IMG_7153Vibiana transformed for a corporate event.

There are few people you meet in life who instantly feel like a friend; who won’t judge you or wish ill of you even as they are compete ferociously with you for a project, an award or even that last bite of crème brulee.

David Merrell, creative director and owner of AOO Events, and publisher of DesignDawgs, is one of these people. It’s what makes him so well-liked in the events industry and so successful at his business. He’s got the heart of a team player, but the brains of the team captain from which his company, employees and clients benefit. Today, after more than two decades, AOO Events continues to be at the top of its game as an event design and production firm producing award-winning work for high-profile clients and events.

The industry also benefits from his drive. In addition to serving on industry boards and speaking at industry events, Dave started DesignDawgs in 2008, knowing he wanted it to be part of the industry conversation, yet not knowing where it would go. I’ve been lucky to be there every step of the way with him on this project and today DesignDawgs is a digital magazine filled with event design inspiration, and continues to evolve. True to his nature, he has been generous with this project, stepping back to give time and space to myriad event planners and designers, many of whom could be considered competition, in order to create a dynamic forum for what is happening in event design today.

Dave MerrellDavid Merrell ready for action at The Heart Foundation charity event

Because my blog is called Fuel, I asked Dave one simple question. What drives you?

Dave: That’s a loaded question. 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 you is a direct result of your early life (by that I mean everything from just out of college back to infancy).

So, that said, what does drive me?

A need to be liked. I suppose I’m no different than any of us, but this is what drives everything about me personally. It makes me the friend or business colleague that everyone comes to for advice. It makes me the one that everyone says is the “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 be 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 not 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 to be the best that we could ever be, whatever it was that we wanted to do. Take a look at all my brothers in their respective fields and they are all at the top at their game. The same has been true with me from being president of senior class and captain of the football team in high school to being a three-year letter man 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 every one 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 need to be liked. I don’t want the success alone; I want it to be with a group. Of course it’s my Leo sensibility that makes me want to be the leader of it, but I still always want it to be about the team. It’s not just about winning, it’s about having fun doing it and certainly, that is the sign of a true competitor and winner. Having a passion for doing something is what drives one to greatness. Winning by yourself is lonely and what fun is that?

IMG_6375 A VIP party at the SLS Las Vegas
with Robin Thicke as featured entertainment.

Ribbet collageTech trends: Merrell used 360-degree projection mapping at this social event
which featured Bruno Mars as the entertainment.

david merrellThe 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation. This elegant gala took place on an aircraft carrier.

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