, totally up, you know, it's, it's arbitrary, but ultimately we're there to to help them out and support them through through our creativity.


Robert Berkeley  23:33  

Right. So, so you finished it to focus, I served as senior vice president a couple of years ago with about 40 people, but covering a lot of work. My goodness!


Jon Gordon  23:44  

Yeah. Oh, my God. So So we had about almost 40 people, and it was working across all of our brands at the time. And you know, there was even supporting corporate and global channels and franchise sales. So it was, you know, a lot of lines of business. Yeah, it was a lot of work. I mean, you know, even with 40 people, and today I have 17 people with more brands. So, you know, it's it's never it's always a challenge, and I'm sure everybody that's been on the call similar to this with you have the podcast, you know, the bandwidth is always, the volume of work is always a little bit of a challenge, you know, and you try to figure out the right ways, and there's probably many different ways to approach it, to be able to handle that volume of work. And so, yeah, I mean, we had 40 people and you know, very kind of typical current, you know, creative teams from creative directors that were, you know, one creative director would have overseen two brands, and then have a team, a writer, an art director, a designer and a production we have a whole production team pre production to not print production, but a production team that helps, you know, kind of a studio environment that would help you know, work within those particular needs. And then the content kitchen, which I mentioned earlier, and you know, we you know, one you know, I think in hindsight we could have used maybe in more internal media buying or internal was, you know, a creative strategist or creative operations manager that we didn't have we that traffic manager, and we have print production managers that are taking all the creative and actually, you know, getting it over to the print production facilities and, you know, printing and packing and shipping out to all the different locations in the franchise or the franchise location. So, you know, it was a pretty well oiled machine, but you know, there's still the bandwidth and the volume of, of jobs was always a struggle. And it always, I don't know if anybody has the magic pill to, to handle that or to to not have that be, you know, kind of the one of the biggest challenges in the house environment. But, you know, we did our best to get to do as much as possible within a reasonable amount of time.


Robert Berkeley  25:41  

Well, I gotta say that, that's why our clients come to us, there's a little plug for me there. So that's, that's what we do we help them focus on the creative and take all that production off their hands. But anyway, that's another story. So I'm very curious, then you you've risen to the dizzy heights of SVP focus brands, well established company, and and then two years ago, you made a change to tell us about why that happened, and what you thought you were coming to.


Jon Gordon  26:04  

Yeah, it was right around COVID, I mean, literally around COVID. And there was a lot of changes happening with focus brands, and they, you know, obviously made some very big decisions internally, and the biggest one that affected for my team was, you know, kind of breaking apart the creative department as or the In House Agency as we had it. And so, you know, a very significant amount of people, you know, were let go and moved on to, you know, to find new roles, and the people that were remaining were, were aligned specifically to the brand. So it was a big disruption to, you know, something that took a long time to build out of support that we had building out. But, you know, COVID was one of those things that you couldn't predict, obviously, and, you know, the changes that were made are affected a lot of people at all different levels. And so, you know, I was, you know, from that point I had, you know, it was, you know, where's my next where's my next move gonna be? And so that was a situation that was in and then, you know, I talked mentioned earlier about Moe's Southwest Grill, the president of the company then recruited me to hit the company he was working with, he was the CEO of GFG, which is global Franchise Group. And at the time, we had five brands, Hot Dog on a Stick, which is on the west coast, Round Table Pizza , Marble Slab Creamery,  Great American Cookies and Pretzelmaker . So he brought me in to kind of do what I was what I did, you know, when I started back at, with him and myself, girl to start building out a credit department. So you know, at the time there was too creative. So I went from 37 to, you know, pretty pretty, pretty much overnight, and just really started to build out the team there. And I started with, you know, recruiting somebody that I worked with, at focus as a content creator, I thought that was a real, you know, important need that we, you know, had to bring in, so started to build out, you know.


Robert Berkeley  27:48  

You had a clean slate, really. 


