I published this post a year and a half ago and thought it worthy of a second look especially considering the series on Originals in the events industry I’m doing right now.
I’ve done several articles on Dave Merrell and his company, AOO Events throughout the years and I’m always, always impressed at how honest he is with the questions I ask. Certainly he’s no shrinking violet, but usually people who are larger than life seem as though they are hiding something. But when it comes to Dave, what you see is what you get — someone who instantly feels like a friend; who won’t judge you or wish you ill even as he competes ferociously with you for a project, an award or even that last bite of creme brulee.
This nature is what makes him so well-liked in the events industry and so successful in his own event design and production business. He’s got the heart of a team player, but the brains of a team captain, a combination that benefits his company, employees and clients. Today, after almost two decades, AOO Events is on top of its game, producing award-winning work consistently for high-profile clients and events.
The industry also benefits from his drive. No matter how busy he is, he always has time to post his work on designdawgs, a blog that has become a forum for event designers with a long list of guest bloggers to its name now. True to his nature, he has been generous with photos his work, discussions of his philosophies and his online space, inviting other event planners and designers (many of whom would be considered competitors) to chime in as guest bloggers.
And now, it’s his turn to be a guest as Fuel asks him…
What Drives You?
That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? What drives me personally is very similar to what drives me in business. The two are very hard to separate if you are talking about the essence of a being. And I do believe that what drives us is a direct result of our early life – by that I mean everything from our infancy to when we just get out of college.
So that said, what exactly does drive you?
“A need to be liked. I suppose I’m not so different from any of us, but this is what drives everything about me. It makes me the friend or business colleague that everyone comes to for advice. It makes me the one that everyone says is an over-achiever and my own “success story.” It makes me the manager that gives employees second, third and fourth chances. It’s what drives me to be an industry speaker and therefore in the spotlight. It’s what keeps me constantly looking at my product to make sure it’s fair, cutting edge and easy to work with. Sometimes the desire to be liked can produce bad results, but if one is aware of this, it’s entirely possible to harness all the good things that come from this need and leave the bad things.
“My need to be a success comes straight from my desire to please my parents and especially my dad. My dad instilled in myself and all my brothers from a very young age the importance of being the best that we can ever be in whatever it was we wanted to do. Take a look at my brothers in their respective fields and they are all at the top of their game. The same has been true with me from being president of my senior class and captain of the football team in high school to being a three-year letterman on a national championship team in college to my career ever since. I make sure I’m a success at everything I do.
“My need to be competitive comes very simply from having three brothers very close in age and more importantly, from growing up in sports. From very young my parents put us all in sports — baseball, track, soccer, football and tennis. And everyone of those experiences taught me the edge of being a competitor.
“My need to be in a team is a culmination of all this, from my background in sports to my desire to be liked. I don’t want to be a success alone; I want it to be with a group. Of course its my Leo sensibility that wants me to be the leader of that group, but I still always want it to be about the team. And it’s not all about winning, either. It’s about having fun doing it, and certainly that is the sign of a true champion — having a passion for doing something is what drives one to greatness. And having a close knit team with whom to celebrate the wins is way better than winning alone. Where is the fun in that?
Favorite Events Through the Years…
“Asking me to chose a couple events as my favorites is like asking someone to choose their favorite child! But here are a few I chose for various reasons.”
“This is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Seasons of Hope. We designed, produced and wrote the entire show.”
“This is the grand opening of the Planet Hollywood Casino in Las Vegas. I personally pursued this event with vigor and went through a ton of hoops to land it. It’s completely our design and production, inside and out.”
“This is the gala event shot for a series of jobs we did in Jamaica for a corporate client. It was the first international series of jobs I did and it was the first time I was reaching beyond the borders of the United States. I’m very proud of this. And very proud to say that since that job eight years ago, we have been all over the world with them.”
And Dave at work during the Heart Foundation event.
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