Team Vela

Gathered from a wide variety of industries, cultures and experience, Team Vela is here to meet your needs and help you grow your business.

Founder / CEO


John Dankowski

Senior Partner

John is a seasoned executive offering years of cross-government and cross-industry experience in both the private and public sectors. He possesses hands-on expertise in business development, capture management, and small and large-scale operations, personnel management and mentoring, as well as profit and loss experience. Throughout his tenure in multiple, high profile roles, Mr. Dankowski has formed and maintains close relationships with stakeholders throughout many government departments and agencies.

Having spent much of his career in National Security leadership positions, Mr. Dankowski was required to coordinate interdependent activities across multiple organizations. From authoring policy and managing programs of national scale to executing day-to-day mission operations, Mr. Dankowski’s track record demonstrates prudence in fiscal responsibility, mastery in promoting collaborative behaviors, and respect as a trusted mentor and colleague. The capstone of his federal service was an appointment as Special Assistant to the President of the United States, and Director of White House Operations.

For full career details, please see his LinkedIn Profile.

Shalom Klein

Senior Partner

Shalom is a sought-after business consultant, well regarded community activist and entrepreneur. Shalom hosts the popular “Get Down to Business with Shalom Klein” radio show in Chicago. Shalom has worked with businesses and community organizations around the country in developing strategies for external affairs and marketing success.

For full career details, please see his LinkedIn Profile, or visit

Business Development Strategists

Dawn Zerbs

Senior Business Development Strategist

Dawn Zerbs is a growth specialist focused on nonprofit, professional services and financial services organizations. She works with successful leaders to accelerate the growth of their organizations. Her strategy firm, Dawn Celeste LLC, blends thinking and doing to get results for clients.

Before starting her own business, Mrs. Zerbs was the Chief Business Development Officer at Spencer Fane LLP where she led the firm’s client experience, marketing, business development and knowledge management activities. Zerbs helped Spencer Fane launch a new growth strategy and branding initiative that focus on the firm’s core areas of strength, including its collegial and collaborative culture and the firm’s unique business model. The growth plan set out to double revenue in 6 years and results are ahead of plan after year three. The plan included strategy, talent, business development, marketing, client experience, leadership and culture shifts.
Previously, Mrs. Zerbs served as Senior Vice President with UMB Financial Corporation building the Voice of the Customer program for the Consumer Division that led to a 50% increase in sales and a 10 point lift in NPS score in the inaugural year. Prior to that she worked at Seyfarth Shaw LLP where she was instrumental in growing the training company from a 400,000 to 4,200,000 in revenue while improving profit margin from 25 to 45%.

Mrs. Zerbs is a trusted voice in the customer experience community as evidenced by her leadership activities like Six “Zerbsisms” for Voice of the Customer Success with PeopleMetrics, Client and Business Development Challenges for Lawyers and Law Firms with Business Development, Inc. and serving on the faculty of the Consero Customer Experience Forum. She is a committed lifelong learner including Booth Executive Education in Behavioral Economics and Ackert Advisory First Chair Executive Roundtable Member 2015-2016.

Mrs. Zerbs earned her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and her bachelor’s from Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Eric J. Wagner

Senior Business Development Strategist

Mr. Wagner successfully integrates finance, marketing, and business operations to help companies grow in a cost efficient way.

In addition to launching several successful businesses, Eric has spent twenty years in multiple industries including investment banking, money management, and financial consulting. Through this experience, Eric has developed an expertise in financial operations, capital markets access, strategic development and business growth. He is a graduate of The George Washington University School of Business.

Deiv Compton

Director of Operations & Administration

Deiv Compton is our Director of Operations and Administration and Mr. Vela’s personal assistant. In this position, Compton is responsible for human resources, information technology, scheduling and logistics, and managing the budget. Raised in Latin America, educated at Samford University, and perfected by the U.S. Navy, he has worked as an engineer, linguist, graphic designer, production artist, research assistant and house manager, as well as an entrepreneur and business owner. In his spare time, he is a Pastry Chef specializing in pastries for people with allergies.


Paulo Dias

Brazilian Affiliate

Paulo runs a business investment and consulting firm that services both the public and private sectors in Brazil and works closely with national and international companies by developing strategic relationships for his clients. He represents a diversity of sectors. His experienced consultants excel at understanding a company’s process and business development needs in order to develop a comprehensive strategy in an effort to make their clients more profitable.

Paulo Dias
Brazilian Affiliate