Jon Gordon  27:51  

Very much. So, I was very fortunate that the team.


Robert Berkeley  27:53  

That’s so exciting. That's so exciting. So yeah, keep going. And then I'm going to ask you what you did differently when you had a clean slate versus what you had to what you inherited and had to adapt to it?


Jon Gordon  28:02  

Yeah, I mean, it was great. So fortunately, the two people that were there, a designer and a creative director are amazing and awesome and talented. And, you know, they were doing what they were they were supporting the brand, just the two of them. And, you know, we had we're using an agency for one of the brands to handle the majority of the work. So yeah, it was it was interesting, because coming into that situation, it was your right, there was somewhat of a clean slate. I mean, it wasn't a blank check, start building, rebuild tomorrow. Unfortunately, it was, you know, how can you incrementally grow and scale the team accordingly, within reason, within you know, dealing.


Robert Berkeley  28:38  

And the outlets were open at the time during checkout, even though it was COVID? Are they shut? I mean, what was the…?


Jon Gordon  28:44  

Yeah, sorry, sorry to interrupt, but yeah, exactly. COVID was happening. And so it wasn't, you know, there was, you know, I guess, depending on the brand and how they're approaching it, some you know, for Round Table Pizza, the buffets were shut down or more, there was more online ordering, and that really put the emphasis on online ordering and curbside delivery and third party delivery with DoorDash and, and you know, all those third party delivery. So the focus was on that the in store, not so much. But you know, as we got towards you know, the beginning or towards the end of COVID in relatively speaking, that everything started to turn back on. So, you know, you have to support the franchisees even more, you had to really build out a great in store experience. So it became more well rounded, more more well rounded, and.


Robert Berkeley  29:29  

Were you able to be strategic and think in advance and actually start planning out so that when things opened up, you are ready for it or was there so much change and unpredictability going on? You kind of had to be pretty reactive.


Jon Gordon  29:41  

You know, at the time there was you know, there was some momentum shifts, you know, COVID is going away and then COVID came back. So you have you had to be so as much as proactive as we could be. You had to be reactive at the time. So, you know, we're you know, I think we're starting to shut down again and so some of the in store, creative that you might I've sat in a box and in the back of the house that was supposed to be put up. So we had to Yeah, we tried to be as proactive as possible. But, you know, honestly, we're probably reacting to kind of the news of the day. So it was definitely a challenging environment. And I think, you know, we did a pretty good job of kind of, you know, continuing to communicate as much as possible. And I think a lot of our communication, you know, emails came back, emails became a thing again, and they were, you know, kind of went dormant for a while. So we put a lot of more emphasis on email, and social and really kind of engaging with the community as much as we possibly could, you know, with that, versus, you know, you know, them coming into into having an in store experience. So, it was definitely, you know, where we were not the only ones, but we were, it was definitely a challenging environment.


Robert Berkeley  30:43  

Well, you had to think quickly, so, so where are you now you started as the three amigos what have we got? Now? How many amigos are


