Executive Insights

Executive Insights

In the midst of headlines about layoffs and shutdowns, L.A. business leaders seem to be ramping up. Many are working remotely but embracing technology to stay connected with employees and clients via video meetings or the still-important personal phone call. A shared entrepreneurial spirit has them turning a crisis into a learning experience. These Type-A personalities are also rediscovering there’s more to life than work and are more than willing to share their tips for using at-home time as opportunity for introspection and self-improvement in anticipation of the next chapter.

Simon Aftalion, Development Director, Markwood Enterprises Inc.


Development Director


Beverly Hills

Aftalion has served as development director for real estate investment company Markwood since 2014. The company focuses mostly on commercial developments across Los Angeles. Construction goes on, but Markwood observed that projects remain vulnerable to potential government policy changes. Aftalion has found himself thinking about how remote work may permanently change the design of future workspaces, particularly when today’s creative office spaces offer the opposite of social distancing. “I love real estate because it’s forever, (but) how we think about the office may change,” he said.

Now that his home is his office, Aftalion has been rethinking his role as a business leader and has surprised himself by rediscovering his creative roots.

HOME AS OFFICE: “You have to work your entrepreneurial muscle; you have to look at how you can be a self-starter. I am going to be working at home, and I need to get over it. I have an amazing view of the sunset. I (was) never home to see it.”

Simon Aftalion has started drawing architectural plans again.

SELF-DISCOVERY: Aftalion found some of his old architectural plans and started drawing again, including this plan for a multifamily building inspired by L.A.’s Case Study houses. “I taught myself how to draft plans. I forgot about that hobby. It’s very easy to get obsessed with the science part of (construction) rather than the art part of it. It has brought out the art side.”

Dan Burton, Founder, Chief Executive, DroneBase Inc.


Founder, Chief Executive

DroneBase Inc.

Santa Monica

DroneBase is a major provider of commercial drone services and connects the largest network of drone pilots in the world. Burton said 40% of the company’s business has always been handled remotely, so DroneBase is ideally adaptable to today’s challenges.

“We have actually seen increased demand,’’ Burton said. “We can do an inspection without ever setting foot on your property. Drone work really is social distancing.” While working remotely is an easy leap, working from home is another story. “My wife and I don’t have the luxury of a home office. I’m often working from bed or from my car.” It also means every day is Bring Your Dog to Work Day (pug Chewie) while sharing care of his 14-month-old son.

RALLYING THE TROOPS: Remote leadership calls for new rules. Zoom sessions are okay for clients, but with employees, “I try to do less of that because on top of all the pressures, I don’t want people to feel like their boss is suddenly in their home.”

Dan Burton has been reading more, and his wife has taken up adult coloring books.

EDUCATION/INSPIRATION: Burton is reading “The Puritans: A Transatlantic History” by David Hall. And, “I probably should not be reading it, but I’m reading the authoritative history on theSpanish flu. My wife has taken up adult coloring books for a totally Zen activity.”

Lorena Camargo, Chief Executive, Pearl Transportation & Logistics


Founder, Chief Executive

Pearl Transportation & Logistics


Because it’s considered an essential service, Pearl Transportation remains fully operational, sending vehicles from its Inglewood warehouse to deliver shipments, including laptops and printers, that often link remote workers with skeleton office crews. Camargo recently became the first Latina to serve on the board of the Customized Logistics and Delivery Association.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: “(To avoid) contact at delivery, we are no longer requiring signatures. Before the drivers would get people’s delivery signatures on their phones. Now we just require, ‘Hey, what’s your first and last name?’”

NEW CLIENTELE: “Some of our customers have shut down, (but) last week we put in a bid for pharmaceutical (delivery) work, so we are hoping we get that contract in the next couple of weeks.”

Lorena Camargo puts thought into her Zoom presentation, from background to lipstick.

REMOTE CONNECTION: “With technology, it’s becoming so apparent you can work from anywhere. Just be careful where you are taking your (video) calls. (Choose) an exciting spot in your home. I wear some bright lipstick (and) a bright colored T-shirt for people that are on Zoom.”

BREAK ROOM: “I’m learning to cook. I’ve been trying to read a little more. I recently finished Mindy Kaling’s “Why Not Me?” It’s entertaining but also a great life lesson, especially for now when you really have to step up.”

Jon Skogmo, Founder, Chief Executive, Jukin Media Inc.


Founder, Chief Executive

Jukin Media Inc.

Culver City

User-generated video company Jukin Media is headquartered in Culver City and has offices in New York, London, Sydney and other major cities. Jukin’s library has more than 65,000 videos, including New York’s infamous Pizza Rat tugging a slice down the subway steps. The company also produces its own TV shows, using library content. These days Jukin invites potential partners to submit videos inspired by the Covid-19 crisis as a unique way to generate income during shutdowns. Check the Jukin website to see how fellow humans are reinventing toilet paper. “In some ways we are busier than ever,” Skogmo said.

While the content is digital, employees are not. “It’s exhausting being a CEO. I make calls to the workforce (to say) we are in this together,” Skogmo said.

CEO STRENGTH: “Our culture committee has been putting together trivia games, virtual happy hours and best practices to work from home to maintain morale during these uncertain times.”

ON CAMERA: “I do think it’s important in a leadership role to be presentable as much as you can. You carry a big shadow. These are people whose jobs and lives and families are at risk. I wore a sport jacket to a Zoom meeting.”

Jon Skogmo called Bob Iger’s book, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” fascinating.

BOOK SMART: “I’m reading (Walt Disney Co. Executive Chairman) Bob Iger’s new book, which is fascinating. “Willpower” (by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney) comes in handy at a time like this.”

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