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John Lux on Avoiding Train Wrecks and Embracing Pingpong

John Lux on Avoiding Train Wrecks and Embracing Pingpong

From Orlando Business Journal, Abraham Aboraya May 23, 2014

John Lux has worn many hats at Orlando-based digital media company IDEAS. Lux helped IDEAS transition from a Disney division into an independent company in 2001, and has worked primarily as chief operating officer. He’s also been president, and in the last few years, has taken on the company’s social media components. In the past year, Lux added a second full-time gig: Working with Film Florida to try to get funding for incentives in the film industry. While the effort failed this year, Lux has vowed to do it again in 2015.

What challenges did IDEAS face in the early days as a Disney spinoff? When we started IDEAS, it was an interesting endeavor because on paper, legally, we were a startup, but from our experience and clients, we were a company that had been around for 10, 15 years. We were in that weird limbo area. When we would go to a bank or lender, initially they didn’t know how to look at us. We went home on a Friday afternoon and resigned from one job and came back on the following Monday to the same location working for the same clients doing the same projects, except now we were an independent company.

Key business lessons? You can’t be all things to all people. Sometimes you’re just not going to have a good mix with a client, and we have learned to trust our gut. If we’re in a meeting with a potential client and we see red flags or it feels like a train wreck waiting to happen, that’s one we might want to decline. We’ve walked away from some pretty significant financial projects because it just didn’t feel right.

What are some of the red flags? Clients that want us to start a project before they have the funding because us working on the project will help them get the funding. Another red flag with some potential clients: When you can say certain things over and over and if it’s clear they don’t hear what you’re saying, you wonder are they going to hear us throughout the project?

Interesting projects? We have three clients right now that understand no matter what you sell your brand as, if your employees aren’t living that brand, it doesn’t matter what you put out externally. They’re taking a lot of branding exercises, and instead of going external, are going internal. We’ve been designing brand immersion centers — physical environments where employees can learn more about the organization, the history and about how they fit into the larger organization as a whole. It’s allowing the company to have better retention and happier employees — people who feel like they have a stake in the company, so they understand why they get up every day and come to work.

What’s your management style? Professional causal. There’s a time to go play pingpong and a time to buckle down because we have a deadline and a client is paying us to get the work done. I also believe that when you’re standing over someone’s shoulder saying, “Deadline, 5 o’clock, hurry up, get done, are you done yet?” — people don’t get their best work done. My office is 15 feet from our lounge so I hear when people are playing pingpong, and it would be easy for me to think why are they playing pingpong when we have a deadline at 5 p.m. today? But the reality is that 15 minutes of pingpong may actually get them done quicker than if they’re staring at the screen trying to come up with a solution.

How did you transition to becoming politically active? If you were to ask me nine months ago about state film incentives, I would have said I care, but there are a lot of other smart people involved and they’re taking care of it. Then I went to a forum last September with state Sen. Alan Hays, who stood up and said to the industry, “You have a great story, your story matters, you need to tell it. We need to hear your story.” It migrated from there.

What projects did IDEAS work on that were brought to the state with incentives? Films like Dolphin Tale, and additional dialogue recording work for Magic City and The Glades. We’re the perfect example of the trickle-down effect of how the entertainment industry incentive program works.

John Lux, Age: 39

Background: John Lux has been with IDEAS since before it spun off as a separate company from Disney in 2001 in a management buyout. He’s served as president, chief operating officer and the ruler of social media. He was born and raised in Chicago, went to Purdue University and came to Central Florida in 1998. He’s never won an Oscar, but he’s held one before.

Type of business: The media and experience design company works in health care, entertainment, government and enterprise.

Employees: 22 full-time employees; five long-time contractors

Let’s chat: Join John Lux and OBJ on Twitter May 27 at 7 p.m. Use #EntertainThis. Hear more from John Lux on becoming politically active at OrlandoBusinessJournal.com/video.

Read the article from the Orlando Business Journal HERE.

John Lux
As COO of IDEAS, John manages the day-to-day operations of the company. He is a category expert in studio production and is responsible for bringing advanced digital media technology to IDEAS.