Jon Gordon  30:50  

there now? Now? We're the 17. Amigos? Yeah, so, you know, during a FAT Brands acquired GFG. And then I was brought over and fortunately, you know, I was, you know, was able to stay as a VP of Marketing, I'm sorry, VP of creative services, for fat for fabricare. get ahead of yourself. Yeah. VP marketing. Yeah, so I was, you know, it was able to, you know, cut my title and came over to FAT Brands. And what was pretty, it was, this was amazing, because they FAT Brands, it was already kind of set up for success. And the department that I came into, was already built out, which was great. So we had, you know, designers and copywriter, and, you know, a project manager, there was, you know, all these roles that I would have, you know, had to hire for was already established. And so it was, you know, for now, it's really kind of integrating, and we've been doing this, you know, very, you know, we look at as more of a dimmer switch, and it's not going to happen overnight, but we've integrated with the larger team. And then, you know, through time we're going to be we're doing this now is, you know, given the opportunity for all the creatives to work across all the brands, so not being very brand specific. So a lot of people on our team now have a lot of historical knowledge and understand the brands really well on the nuances of all the individual Restaurant Brands, you know, within their, which brands they mostly work on. But what I want to do in the plan is and we're starting to do this already, is give the opportunity for, you know, the designer who's only worked on, you know, Great American Cookies and Marble Slab Creamery, to have the opportunity to work on, you know, Fatburger  and Johnny Rockets, so really giving them an opportunity to work across all brands. And that takes time, it takes, you know, learning and understanding the brands, the brand voice and the brand's aesthetics and looking feel on the store design and understanding the consumer. So all the different things that they need to learn, like I said, doesn't happen overnight. So absorbing that information from other people in the team. And, you know, learning that through talking to the marketing teams as well, they're gonna be they're given the opportunity to kind of have be well rounded. And across all of our brands within our system.


Robert Berkeley  32:59  

I'm going to assume since this all happened kind of during the COVID time, and also acquisition, and I know your headquarters is in California, and you're in Georgia, I presume your team is spread out across the United States. 


Jon Gordon  33:13  

We are spread out across the world matter of fact, we are, it's pretty awesome. And this is the cool part of you know, working with FAT Brands is we you know, there is a headquarters in Cali in Los Angeles, which is fantastic, and you know, get to go there every so often. And I'm a handful, the team is located in the LA area, I have somebody in Hawaii, I have somebody in Brazil, I have some few of us in here in Atlanta and in Michigan, and we have somebody in Albania, somebody in the UK, I mean, we're we are a truly a global creative department. And what's really cool is even when I was hiring for graphic designers recently, you know, having that opportunity to, you know, you know, try to not just look for somebody local and you know, really kind of open it up to the world to say who's the right person, it was the right person with the right you know, design sensibility and aesthetics that would work with our brands and being able to hire somebody in Brazil or Albania is something that wouldn't you wouldn't typically have in the past and you know, even at focused brands, we were all we were all physically in the office. So I was limited into into my hiring opportunities to keep it within Atlanta or relatively close area. But here at FAT Brands, you know, we're just looking for the right people for the roles and it's opened up to the world.


Robert Berkeley  34:35  

But you were talking about developing the team and giving people experience across brands and so on is that not necessarily made more slow by having such a you know, dispersed team without being able to kind of get into the office and have a huddle and and a meeting and then kind of you know, still talking the corridor and catch up and all the things that we miss from from office work. Does that not slow you down in the way you want to develop your team or does it perhaps give you time more think about what you're doing and be more intentional.


Jon Gordon  35:02  

It's definitely it's a challenge. I mean, realistically, you know, those conversations you have are slipping over somebody's shoulder as they're doing the work or, you know, now you have to put a little bit you have to be proactive, proactive, put a little effort, you know, set up a meeting, have a zoom, you know, those kinds of things. It's just the reality of the situation. Slowly, you know, I think I think through time we're in, you know, it just take time to learn and understand the brand. So, you know, it's not going to be something that I'm expecting, you know, somebody that's been working on great cookies for the last two years to understand how to work on five other brands, you know, by tomorrow. So I think through time and opportunities, have you doing the work? Asking the right questions, knowing who to reach out to if you don't have an answer, everybody will get up to speed. But the beauty is, there are people on the team that are that are deeply rooted into some of the brands. So the majority of the questions that anybody would have, somebody has the answer to.


Robert Berkeley  35:55  

Well, I'm a great believer in if you work for an In House Agency, and you take your paycheck from the brand itself, then you speak of that you are the brand and you can speak of the brand. So those people who work on those are obviously brilliant people to go to when you can mentor the others, I guess, as you move them around the process.


