Before launching Los York, an ad agency and video production service, Dex Deboree and his business partner, Seth Epstein were simply two filmmakers who were handed an impressive offer and an unbelievable opportunity. They seized it, and started their small business. Since then, they’ve been competing with large firms and holding their own.

Large corporations and bigger operations can pose a daunting threat to small businesses, but to “make it” in this economy, small business owners must find creative ways to compete with and stand out among these big businesses. To compete in the advertising industry, a sector dominated by giants and titans, Deboree and Epstein had to get innovative. We recently spoke with Deboree at Los York’s beautiful Santa Monica office where he shared some valuable insights with us. Here are three of the biggest takeaways from the interview:

1. Throughout our many interviews with small business owners, finding and hiring the right talent has been a common concern. For Deboree, the hiring process is a “spiritual” thing: rather than just looking for a concrete set of hard skills and experiences, he also searches for a cultural, “spiritual” fit. Whether it’s evident in the tone of voice that candidates reach out with or exemplified in their body of work, Deboree wants to measure their adaptability and passion to learn new things (for the full insight, go to minute 13:11 in the video). Los York’s success stems from their ability to comprehend and determine what exactly the company needed its employees to bring to the table in terms of hard skills and intangibles, and what the company was willing to teach and foster. As a small business owner, it may be time to reexamine what specifically it is you need from your new hires.

2. Many small business owners, including Deboree, have been burned by unfavorable contracts. Los York’s difficult experience with a startup can teach all small business owners a lesson on buttoning up their contracts. “We were a little bit [too] entrusting in this sort of startup to make good on their word…that was a mistake in not demanding a little bit more money upfront” recalls Deboree (for his full story, go to minute 21:23).  This cautionary tale suggests that it may be better to ask for more money upfront and potentially lose the business than invest your time and money into a project that the other party may not follow through on payment for.

3. For Deboree, one of Los York’s greatest accomplishments is its Melo M12 campaign for Nike, celebrating NBA Star Carmelo Anthony’s 12th shoe with the brand. The TV ad was a massive hit, largely because Deboree and his team were able to effectively collaborate with the basketball star to tell a genuine story that resonated with the audience (for the full story, jump to minute 16:19). According to Deboree, it seems pointless for a client to ask for help and then dictate how the agency should help him or her, but it would also be detrimental for Los York to completely cut their clients out of the creative process. With this insight in mind, it may be worthwhile for small business owners, particularly those in service-related industries and those who create custom products for customers, to look at their production process and see where they could best involve their client without disrupting the operation.

To get the full scoop from Deboree, check out the video below and be sure to subscribe to the D&B B2B podcast for more interviews like this one. You can follow Los York on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Photo Credit: Dexton Deboree, LinkedIn