Todd Brooks, CEO of ZaZa Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: ZAZA), has put his full support into his company by taking something personal out: nearly all of his salary.

Brooks lowered his salary to $1 for the next two years.

By forgoing compensation of more than $1 million per year in cash, he is attempting to better align with employees and shareholders, while at the same time putting ZaZa in a stronger fiscal position going forward. He has also given away significant amounts of his personal stock as part of an employee incentive program.

The move comes as ZaZa enters a new era, which Brooks believes will be prosperous.

“Right now we’re rebuilding the company after we restructured it over the last year and a half,” he said in an interview.

Brooks’ lack of compensation harkens back to his strategy during ZaZa’s initial three years of existence, when it was a privately owned company. In those days, Brooks notes, he was “basically building something out of nothing.” He did not earn a salary then either, deferring nearly all of his compensation.

ZaZa is certainly not building something out of nothing now, but the company is embarking on a fresh start following the dissolution of its joint venture with Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES).

As ZaZa moves into a new era, Brooks looks to refocus the company on long-term value creation via a team-first strategy.

The decision to take virtually no compensation is important in the early phase of this restructuring because Brooks said it displays his commitment to “building something for the long-term.”

Initially, he was concerned that eliminating essentially all of his salary could be seen as a distress signal for ZaZa.

“I have been interested in taking a $1 salary for quite a while,” he said. “I was actually told as far back as ten months ago that this might look like the company is in a distress scenario.

“It makes it clear to everyone, both employees and the investing public, how important this is to me. It is important that my actions show my commitment level,” he said.

However, ZaZa is far from being troubled. The company is building up its production base. The company’s first-quarter earnings call disclosed production of about 650 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d). Production will increase further through ZaZa’s two Texas joint ventures (JVs). Its primary asset is its substantial JV position in the Eaglebine with one of the largest unconventional oil-focused producers in the world.

ZaZa issued its first-quarter 2014 earnings release in mid-May, and disclosed on its earnings call that the first horizontal production well of its East Texas JV program is being completed and should be flowing back in the near future. The company said Aug. 7 that the well had achieved 24-hour peak production of about 1,786 boe/d with NGL.

Development in and around its 140,000-plus net acre JV position continues to heat up, and the company has said it raised $7.5 million in a capital markets transaction to add to its cash on hand and JV carry consideration. The money will be spent on further East Texas development and additional acreage acquisitions.

“We’ll move forward and continue to grow our reserve base from here,” Brooks said.

As production increases, ZaZa is focused on fiscal discipline, and made significant progress in restructuring its balance sheet as well as creating a leaner and more efficient organization. As part of this fiscal improvement, the company has reduced its initial debt of $100 million in senior secured notes down to $15 million.

ZaZa has been streamlined, with 25 employees after restructuring. This number is down from a peak of 123.

Brooks considers the current 25 employees his core team: “We’ve been through quite a lot together.”

His close relationship with his employees is evidence that ZaZa’s continued success is more than simply a business concern for Brooks. It is a personal goal. He strives to maintain a corporate environment in which the members of the ZaZa team are proud to work, which is part of the reason he has given away nearly $2 million of his own stock in the company to employees as part of an incentive program.