Jon Gordon  36:12  

That's exactly right. And I tried to approach our team very collaboratively. I mean, there is a, you know, just because people do have such knowledge. And in order to get that knowledge spread that you have to, you know, you have to talk to the you know, you have to learn from the people that understand the brand, that the brands and the nuances and all the little details, and, you know, what are some of the choices that they've made in the past that aren't working? What are the choices that can be made in the future that that will work and, you know, I think because we are, we are such a small team, you know, everybody is, you know, accessible, and it's through, you know, through reaching out through slack or through zoom, you just have to put in the effort. And I like I said it through time, you know, I feel pretty confident that the team that we have in place today will be able to work on any project for any brand and anytime, and that just, you know, it's gonna take time.


Robert Berkeley  37:01  

Fantastic. And it helps them get that that diversity of work is also very smart, much more stimulating for them as well, right?


Jon Gordon  37:08  

Oh, 100% I think you know, and, you know, I, you know, back in the day, when I was just on most awfulest grill, I lived and breathed that brand for a year or two and, and I loved it. But you know, you the marketing calendar is just, it's constant, it's gonna flip over and you gotta do it again, is this day, that's the special free Casio day as an example, it's going to be back again, how are you gonna do it differently. So I think you repeat the marketing counts over and over again, at a certain point, you want to have fresh thinking and you know, when other people have the opportunity to work on those specific jobs, or bring another insight into it, or a different layout or a different concept. It just kind of, you know, makes the deliverable the creative, so much better. And open it from the from the creative team themselves, like you said, having well rounded, so you know, if you're building up your book, your portfolio, and you're only one brand, or you're now 17 brands, I mean, wow, what a great range, especially, you know, for be able to, you know, talk to you know, how you, you understand the differences between brands, so you're not, you know, things aren't just starting to become overlapping each other. 


Robert Berkeley  38:11  

So Jon, I'm taking away from this, that it's relationships seem to be the number one thing for you and terms of the way you interact with your, your, you know, the brand at large, the marketers in particular, and constantly proving yourself so that you can build those relationships, that trust in those relationships all the time, right?


Jon Gordon  38:31  

That's exactly right. I mean, that's important. I mean, but I think it has to come from an honest perspective, it can't be building a relationship just so you can get your way.


Robert Berkeley  38:40  

Your In House Agency doesn't have anywhere to hide, Jon knows,


Jon Gordon  38:43  

Exactly, there is no real


Robert Berkeley  38:46  

If there was a disaster that can tell you the whole C suite, they're going to know about it. So you know, that helps when you're selling the services, which was the other thing you talked about, you know, being able to lobby on behalf of the creative team, make sure they're noticed, make sure that they're they're getting a shot at the things that they can do really, really well. And you can't do that unless you've got the relationships in the first place.


Jon Gordon  39:06  

I think what's really important too, it comes from me, obviously, it's important for me to have those relationships. But it's really important for everybody in the team to also have those connections and relationships. So if they need to ask a question, get more insight or even push back, you know, that relationship is already built. So it's coming from an honest place of just being inquisitive or need to know more information. And I think when you when you have that connection with the marketing person, you know, they're definitely willing and excited to be able to provide more insight for you.


Robert Berkeley  39:39  

Right, right. Absolutely. So, Jon, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your journey with Inside Jobs. It's been great listening to it. We could have covered an awful lot more ground by Jon. Don't you think?


Jon Gordon  39:51  

Definitely. I appreciate it. This has been really fun. I you know, it's hard to revisit 48 years and 30 minutes but I appreciate you give me the opportunity.


Robert Berkeley  40:00  

But we didn't dig into your early childhood so I think 48 years is really stretching it a bit but okay. I want to thank Emily Foster of IHAF and producer Amy MacNamara, thank you so much for helping put this podcast making it happen and making it a real thing. I have a fantastic partners of ours and that you have my undying gratitude. Also, I want to thank the team at EKCS for handling the podcast editing and all the Inside Jobs, promotion and so on. Doing a great job and finally, to listener thank you once again for listening.