The key things Jason Dooris has learnt from running $200 million advertising business Atomic 212

Jason Dooris started his advertising business back in 2007. The company rebranded itself two years ago to Atomic 212. At the time, it was turning over around $13 million a year. 

Today, the business turns over more than $200 million and has received a lot of attention for recently banning internal emails in order to get back to the “madness” of the Mad Men era. 

SmartCompany caught up with Dooris to find out what it takes to build a business from the ground-up. 

A university friend and I decided to launch the business. 

We wanted to present our work, as an advertising business, in a better way. The industry was so complex and murky and full of jargon that by presenting information in a simple way, we thought clients of ours would be able to understand it and get better results.

From there, we grew to be a full service ad agency.

I can remember when we won our first $4000 client. We’re now a $220 million business.

When you start a business, any business, it takes a certain kind of person. On one hand, you’re a business advisor to a client but the next moment you’re under desks plugging in printers.

I think a lot of people who come from big multinational businesses really struggle because they’ve been wet-nursed. You’ve got to be motivated and excited by the unknown.

My father used to say the longest job is the one you never start. So you’ve just got to start.

The most important thing I’ve learnt is the importance of cashflow. It can be very technical, but as a business that’s growing so significantly, you’ve got to manage that.

People make your business and it’s amplified beyond belief when you’re a new business.

We’ve got a lot of staff now but I remember when we had five employees. If you add one new person and they have a really strong personality, they can change the culture overnight.

You’re only as good as your people. When you empower people, young or more experienced, they really grow.

We’re extremely opinionated and clients resonate with that.

Everyone wants to sit on the fence. It’s not easy to have a point-of-view. But clients are looking for change because the industry has changed. You’ve got to take a risk.

Don’t expect to please everyone and don’t expect to be liked all the time.

Hard work doesn’t always get good results but good results are always the result of good work. So be prepared to work hard. Luck comes around very rarely.

Know where you want to get to. Believe where you are going and set clear milestones.

If you want to be a big business or a medium-sized business, put the structure in place to support that early rather than coming along and doing it later.

Just get the basics right; respect people and allow them the opportunity to talk.


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